By: Ernst Poulsen Dansk Cyklist ForbundThe first part of the article contains general usefull information of cycling in Norway. The second part is an account of my personal adventure in the summer of 1994 (Larvik - Geilo - Rallarveien - Sognefjorden - Bergen).
My first suggestion for Norway: Join the Syklistenes Landsforening and specifically ask to get the "Sykkelferie i Norge" book as a gift for new members. (I am pretty sure they still run that offer - check whether or not it is valid for foreigners). The book has plenty of good advice, but it is of course written in Norwegian.
As for maps for longer trips I recommend the Cappelans automobile maps, scale 1:325.000.
From Frederikshavn there are ferries to Larvik and Oslo. You may also get off some time before Frederikshavn and ride the 30 km til Hirtshals where you find ferries for Kristianssand or Bergen. Prices do vary very much on the different ferries, and there may also a huge difference in price depending on whether you travel on a weekend or not. If you travel as a group of cyclists check if there are discounts for a group in a car. Insist on getting the same discount.
Once in Norway - get on your bike and enjoy. I spent 10 days in Southern Norway and it is on of the most beautifull countries in Europe.
When using the Cappelans maps you may feel tempted to use the "hiking routes", as there may be nothing else around. DON'T DO IT. You will never get anywhere, and you may not even be able to drag/carry your bicycle across rivers, up mountains, etc. Hiking routes are hiking routes.
Do whatever you can to find secondary roads which run parrallel to a new road (and a river). You will meet very little traffic on a fairly wide road. The main roads may at times carry a lot of traffic. Avoid them if possible, or ride late in the night when trucks are fewer on the road. The sun does not set untill 11. pm. so you have plenty of time.
You may also do as I did, when I suddenly discovered an unavoidable tunnel ahead. Ride through late in the night when there is no traffic around. Noone minds. The longer tunnels and tunnels on main roads are lit, and are not that uncomfortable. Do however watch out for unlit tunnels on smaller roads. Bring a good light for your bicycle and remember plenty of reflexing stickers for your pedals, etc.
June, July and the beginning of August are the best months for cycling in Norway. June has the driest wheather, but is slightly colder. July and August is warmer, but in July you will meet more traffic (tourists) on the main roads. Late August or September it starts to rain more. Prepare for rain no matter when you may be going. The chance of avoiding rain in Norway on a 3 week bicycle vacation is 1 in a million. It simply never happens.
Remember to leave room for plenty of food in your bicycle panniers. You may easily ride 50 kilometers without finding a shop. Bread is fairly inexpensive, whereas vegetables and meats are very expensive. When in the mountains you may drink water directly from the rivers. Just make sure it is running water.
If you are more comfortable you may be interested in the small roadside cabins. They are a bit more expensive than camping sites, but you'll love them when it rains.
Also consider youth hostels. They are, however further appart in Norway - simply because everything is furher apart.
Hotels are expensive in Northern Europe - and surely they are also expensive in Norway (compared to low budget hotels in France, Italy). But who says that cycling has to be about getting wet and cold. If you spent all day in the saddle climbing mountains with a fully loaded bike - you simply deserve a hot shower, a comfortable bed and a nice meal brought to you by smiling blond waiters.
But do me a favour. Forget about the hotel television set. You are in Norway the most beautiful country anywhere. So get out there and live it. Life does not come any better than a cycle vacation in Norway.
From Larvik you will get an easy start. The first 250 km you ride along the Laagen River straight north. The good part is that for these 250 km you only need to ride a main road for maybe 20 km. Most of the way you will find the old main road on one side of the river, and the new main road on the other. The old road is wide and hardly carries any traffic. Stop and check on of the 3 stav-churches along the way. (Ticket usually 20,- Nkr. which includes guiding)
On this stretch I sleept at three different camping sites situated along the banks of small lakes.
However, The last 35 km before Geilo you will encounter three steep climbs on the main road: each climb is 6-10%, and lasts for 2-7. After each climb there you get 3-5 km downhill. You will need very low gears.
I then rode 50 km west on Highway 7 (heavy traffic) to get to the starting point of the 80 km long gravel road "Rallarveien", an abandoned working trail for the people who managed to connect Bergen and Oslo with rails through this mountain-pass (in 1910). The gravel road which passes through the Hardangervidda Nature Preserve is closed to cars.
Twice a day in the summertime it is also possible to get to the Rallarveien by train from either Bergen or Oslo. Get of at Haugestoell, Finse or Myrdal.
Travel slowly when on Rallarveien. You could ride the 80 km in 1 or in 1,5 days. You do not want to. Use 2, maybe three days. Halfway you will pass Finse Station where you for 10 km have the most beautifull view of Hardangerjoekullen (Gletcher). When the sun sets the snow turns pink. Behind you the mountains turn purple. You will just sit there listening to the roaring "elv" in the bottom of the walley or looking at on of the many small brown and black lemmings. (every 3 or 4 years it is Lemming-year. They will be all over, - and watch out where you get your water - they sometimes drown themselves in a river).
As you move along you will be met by roaring waterfalls and breathtaking views. At times you may want to walk your bicycle. They do not put up a lot of railings, just because there is a roaring river right on the edge of this narrow gravel road.
You will however have to get off when crossing the patches of snow found along the way. In Haugestoell you start out at 800 meters, and when you are at the top you will find yourself 1300 meters above sea level. (The climbs are not that hard - the train manages to climb it all). At this level the lakes are frozen even in the end of July. In fact the Rallarveien is usually closed untill mid-June, because of the snow.
But do not worry. I had fun getting on and off my bike. For this part I traveled along with three Norwegian girls which used every stop to pass around biscuits or cake. I naturally accepted their genorous offerings.
Just before Myrdal you may want to pitch your tent. Below (to the north) you see the Flaam valley 700 meters below. Behind you to mountain tops. And in between these mountain tops lies Myrdal Station. A cosy mountain station.
Here train lines from three different angles meet. From Bergen (west), Oslo (east) and Flaam (north). From three sides trains emerge tooting their way into Myrdal station. They stop, load and unload a few hikers and bikers, and then disappear into the tunnel at the other end of the station.
You have three options. You may board the train for Bergen. (There is no road - the mountains blocks your way to the west and south - this is heavy hicking country). You may board the train back to Oslo - or ride the Rallarveien back. Or you may do as I did. Swerve down the 17 serpentine turns towards Flaam and the Sognefjord.
I faced the 700 meter drop with tent and heavy luggage on a bike with worn down brakes. I had a lot of fun. Right next to the (gravel is really too nice a word here) road you have two waterfalls, which provide you with a pleasent humid air. Take your time. This part is beautifull, beutifull, beautifull.
In Flaam I boarded a high-speed boat, which took me 50 kilometers west. This is the only way to get out of flaam on a bicycle. There is a road - but you will quickly face a 10 km tunnel.
I got off on the northern bank of the Sognefjord and rode the last 100 km to the Atlantic Ocean, where i headed south for Bergen (another 100 km). Out here you sence that the ocean makes everything even more green. From riding this area you may also understadn why they speak of green Ireland. The colour green simply does not come anymore green.
When in Bergen remember to try the shrimp and smoked salmon sold on the harbour front close to Bryggen. I stayed for 1,5 days and then boarded the train for Oslo. As mentioned earlier you will pass through Hardangervidda and will se the Rallarveien again. This time you may enjoy the views without sweating. Try to get on the day-time train as it is a very beautiful ride. From Oslo I took the boat back to Copenhagen. There is also a train to Copenhagen, but you may have to hand in your bicycle to the luggage service of the Norwegian Railways, which means it will not get to Copenhagen as quickly as you do.
As you may have senced I had an excellent vacation which I would recommend to anyone.
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