• In his latest installment, Steve Thomas takes us cycling in Norway (Steve Thomas)Source: Steve Thomas
The Rallarvegan route through Norway’s craggy mountains is an absolute classic ride, and provides a great intro to riding in the land of the Vikings, writes Steve Thomas.
Steve Thomas

Cycling Central
24 Sep 2017 - 10:12 AM 

When it comes to justifying the overused word 'epic' as a prelude to titling a bike ride there is little clarity; yet when it relates to Norway and riding, 'epic' is almost a formality.

Yes, Norway is a crisp and highly visually imposing place. It’s a land of rugged and windswept coastlines, intimidatingly deep and steep sided fjords flanked by towering green and grey mountains, its fringes carpeted in wild and untapped moorlands.

And of course, these come graced with truly high-end “epic” roads and trails to ride. Quite simply the demands and the drama of riding in Norway are hard to top.

Due to its often harsh climate and high financial travel barrier, Norway is often considered something of a once in a lifetime destination to many of us. Although this has not changed greatly, Norway in recent years has experienced significant exposure via the cycling media. This is due to a small but hardy band of Norwegian pro riders and a steady stream of stage races dressed and blessed with terrain and views that leave many of us chomping at the credit card to get there and ride.

Norway is a huge country with a comparatively tiny population. Away from the cities, the roads and trails are all but deserted, and although getting around Norway is well pinned, if you’re on two wheels in the wilds you will need to carry some basic provisions, and be prepared for all four seasons (with extra chilled spice) in the space of a single ride. But that’s a small price to pay for picture-book surroundings.

The coastal city of Bergen is currently playing host to the UCI Road World Championships but it is also one of the best places in the country to either base yourself, or start a bike tour (on or off road).

Bergen is a virtual gateway to fjords and mountains, and there are some amazing roads and huge climbs around the nearby mountains and along the way to the town of Voss.

A great starting (or even focal) point in this prime time slice of Norway is to take on the Rallarvegan route, which is most probably the most popular bike route in the country.

Built over a century ago the route runs high through the mountains, almost in parallel with the Bergen-Oslo railway line. It was constructed by railway navvies as an access and service road for the line (hence the translation to English – Navvy Road).

In the mid 1970s, the route was opened up for hikers and cyclists and is one of Norway’s most popular weekend cycling challenges for locals and foreigners alike.

Most recreational riders make this a weekend ride but at 123 kilometres, we decided to knock it off in one long day. It made for a superb challenge, but on reflection I would take a little longer to capture more of the spectacular images lining the entire route.

An early morning train ride from the edge of Bergen to Haugastol Station was our effective uplift for the ride. This is where the route officially begins, and it’s well set up to service cyclists of every kind (there are also rental MTB’s and city bikes here).

Although it can get busy on summer weekends, after an hour or so, you’ll pretty much have the route to yourself for most of the ride. We used mountain bikes, which were ideal for the high-rolling gravel trail. There are no technical sectors and no serious climbs, so it could easily be ridden on a gravel bike or even a road bike with wide tyres, but not if the weather was bad).

Wild and open high moorland iced with glaciers, jagged mountains and small lakes feature right through this amazing route. Towards the end of the ride you have a couple of choices to end the day. We dropped into the village of Flam on the shore of the Sognefjorden. We then continued on to Voss, a ride I can highly recommend.

The route is best ridden between July and late September.