A group of dedicated Danish amateur bikers found a new road cycling paradise in the steep, winding mountain roads of Fjord Norway.
Like many other sport practitioners, cyclists tend to look out for the next big challenge – ideally something a bit more extreme than the last trip. Kim Sivert Jensen, a graphic designer and passionate cyclist for more than 10 years, and four fellow cyclists from the Rapha Cycling Club in Copenhagen were after a new adventure on two wheels.
As Bergen hosted the Road World Championship in road cycling in September 2017, they naturally turned their attention to Norway.
"It was great to have the Road World Championship in Norway this year. It gave us an idea of the country’s cycling conditions and the kind of climbs you can expect”, Kim explains after returning from the trip and continues, “if you have cycled on Mallorca, for example, you have a lot of classic climbs to talk about with other cyclists. Now I can do the same with Norway, there are new climbs to discuss, and I can say that I have ridden parts of the World Cup route."
Photo: Rapha Copenhagen
Soon enough, Kim and his friends realized that the mountains around Bergen were something completely different to what they were used to in Southern Europe.
"The nature in this part of Norway is really raw. You are surrounded by cliffs on both sides with a black line drawn right through, and that’s the road. And it just keeps going. Sometimes we would think, ‘that’s it, we’re at the top’ – but then we made a turn around the mountain and realized it just continued,” Kim says.
Although everyone on the trip had experience from cycling holiday destinations in Southern Europe, they soon learnt that Norway is more challenging than they had thought.
"Norway has climbs that are just as demanding as further south, and perhaps even more extreme. Some of the guys said that they had never cycled in such a wild landscape” Kim continues and concludes, “if you want to try something tough and a bit different, you should definitely go to Norway.”
"The nature in this part of Norway is really raw. You are surrounded by cliffs on both sides with a black line drawn right through, and that’s the road. And it just keeps going."
One climb in particular was special. Folgefonna, situated some 100 kilometres west of Bergen, is a glacier with a ski resort at 1,651 meters above sea level.
"Along the 18 kilometre long climb up to Folgefonna, the temperature goes from 16 degrees in the valley to 2-3 degrees at the top. And when you get to the top, there are people walking around with their skis. It’s totally weird. If you are after something high and wild, this is the place to be," Kim says. "At Folgefonna you go up and down at an inclination of up to 19% – some have even registered 22% here and there. It’s only short distances, of course, but the bike comes to a complete standstill. This is something I had underestimated. But if you want something more extreme, you should definitely give it a go."
For Danish cyclists, the fickle weather conditions are often called Norway's Achilles’ heel. The weather forecast is not going to fool anyone, but the weather doesn’t have to be a disadvantage, Kim thinks.
"I understand people's concern, but doing something different than Nice and Mallorca also has its charm. And you can’t argue with Norway’s location," Kim smiles. The Norwegian mountains are much closer than the ones in the south of Europe. “It's more extreme due to the weather and all the crazy climbs. But the weather is part of the challenge. And the cool thing is that you may have sun on one side of the mountain and rain on the other."
"It's more extreme due to the weather and all the crazy climbs. But the weather is part of the challenge. And the cool thing is that you may have sun on one side of the mountain and rain on the next."
If you are new to the cycling craze, but are looking for a new challenge, don’t let Norway's wild nature and merciless climbs put you off. There are cycling options for all levels and abilities.
If however you are curious about the more extreme side of Norway, Kim points out the importance of having good equipment, and that it takes some planning to conquer the steepest climbs.
"The gears you need in Norway are a bit different to what you get by with in Southern Europe. First I thought that it wouldn’t be necessary to change gears for the Norway trip. But I found myself using what is called the "panic gear" most of the time. I cycled with 39/28, which basically meant that I had no rhythm. So it’s really important to control your gears in Norway,” he concludes.
There is another thing that made the Norway trip stand out from cycling holidays in Southern Europe: Sailing. Kim thinks the sailing trip was a big part of the overall experience in Norway.
"Sailing through the fjord was crazy. We couldn’t believe it when we woke up in the morning and looked out. We were like, ‘What is this, the Lord of the Rings?’ I think it’s more beautiful than in the south of Europe. Norway is positively raw."
Kim also remembers the accommodation as something special – especially compared to trips further south.
"In Nice, we followed the principle ‘the cheaper the better’, laughs Kim, “but in Norway we had a very special experience. We stayed in some ridiculously good and very authentic hotels. It was an experience that went way beyond what we expected."
Kim intends to stay on the saddle for many years because of his love for cycling and the friendly atmosphere in the cycling community. And it was hardly his last cycling adventure up north. The trip in the Norwegian mountains exceeded all expectations.
"No, it was not my last trip to Norway," he confirms. "Next time, I might just show my best cycling buddies how cool Norway can be."
As for his cycling holidays in southern Europe, they are not going to be replaced completely with Norway’s fresh mountain air. Well, at least not without one condition:
"If the weather in Norway was like Nice in late August, I would pick Norway every time! They also need to up their coffee game, but it will come in time," Kim laughs. "But considering all the impressions we had, Norway may well become the new hot spot for cyclists."
”If the weather in Norway was like Nice in late August, I would pick Norway every time!"
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When cycling on the roads in Norway, the same traffic regulations and road signs apply to you as to cars and other vehicles: Keep to the right, give way to those coming from your right, and don’t drink and bike.
You may cycle on the pavement, but adapt your speed. You may not cycle on motorways and dual carriageways. Always wear a helmet when cycling. A high visibility vest is a good idea, especially on busy roads. Only children under the age of 10 may be carried as passengers.
In darkness and poor visibility make sure your bike is equipped with a white or yellow light in the front, and a red light in the back. You also need a red reflector in the rear and white or yellow reflectors on the pedals.
Make sure your bike has two brakes that work independently of each other and a bicycle bell.