With relatively little traffic and stunning scenery, Norway is a perfect destination for a cycling holiday. Here visitors will find a choice of well-maintained bike parks, mountain biking for all levels, and a wealth of options for gentler cycling along the coast. Not to mention numerous cycling races for those who’d like to spectate as well as participate. With milder weather and longer daylight hours, summer is the best season for cycling, although it is possible to do so year round. From a two-hour bike ride with the family to a multi-day cycling holiday for hardened pros, the options are many in Norway.
- The Arctic Race of Norway
- Mountain biking
- Downhill cycling
- Hafjell Bike Park
- National cycling routes
- City cycling
- Cycling, camping and champagne
- Family cycling (coastal cycling)
The Arctic Race of Norway
From 8-11 August 2013, the magnificent landscapes of Northern Norway will be home to the very first edition of an out-of-the ordinary cycling race: the Arctic Race of Norway. A few weeks after the end of the Tour de France, the international peloton will head north of the Arctic Circle and compete in what might well in years to come become known as ‘the most beautiful bike race in the world’. For this first edition, the course will be made up of four stages (lasting one day each) along Norway’s iconic coastline.
Rallarvegen is Norway's most popular cycling route. Also known as the Navvies' Road, it is an old road formerly used by railway construction workers, which runs alongside part of the Bergen Railway and the Flåm Railway between Flåm and Haugastøl. Rallarvegen stretches 80 kilometres through spectacular scenery from the fjord up the Flåm Valley, reaching an altitude of 1,343 meters at Fagervatn Lake. The season often starts as late as the first week of July, depending on snow conditions. Most people cycle down. The route begins at Finse, the highest point on the Bergen Line. It is possible to rent out bikes here.
Eastern Norway is arguably the country’s best region for mountain biking. The counties of Buskerud and Oppland have the tallest mountains and lots of exciting opportunities for cycling enthusiasts. Both Hemsedal, with 21 sign-posted bike rides, and nearby Skeikampen, which boasts 150 kilometres of marked trails, are two leading destinations for mountain biking in Norway. Lillehammer and the village of Sjusjøen also offer excellent mountain biking terrain, both on and off-road, and are popular with families. So are Hafjell and Vaset near Fagernes. There are good conditions elsewhere in Norway too, for example on the West Coast, although there are no marked trails there.
Norwegian bike parks cater for a wide range of riders, and feature equally varied courses, from easy, broad open tracks for beginners, to challenging single tracks experts will like to tackle – and anything in between. The most popular parks include Geilolia Downhill Park in Geilo, Hemsedal Bike Park in Hemsedal, Vrådal Bike Park by Lake Nisser in Telemark, and Hafjell Bike Park, the largest downhill venue in Norway (see below).
Hafjell Bike Park
Hafjell Bike Park is known as the best bike park in Norway for downhill riding. Some of the trails have a vertical drop of 830 meters. There are varying levels of difficulty with jumps and drops for the brave-hearted and easier lines for beginners. A gondola and a chairlift bring cyclists to the trail heads, where 15 different runs take them down. The park’s smooth machine-built courses are inspected and maintained on a daily basis in season. Several of these courses offer fast and safe cycling, without the dangers of rocks and roots.
National cycle routes
The national cycle routes consist of 10 routes that connect various regions of Norway deemed attractive to tourists because of their nature, culture and attractions. At the same time these routes, which either follow the coast or run through major valleys, also link the major towns and cities, making it possible to go long distances and still avoid the major, busier roads.
Cycling is of course not limited to the countryside, and city sightseeing on two wheels is also popular in Norway in the warmer months – a great way to take the pulse of any city or town, and travel from one attraction to the next. Oslo has city bikes available from over 100 bike stations in and around the city centre. Trondheim and Drammen have similar schemes. Other cities, like Bergen and Stavanger, offer bike rental and have maps for city cyclists available from the tourist office.
Cycling, camping and champagne
If you thought that cycling and luxury couldn’t go hand in hand, think again. And check out (or check into) the Canvas Hotel in Nissedal, Telemark. Designed for cyclists and nature-lovers not averse to a bit of pampering while on the road, the Canvas Hotel offers luxury camping in a truly original setting. Accommodation is in 10 Mongolian-style yurts featuring wooden floors, wood-burning stoves, comfortable beds, and even outdoors bathtubs to soak in after a day mountain biking in the surrounding countryside. Bikes can be rented out by guests who don’t have their own. Gourmet food is another highlight of a stay at the Canvas Hotel, with dinner served alfresco every evening, weather permitting.
For travellers planning on riding a standard touring bike in Norway, cycling along the coast is probably the better option, with flatter roads and varied scenery that seldom disappoints. The Norwegian coastline stretches over an impressive 83,000 kilometers, including numerous fjords and inlets, and thousands of islands. The majority of Norwegians live by the sea, or close to it, and everywhere quaint little villages dot the landscape. Good starting points for a cycling holiday in Norway include the Oslofjord, the Southern Riviera, the Helgeland Coast and the islands off the coast of Bergen in Fjord Norway, among others.
A selection of cycling events in Norway
Norwegian Cycling Championships, Grimstad Kristiansand. 16-23 Jun 2013. Read more about the Norwegian Cycling Championships (Norwegian only).
Oslo Trondheim, Norway’s longest cycle race (542 kilometres). 22-23 Jun 2013. Read more about the Oslo Trondheim.
Norseman, the world’s northernmost long-distance triathlon, takes in some stunning scenery in Fjord Norway. 3 Aug 2013. Read more about the Norseman.
Birkebeinerrittet, the world's largest cross-country bicycle race, draws 18,000 participants every year. 31 Aug 2013. Read more about the Birkebeinerrittet.
Arctic Race of Norway, a brand new international cycling race in Northern Norway. 8-11 Aug 2013. Read more about the Arctic Race of Norway.
Grenserittet: Starting in Strömstad, Sweden, and finishing in the town of Halden in Østfold, Norway, this 80-kilometre cross-border race is open to all, from children to pros. 2-3 Aug 2013. Read more about the Grenserittet.
The official website for The Cyclists Welcome.
Did you know?
Thor Hushovd (born on 18 January 1978 in Grimstad) is Norway’s most famous cyclist. He was crowned world champion in Geelong, Australia in 2010 and won the green jersey in the Tour de France in both 2005 and 2009. Hushovd has a total of 10 stage wins from the Tour de France to his name, and has reached the top five in the points competition every year since 2003.
Some 20,000 cyclists travel the scenic Rallarvegen every year between July and September.
Sandnes BMX Club is widely known in the BMX world and hosted the World Championships in 1991 with great success. The club also hosted the 1994, 2000, 2004 and 2009 European Championships rounds.
The Norwegian Institute for Cycling (STIN) is a national organisation set up to develop and promote Norway as a cycling holiday destination. They run the ‘cyclist welcome’ scheme, found in several European countries, whose aim is to help cyclists find accommodation catering for their needs.
June, July and August are the best months for cycling in Norway, with warmer weather and long daylight hours which allow for more riding.
Many Norwegians also cycle in winter, but good studded tires, preferably with as many studs as possible, are needed. Wide tires are better for winter cycling. Some of Norway’s famous National Tourist Routes (NTR) have special rest areas for cyclists. Among them are Lofoten NTR and Havøysund NTR. Jæren NTR, which follows the coast along the flat plains south of Stavanger, is another route that’s popular with cyclists.
Two Norwegian tour operators, Fjellferie and Norske Bygdeopplevelser, organise cycling holidays (with a guide or self-guided) in Norway.
The Alta Bike, a collaboration project started in 2004 and originally limited to the production of 50 bikes, proved so popular that it became the first serial production single-speed bike on the market. A light, fast and durable bicycle designed for city use, the Alta Bike has since been hailed as a “Design Classic” (it is now part of the Norwegian National Museum’s permanent collection) and gained a lot of international press coverage – its design has even been copied by Japanese, Australian and American bike brands.