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)

 

Pics of 2013

These were 11 of my favorites in 2013… Have a great 2014.

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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Prepaid Data Plan in Norway

netcomm_logoI purchased a Netcomm SIM with 800MB of data for $56 (USD). This is more expensive than other European countries but fast wifi connections were hard to come by in Norway. After 35 days (no video watching), I still had 100MBs of data available. I found Netcomm’s coverage to be 100% in Norway. Their network is mostly 3G, no LTE yet. In some more remote areas, the cellular network is still on the EDGE technology. Netcomm sales staff can provide any of the three SIM sizes. I was very satisfied with Netcom’s 100/200/800 prepaid data plans. To monitor your data usage reset your cellular data counter in your device’s settings>cellular data usage area.