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Road cycling through raw Norwegian nature

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A group of dedicated Danish amateur bikers found a new road cycling paradise in the steep, winding mountain roads of the Hardangerfjord region in Fjord Norway. Here, you can choose between extreme climbs or easy routes along the fjord.

“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,” says Kim Sivert Jensen, a graphic designer and passionate cyclist for more than ten years.

He went to Norway with his fellow cyclists from the Rapha Cycling Club in Copenhagen, looking for a new adventure on two wheels. Like many other sports practitioners, cyclists tend to look out for the next big challenge – ideally something a bit more extreme than the last trip.

Cycling challenges up north

It was originally the Road World Championship in 2017 that drew their attention to Norway.

“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. He 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.”

Something completely different

Soon enough, Kim and his friends realized that the mountains around Bergen and in the Hardangerfjord region were something completely different to what they were used to in Southern Europe.

Although everyone on the trip had experience from cycling holidays 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.

“The Folgefonna glacier is completely wild”

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 Celsius in the valley to two–three degrees at the top. And when you get to the top, there are people walking around with skis on. 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 per cent – some have even registered 22 per cent 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 extreme, you should definitely give it a go.”

Changing weather

“I understand many people’s concern about the changing weather in Norway, 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,” Kim says.

It’s more extreme due to the weather and all the crazy climbs. But the weather is part of the challenge.

Something for everyone

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 from 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.

Positively raw landscapes

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.

“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’”, Kim laughs. “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.”

More northern adventures

Kim intends to stay on the saddle for many years to come, because of his love for cycling and the friendly atmosphere in the cycling community. And this 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. This country may well become the new hot spot for cyclists.”

Get our top tips on road cycling routes in the mountains, and stay in green hotels along the way.

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