Ultralight bikepacking through Norway

We’re heading north from Oslo airport, three hours into a five hour drive, crammed into what feels like a much smaller car than we originally booked. The landscape is pretty impressive, the idyllic Scandinavian houses are indeed a novelty to look at, but at the moment it’s not the mind-blowing backdrop we had been daydreaming about…

Left at the next lights, over the bridge and we’re there. All of a sudden in the midst of the scenery we had pictured as we dreamt up our cycling adventure on the new Sonder Colibri back at Alpkit HQ. Right in the heart of the land of the fjords, the midnight sun and, of course, trolls.

It’s not so much the Alpine gut-busting 14 km climbs that we sought, more like those rolling valley roads that weave between the fjords. Sure we had earmarked a number of climbs to tick off, including the 10km long Trollstigen route, but the main objective of this adventure was to simply load the bags, clip in, and pedal. We wanted to explore those quiet roads that tourist coaches wouldn’t even consider, get away from cruise liners and novelty troll shops, we were after the kind of roads you wouldn’t find on google.

This was home for the night before we took to bivvying under the stars

Åndalsnes (Trollstigen)

After arriving at our picture-postcard Scandinavian cabin, complete with rooftop garden, we decided that we’d rest our travel-weary legs and tackle the Trollstigen climb early the following morning - strategically rising early to beat the daily influx of tourist coaches awkwardly making their way up the eleven exposed hairpins that lead to the summit.

Maybe it’s a British thing, but it was 7pm, it was a Saturday and we’d spent about twelve hours in transit. We fancied a beer. An important life lesson was learnt in the supermarket as we fell victim to Norway’s strict alcohol laws. We’d researched the roads, the climate, even the best overnight bivvy spots, but not the cut off point for buying a beer on a Saturday: lesson learned.

Nothing like a rolling valley warm up before hitting the steep section

The following morning, after several rounds of ‘adventure coffee’ (Coffee made using any means necessary when not provided with the usual coffee making apparatus - in our case this involved a frying pan and a large sieve), we headed out of the cabin and straight onto the infamous Trollstigen climb. An undulant valley road warmed the legs before the hairpins, where each turn revealed an even more remarkable view back down the valley as we climbed towards the summit.

One of the 11 switchbacks that make up the infamous Trollstigen climb

Over the top and on we went. We passed the handful of early-bird campervans that had stopped to enjoy the cafe and gift shop, and continued further north in search of the fjord passes we had spent the previous few weeks musing.

Taking in the view (and a well earned paused for breath)

Eresjford

Whilst the Trollstigen delivered a test for the legs, Eresfjord supplied those quiet fjord passes and the remote valley villages we had been looking for. More importantly there wasn’t a novelty troll shop to be found.

Fjord hopping through the incredible landscape of Eresfjord

The roads around Eresfjord were so good that we must have ridden around three or four fjords before realising that we hadn't stopped to take any photos nor set our GPS running. By modern standards this meant that our ride never happened. But then again, whether the virtual world knew it or not, we were there and we were riding some of the best roads in the world; that was all that mattered.

"Let's just have 5 minutes"

... Five minutes later

Despite the temptation to just keep on riding all day, we eventually stopped by a bucolic and remote church to refuel for the last leg of the day. From the church we could see the road snake up the mountainside and out of the valley via a chalk-laden climb that had played host to the professional peloton during a past edition of the Tour of Norway - an satisfying and challenging end to an otherwise relaxing day of exploring some of the best tarmac that any of us had ever seen.

The climb out of the valley, a regular feature of the Tour of Norway

The Atlantic Ocean Road

After a night under the stars, a welcome long, rolling morning’s ride lead us to the last stop of our trip: the Atlantic Ocean Road. With the ocean on both sides, it’s as if this road was tailor-made for a Top Gear photoshoot. If Eresfjord was Norway’s remote undiscovered countryside, our time on the Atlantic Road felt more akin to the hustle and bustle of an urban city, not a short stretch of tarmac winding between villages only a few hours from the Arctic Circle…

A rare moment on the Atlantic Ocean Road

The reality of the Atlantic Ocean Road. Still, it's an interesting place to ride!

Think of any obscure form of motorised transport and I’m pretty sure we saw it on the Atlantic Road that day. We shared the road with everything from double-decker tourist coaches to oddball motorbikes, although we cherished a few ‘road to ourselves’ moments along the route.

Rain check?

Since returning from our cycling trip around the fjords, we’ve noticed a huge amount of coverage and exposure of Norway’s reputation as a world class cycling location, culminating in the Bergen Road World Championships this year.

In our humble opinion, this reputation has been more than earned and the Sonder Colibri is the ideal bike for the job. Immaculate roads, phenomenal landscapes, and a series of small yet vibrant communities makes it a must for all cyclists, (especially if you avoid the novelty troll shops and make a beeline for the valley roads of Eresfjord!).

Scroll down for a few more photos from the trip...

Road snacks were limited to what we could carry in bike bags...

...and what we could find the many local cafes along the route

Job done!

We even managed to find a beer in the end!

By Matt Tomlinson