Cycle Touring Northern Norway

 

 

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.

Developers: This uses the Ride with GPS multi route widget.

Switched to Ride with GPS

gps_widget
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.

updating_euro_tour_screenshot
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.