A Nordic Love Affair: Cycling in Norway

It’s fair to say, Norway captured our hearts during our recent photoshoot for AW17. Here’s a glimpse into why and some of the places we’ve yet to explore…

Norway is not a destination for those who love hot climbs up olive-strewn hillsides under the blazing sun. If you go for a post-ride dip in the sea here, then you’re hardier than us. This is a country in which you face the elements head on. Where you pack as many thermal layers in summer as jerseys. Where you celebrate the day’s ride with a steaming hot shower before curling up with some beer (or Akevitt) in a local mountain hut.

This is a land of myths and monsters. From ancient trolls, frozen into stone, to Selma, the mysterious sea creature that inhabits the deep, icy fjords of Seljordsvatnet. And as you pedal on immaculate roads through the dramatic landscape, you can see why this country inspired so many fantastical stories and legends. Particularly when the weather descends.
Sunshine is never guaranteed in Norway. But the swirling mists that spill over granite cliffs interspersed with glimpses of the multicoloured arc of a rainbow create a drama that plays out over the glacial-carved landscape and entrances you with its beauty.
If that’s not enough to convince you, here are a few more reasons why you’ll fall in love with Norway.

 

The Dramatic Fjordland Landscape

Jagged peaks plunge into icy fjords along Norway’s iconic west-coast. Roads here either go over or under the mountains. Going up gives your legs a workout and avoids the long, dark tunnels. (Is that a troll or a lorry creeping up behind you?) When your lungs are screaming, pause and take in the magnificent views – endless dragons’ backs of mountains that fade to blue.
To really experience the drama and solitude of this landscape venture off-road into the wilderness where trees cling to rocky walls and waterfalls cascade from the high snows to the waters of the fjords below. Revel in the solitude, peace and sounds of nature.
For those with a head for heights, head to Trolltunga, a slab of rock perched atop a sheer rock face. Or give a speech from Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) and have your words whisked away by the wind to the fjord two thousand feet below.

 

Chasing the Midnight Sun

Up in the arctic circle, the sun never sets. If you’re looking for a 24-hour cycling challenge, this is the place to do it. Stay up all night and watch as the fiery sky glows yellow then burns red before the sun rises again for the start of a new day.
If your legs and wheels pull you north, you can chase the midnight sun all the way to North Cape, at the very top of Europe. The landscape here is desolate and rugged; the hardy vegetation struggling to grow in the few months of the year when it isn’t blanketed in snow. On these roads, you’ll have more company from reindeer than other cyclists.

 

Exploring the History and Culture

So why the trolls? Replicas may decorate the roadsides and fill buckets in tourist shops, but for a taste of the real thing, head to Trollstigen where you can cycle up through these giants.
Legend has it that the cliffs around Trollstigen were created by trolls who roamed the roads at night and were caught out and turned to stone by the morning light. Pick a misty day and you’ll wonder what’s lurking in the shadows of these rock giants as you snake your way up the hairpins of the ‘Troll’s Ladder’ to the dramatic viewing platform at the top.
For some real pre-history, head north to Alta. Here, up in the Arctic Circle, thousands of rock carvings and paintings show the lives of fishermen and hunters between 2000 and 6200 years ago. Follow in their footsteps and swap your roadie for a mountain bike to explore the nearby Finnmarksvidda plateau.
A few thousand years later, tiered wooden churches sprung up in the fjords and lowlands of Norway. Twenty-eight of these stave churches remain, the last of these medieval wooden buildings that were once common across western Europe. Most are accessible by bike, but others, such as the famous Urnes Stave Church, can only be accessed by boat.
Norwegians pride themselves on their “short-travelled”, slow-grown food. We’d quite like to head to Røros, an old mining town and Norway’s capital of locally-produced food.

 

Island-hopping around Lofoten and Vega

If you fancy some gentle cycle-touring, the Lofoten islands offer a flatter opportunity to test out Norway’s perfect roads. Cycle between fishing villages, Stone Age settlements and art galleries, all set against a backdrop of jagged peaks and sheer rock faces. Swap your wheels for a paddle and kayak under the golden midnight sun before bedding down for the night in a rorbu, one of the colourful cabins that dot the rocky shoreline.
Further south, Vega is an archipelago of 6,500 islands with sandy beaches and, apparently, more than 230 species of birds. We like the sound of staying in a traditional crimson fishing cabin..
Now here’s one of Norway’s most dramatic cycling route – the Atlantic Road. This 80-km route links the island of Averøya to the mainland via a series of bridges that snake through an archipelago of islands. Sounds like paradise on a calm, warm day but not so much when gale-lashed waves break over the road.

 

The Beautiful Towns and Villages

Norway has hundreds of colourful towns and villages that you could spend a lifetime exploring. One of our favourites is Flåm, a village tucked away in the fjords, that’s famous for its railway – one of the world’s most spectacular train journeys. Still, we’d rather take the Rallarvegan – an 82-km ride on gravel that follows the old navvies’ road from Haugastøl to Flåm.

Bergen is Norway’s second largest town and was of course one of the locations for our autumn/winter photoshoot. We loved the colourful wooden buildings that line the waterfront and the steep cobbled streets that reveal hidden viewpoints. You’ll also find some of the best coffee in Norway and we liked Godt Brod as a lunch stop.