Cycle Touring Northern Norway

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During our first cycling tour of Norway in 2013, we ran out of time to reach the northern regions of Norway. This June (2018), we chose to cycle in three regions: the Lofotons, Senja, and Helgeland (Bodo to Trondheim), so our route mostly followed Norway’s national bike route #1 between Tromso and Trondheim. Our route follows the Norwegian coast, where steep mountains drop into the sea. In many locations, the coastal road is broken up by fjords and the road must bridge out to coastal islands. The Norweigan infrastructure of tunnels, ferries, and bridges creates a crazy hopping journey through spectacular alpine/mar-time geography. I know of no other place where you can consistently ride 1200+ km of quality coastline.

We flew into and based out of Trondheim, leaving our bike containers with our Trondheim AirBnB host. Trondheim can be reached on international flights and is big enough to provide services and transportation to begin this tour. Avoid arriving on Sundays, as everything is closed. Bodo and Tromso would have been good touch down destinations as well. To get back to Trondheim (and our bike containers) after our tour, we used a combination of rail and cruise ship.

All cycle tribes are found along the route: guided sag van support, traditional bike tourers (all gear), minimalists (bivy gear/no cooking) and credit card riders (no camping gear). Because of limited services along the route, most riders are traditionalists, but you will find necky credit card riders (mostly local Scandinavians) who ride to their next accommodation or else.

There is no reason to push through this tour unless you are hell-bent for the NordCapp. With a good hiking map, you will realize that there are excellent daily hikes directly off the route. Stash your bike and head up to incredible views. Some of our best days were multi-sport; maybe 2 hour hike in the AM, 3 hours of cycling in the PM and a World Cup match with the locals. And remember, your day ends when you want it to. You are so far north (69N @Tromso) that you will only experience darkness in poorly lit tunnels.

 

Additional Notes

Traffic. The “E” highways have more traffic than the non “E” highways, otherwise, see the pictures.

Car Ferries. Ferries are a big part of this tour and not to be confused with the high speed ferries that do not carry cars. The car ferries provide opportunities for shelter, food, coffee, and rest. They run frequently, so timing is not necesary.

Food. As we don’t carry cook gear, only snacks, so we needed a restaurant once a day. There is just enough options for food along the route to travel without a stove, luckily, we only had sandwiches for dinner once. Most of the restaurants were excellent, but expensive. If you cook on your own, you can save a lot of Kroner.

Hurtigurten. This a cruise ship line that traverses the Norwegian coastline. We used it to return south after reaching Tromso. Each Hurtigurten port has a southbound and northbound call each day. The ship is expensive, but if used wisely, it can save time and get you to remote locations along the coast. You can reduce your ticket cost by not getting an overnight cabin and simply walking on at the dock without a reservation. I estimate the deck tickets at around $40-50 for each port segment. The deck experience is very comfortable and the cabins are cruise ship luxury.

Tunnels. There are about 45 tunnels on this route, so you will get used to them. I didn’t consider any tunnels dangerous, many of them have “biker in tunnel” alert buttons that you activate before entering the tunnel. Here is a website that lists all bike-friendly Norwegian tunnels.

Weather. This is purely a roll of the dice. I would add into your plans at least two weather days. This trip we had a 2 day storm with rain and gale force (30+mph) winds. Local fisherman died at sea, ferries were stopped, and cycling was not possible.

Difficulty. I would consider our pace and route to be beginner/intermediate in difficulty. Most of the riding is flat and there are no passes like in the European Alps. Our longest day was 92km but most days were half that distance. Watch the wind forecasts, as head winds can come from all directions.

Data Plan. Verizon international (from Norway) would have been $300 for each of us, so we got MyCall SIMs for about $30 for 3GBs of data each. Signal coverage was excellent along our route. You can pick one up at Narvesen convenience stores (passport required).

 

Fun Facts:

  • Ferries: 21
  • Tunnels: 45
  • Longest Tunnel: 3.2km
  • Average Temp: 50F +/-5 (unseasonably colder)
  • Flat tires: 0 (new 23/25mm Gatorskins)

 

 

Cost of Norwegian Transportation

  1. Ride (free)
  2. Hitch-hike (free)
  3. Car Ferries (reasonable)
  4. Buses (reasonable takes bikes)
  5. High Speed Ferries (bikes but no cars, irregular schedules)
  6. Rail (Trondheim to Bodo overnight train)
  7. Hurtigurten (see red dots on map for daily ports)
  8. Air (reasonable cost but not with bike luggage)

 

Aspen Road Bike Rides

These are the 6 standard road bike rides around Aspen. I did not include Independence Pass (Hwy 82) because I don’t recommend riding it with its negative roadway shoulders. If you want to ride Indy, do it when it is closed to motor traffic. This means early May when CDOT is still snow plowing over the pass or when a cycle event travels over the pass (Pro Challenge race or Ride the Rockies tour).

My riding stats start and end on Red Butte Drive near Slaughter House Bridge, not in downtown Aspen.

Notes:

  • Aspen Loop is mostly flat and makes the most of Aspen’s bike paths and bikeways. Easiest.
  • Woody Creek is an out and back ride. Many riders pit stop at the Woody Creek Tavern.
  • Castle Creek is the longest ride. Out and back ride.
  • Maroon Creek has the highest elevation. Limited car traffic. Out and back ride.
  • Owl Creek is a loop ride with some bike path segments. Juniper Hill is a steep 600’ segment. Ride the Rio Grande bike path if you want river views on the way back to Aspen or McLain Flats Road if prefer looking at the mountains of the Elk Range.
  • Owl Creek Mass Trail skips the Juniper Hill segment and some highway crossings via the Aspen Mass Trail. The route follows mostly bike path.

This is the Maroon Valley ride.

Switched to Ride with GPS

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Custom widget

 I waited years for Strava to allow you to embed your rides into a website. But Strava’s engineers never listened, so I switched to the Ride with GPS iOS app. Not only does Ride with GPS allow embedding of the app’s ride maps (above) into websites with an iframe tag, but within your account profile they have a dynamic widget builder to create a custom widget with rides and ride details displayed as you desire. With Ride with GPS, you can also search other locales for other rider’s maps and all the related beta to those rides. Now group ride maps can be shared on  cycling websites.

Euro Tour Update 1.3

ibooks_iconIn September of 2014 version 1.3 of Euro Tour was released. In this free version you will find a new chapter on Tour Budgets, a new Scotland tour, the preface has been revised, new gear items, new Google map engine for online maps, all travel checklists polished, and lots of tweaks throughout the book.

 

Here are the instructions to update your copy of Euro Tour:

  • Launch the iBooks app on your iPad or Mac.
  • Click “Store” in the upper lefthand corner.
  • Click “Purchased” panel to see books you have purchased in the iBookstore.
  • Find Euro Tour from list of books and click the “Update” button.

The book download can take time if you have a slow internet connection. If your update fails, or you get a “Cannot connect to iTunes Store” error message, then, just restart the process.

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Find Euro Tour in your purchased books, then click update

Cycling Scotland

This is a 12 day tour we cycled in August along the coastal side of the Scottish Highlands. You will find island hopping touring on Scottish single track roads through cool deciduous forests. The single track roads provide excellent riding with views of beaches, lochs (fjords), mountains, and quaint coastal towns with friendly tea rooms or pubs awaiting you each stop. The single track roads can be challenging up and down riding and the upward grades can be quite steep. The other challenges of this tour are the weather and the midges. The weather is famously bad, but plan-in a couple weather days and learn why pubbing can take the edge off any rainy day. Midges are tiny flies that bite and are more prevalent inland than on the breezy coast. Specific temperature ranges and wind-less conditions permit the formation of black clouds of midgets. You should be prepared (tent netting and “midget bonnet”) for them if you are camping as their bites itch for a very long time.

The Highland area of Scotland has lots of tourist infrastructure. You will find tea houses at the remotest coves with fresh baked goodies. B&Bs are found everywhere too, just remember they are fully booked for the month of August. We stayed in B&Bs during the wetter days and camped on the nicer days. You can easily get to the Highlands region by rail with your bike (bikes go free if space available) from Glasgow or Edinburgh, then, start your ride from Gourock, Oban, Malaig, or Kyle of Lochaish. If you wanted to extend our route into a loop, you could take the ferry from Ullapool to the Outer Hebrides Islands riding back south in 4 additional days.

Cycle Touring Norway

 

Notes on Cycling Norway

Viking church
Viking church

I had never been to Norway nor anywhere in Scandinavia before June 2013. This post is a summary of what I learn along the way in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Hopefully, my notes will give potential cycling visitors a heads up on cycling in Norway.

Cost. This country might be one of the most beautiful but it is also a very expensive country to visit. A coke costs about $5 and a beer costs $11-$12 bucks. A basic low budget meal starts at around $30 and that’s for pasta. So how do you visit Norway without going bankrupt?

In the summertime, most tourists are exploring the country by either cruise ship or RV. The cruisers are on a package price and are eating their meals on their ship. The other popular mode of travel is RVing. Loads of RVs ferry up from Germany and the Netherlands. They RV/car camp and buy their food in local groceries, using hotels or restaurants only occasionally. They still need to buy fuel which I calculated being approximately $10 per gallon for unleaded gasoline (diesel is slightly less). But if you are a cyclist you can forget that expense but you do need to pay for ferries. My route required 24 ferry crossings and the average cost was $6 a ride times 24 crossings; that’s $144, which isn’t too bad for Norway.

Camping. So if you’re not sleeping on a cruise ship, you’re with the car campers or cyclists in private campgrounds; which cost around $15 to $30 per night plus $2 bucks for your hot water shower token. This camping cost is very similar to other european countries. Every Norwegian town has at least one campground, plus you will find additional ones at tourist destinations. Some campgrounds are only farmer’s fields with a WC and a showering building, others have their own community kitchens or campground cafes. One even had a ski area. If the weather is bad, you can upgrade from a tent site to a cabin; and enjoy drying-out with some cabin heating and the luxury of a full kitchen.

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Via Michelin Mobile

Michelin’s European road atlases are now available with the Via Michelin Mobile apps for iOS and Android. Michelin’s road atlases are in my opinion the best road maps for cycling in Europe. Graphically, I prefer Michelin’s relief shading, it allows you to put together great cycling itineraries. Michelin maps highlight (in green) scenic roadways which you should consider riding. Google Maps do not provide this information, and in many cases, the scenic classification also means; safer roads with less traffic. With a WIFI connection, or better yet, with a cellular connection you can have all of Michelin’s road atlases on your smartphone or tablet device. Michelin’s app maps display like it’s printed maps and have adequate resolution with close-up magnification. The app is free, but if you want to use the maps in realtime on the road, you will  need to purchase about 2GB of prepaided data from a local European carrier. Normally, this would cost about 20 Euros with a local European carrier. The Michelin app works similar to Google’s Maps including; GPS pin-pointing your location and purple-colored plotting of your desired routes (see below: Configuring your route and Route overlay). Your routes are automatically logged in a historical panel within the app for easy future retrieval. Your routes can be calculated relative to car, moto, bike, or hiking travel time. Michelin estimates that bike riding Passo di Gavia would take you 3:05, but if you were on a Ducati moto (think crotch-rocket), the same route would only take 1:15 or as I have witnessed: way less at 180 KPH. When you zoom into a desired map location, the app switches to a Google-style flat map, which is detailed enough to show buildings and dock structures. When you zoom out, you can see a nice relief-style map. My biggest complaint with Google Maps on an iPhone is the lack of a relief style map. An Apple rumor is that they are not updating Google Maps and are developing their own mapping technology. The Via Michelin app includes other areas of the world, but the better; visually-descriptive maps seems to be only available in European countries. All you need when riding from Paris to Istanbul.

Self Support Cycle Gear List

I have fine-tuned my gear list for a self-support European touring cycle trip. I usually ride with a small hydration-shaped pack, a rear rack trunk bag, a top tube frame bag and a water cage container. This configuration of bike bags allows for about 10-12 pounds of gear. This gear list includes; a 2-man tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, full bike kit clothing, two sets of non-riding clothing, some electronics, and toiletries. All items are chosen for lightness, compact-abiIity, ease of cleaning and ability to dry quickly. I carry no cooking gear. And remember, if in doubt, don’t bring it, buy it when you need it.

For an updated self support gear list, check out my book Euro Tours.

Cycling bags

  • Bontrager Trunk Deluxe (Trek Interchange System) Note: This model has built-in rain condom, but doesn’t have the drop-down panniers. I think the drop-down model is too much backend weight for a rear rack. The Interchange System makes fastening and removing your trunk bag fast.
  • I have switched to a Jandd Frame Bag, it fits on a 54″ frame. Primarily, it carries my non-riding shoes. I tried a Relevate Frame Bag but it was too big to fit within my 54″ frame triangle.
  • REI Flash Pack (without hydration system) I try to load this pack with no more than two pounds of gear, otherwise, it becomes uncomfortable for long riding days. It is nice to have a small pack along for grocery runs or day hikes.
  • Soma Stash Bottle (fluids or easy access to raincoat) This a good place to store the Sugoi rain jacket, very accessible.

Camping Gear

  • ThermaRest Neo Air Full-length Sleeping Pad. This year I upgraded from a 3/4 to full length for more comfort.
  • Western Mountaineering Highlite sleeping bag (1lb) good to about 35F-40F temperature range
  • 2 man TarpTent Note: that the Cloudburst is very roomy for two people.
  • 6 tent aluminum tent pegs

Bike Clothing

Zero gear preplanning happens
  • Pearlizumi X-Road Shoes (Hybrid: bikeSPD/hike) Because you might want to go hiking some days. Standard road bike shoes are worthless off your bike.
  • Pearlizumi Riding Shorts
  • Sugoi leggings
  • Assos Full Zipper Jersey
  • Catlike Riding Helmet
  • 3 pairs bike socks
  • 1 pair riding gloves
  • Pearlizumi glove liners (optional when colder)
  • Pearlizumi wind vest (optional when warmer)
  • Assos Full Zipper/Sleve Riding Jacket (optional when colder)
  • Sugoi Rain Jacket. I keep this in the Soma Stash bottle, for quick access. This jacket works fine as a breathable wind breaker too.

Evening Clothing

  • Bison Belt (nylon webbing/Fastex belt buckle) Bison does have a money belt version of this belt.
  • REI Adventure pants, 4 zipped pockets, dries quickly and light weight.
  • Pearlizumi or Nike black nylon stretch pants
  • one dress shirt (optional)
  • long sleeve nylon shirt
  • short sleeve nylon shirt
  • Nylon Baseball Hat
  • Pile Hat helmut liner cap
  • Crocs: Santa Cruz evening shoes; lightweight, packable, comfortable Evolv Cruzers ($75): These are climbing approach shoes. Does everything that the Croc Santa Cruz plus a great climbing tread. These would make much better Via Ferrata shoes than the Crocs.
  • 1 pair high socks
  • 3 synthetic Patagonia underwear
  • MontBell Ultra-Light Down Jacket (7 oz.) Very light and compact able. Perfect for cool mornings or evenings. This is also the down for your pillow case.
  • small toilet bag (you can reduce weight here)
  • ThermaRest Pillow bag
  • REI small or medium backpacking towel
  • nylon bathing suit, quick drying as always.

Small Items

  • Apple iPhone; GSM unlocked, iPhone headphones, & USB Cable/Charger. I highly recommend an unlocked GSM phone, with GPS and Google Maps app.
  • New Trent rechargeable battery (optional) Good at campgrounds without charging plugs or for charging in a tent, and when public outlets are insecure, strangely pronged, or emit unfamiliar voltages.
  • North America to European plug adapter (critical) for charging iPhone or Trent battery
  • Prepaid SIM card of country I am riding in. ($10)
  • 1GB Flash SSD memory stick for photo backups or carrying around digital files.
  • Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS camera & USB Cable iPhone4 camera is my only camera now. (optional)
  • Compact nylon grocery bag, there are pack versions of this too.
  • Lexan Spoon. This is the only kitchen/eating utensil I bring along.
  • waterproof Dry-Pak for camera or iPhone. (optional)
  • Headlight
  • Sunglasses with dark and rose lenses.
  • Folding reading glasses (optional)
  • mini carabiners
  • Passport and credit card. Take pictures of other wallet id cards (health insurance, etc.) and leave cards at home.

Bike Gear

  • Richey Breakaway Bike
  • Continential Gatorskin tires 700/25 especially for the extra weight over the rear wheel
  • Bontrager Rear Rack (Trek Interchange System)
  • Shimano A530 SPD dual platform road touring pedals. SPDs during the rides, flat platform with evening shoes.
  • Rear rack light, nice for dark long tunnels and heavy traffic
  • Knog front light. This light can be easily fastened on any tube area of your frame and is waterproof.
  • Lightweight bike lock. I try to never leave my bike unattended in public.
  • Slime Skabs patches, instead of a tire tube
  • tire levers
  • Presta valve adapter, when you can’t find a good floor pump. This can be used at most gas stations.
  • small bottle of chain lube
  • Spin Doctor mini 4 hex tool (55grams)
  • Blackburn AirStix pump 58 grams
  • pant leg straps with reflector strips to avoid pants shredding
  • One Clean water bottle, type that can be opened and cleaned from the bottom
  • Michelin Road Atlas as iPhone photos or Google Maps with GPS and data capability
  • iPhone Apps: SBB Mobile (Euro trains), Google Translate, FXChange (currencies), iPhone Kindle (books), Google Maps

Revelate Frame Bag

Tangle Frame Bag on a 54 inch frame

Just got my upgraded and longer bike frame bag from Revelate out of Alaska. The good news is that my Cloudburst Tarptent poles fit in this frame bag (as well as the two-man tent). I no longer need to stuff the tent poles out of the top of my hydration-like pack (REI Flash Pack) and I no longer will be carrying anything slashed to my handlebars. This frame pack is much larger and longer than the Jandd frame pack. Check out the Revelate site, plenty of core bikepackers doing their thing world-wide. Eric from Revelate seems like a kewl dude and I like his WordPress site. I just need him as client now for the pro form deals 🙂

FYI… This frame bag will not fit a top tube less than 54″ without a customization request; which I think Eric can do.