September 1990, We flew in and out of Bergen
Bergen Airport to Bergen 20 Ks
The airport is a long way from the center. If you need a map of Bergen, the tourist office at the airport can help you. You can ride out of the airport and find interconnecting bike paths and routes into Bergen. Small hills and some busy urban roads.
Bergen to Voss 115Ks
Welcome to the land of tunnels. There’s a long tunnel out of Bergen to Indre Arna (15Ks) which is off limits to cyclists. The option is along the fiord north around the peninsula 34Ks to Indre Arna. Some hills and urban traffic. Then on #E68 to #13, turn north (left) 9Ks. Take #13 to Trengereid (2Ks). From here it’s impossible to ride through the road tunnel. You have two options. Take the train (bikes accepted to Vaksdal or hitch a ride through the tunnel. Hint: A real good alternative is to get a ride to Vaksdal and avoid urban traffic. Continue on #13 to Dale through some shorter tunnels (15Ks). Stay on #13 east for your first climb. The major climb is in the first 10Ks. The pass is 34Ks from Dale. Then 21Ks into Voss.
Voss to Sogndal 87Ks
Take the minor road along the railroad tracks east to Mjolfjell (33Ks). It’s a gradual climb to the end of the road. Take the train (bikes are carried) to the top of Myrdal. The descent at first is steep on a crushed stone walkway, but then turns into a rideable gravel road down to Flam (15Ks). Either take the ferry to Leikanger from here or from Aurlands 16Ks down a scenic road along the fiord. From Leikanger, it’s 23Ks to Sognadal along the Sogndal fiord on #5.
Sognadal to Lom 143 Ks
Out of Sognadal on #55 to Gaupne 32Ks. Some hills, no major climbs. Gaupne to Skjolden on #55, 28Ks along fiord. Continue on #55 and start climb to Sognefjell Pass, 1440 meters. Actually the major climb is over in 15Ks even though the actual pass is 37Ks from Skjolden. It can be cold and windy while up on top. There’s a quaint little shop and restaurant just before the final climb to the pass. Hot tea is recommended. From the pass to Lom is 46Ks, gradually descending. Usually you’ll be aided by a tail wind toward Lom.
Lom to Geiranger 98Ks
Take Highway #15 east to Bismo (19Ks). This is relatively flat. Then 42Ks to Grotli. The prevailing winds here will be in your face. These are wide-open spaces and the winds can be strong. 13Ks to the turnoff. This turnoff is in the middle of nowhere. It’s 24Ks to Geiranger on #58. First there is a climb to 1038 meters, but you start at almost 900 meters, so it’s not big. Now you’re ready. 18Ks of downhill and unparalleled beauty to Geiranger.
Geiranger to Honindal 80Ks
Continue around the fiord for 3Ks on Highway 58. Then climb on switchbacks out of the fiord valley. The pass is at 624 meters. Then down along a stream to Eidsdal (25Ks). Take the ferry across Norddals Fjord to Linge or Strand. If you end up in Linge, head east 13Ks on Highway 63 to ferry for Strand. There are tunnels on Highway 63. From Strand, go south on Highway 60. A gradual climb to 450 meters, then down to Hellesylt (29Ks). Then out of Hellesylt 26Ks on Highway 60 to Hornindal. You climb to 390 meters gradually and then down to Hornindal, on a lake, not a fiord.
Hornindal to Skei 101 Ks
Continue on Highway 60 around lake (6Ks) where #60 joins Highway 15. Over a low inland pass to Stryn. Out of Stryn continue along the Innvik Fiord to Olden (18Ks) and to Utvik (24Ks) on #60. then climb to 630 meters in 8Ks. Then to Byrkjelo 9Ks. On #14, Byrkjelo to Skei, you eventually and gradually drop to Skei (20Ks) on Jolshavatnet Lake.
Skei to Balestrand 107Ks
From Skei, go south 2Ks to Kjosnes (2Ks) on #625, then cross the bridge over the Kjosnes Fiord on the minor road along the south shore 22 Ks to Vassendan. Continue east 9Ks on #14, and turn left on #5 to Tjugum (84Ks). #5 passes through the high country. There is a pass at 543 meters 16Ks from the turnoff on #5. Then rolling ,desolate hills, until the next pass at 745 meters, 50Ks from the turnoff on #5. Then down to the Vetlefiord and along the fiord to Tjugum. Take #13 9Ks around Ese Fiord to Balestrand. Balestrand to Bergan by ferry.
Balestrand to Bergen by ferry
Stories from the Road
The Norwegian Gasp
For awhile, we thought that there was a very high incidence of lung disease. But Norway has some of the clearest air in the world. Then we theorized that the Norwegians, due to their staid and quiet life style, were gasping at our outward American ways, but Sally didn’t think so.
Eventually we deduced that this Norwegian mannerism simply expresses agreement. It sounds like the word “Yeah” said on a breath intake. Sooner or later you’ll hear it. Once, in southern Minnesota, we heard it. “Norwegian?” we asked. “Yeah,” he gasped, “how did ya know?”
The Southern Turkey Connection
The idea of a bike tour of Western Norway was spawned while cycling in sunny warm southern Turkey. Sally and I met a fun loving, beer drinking group of Germans along the Mediterranean coast and spent a couple of days re-meeting them along the way. Every year they took a spring and fall bike trip in Europe and since they had already found southern Turkey, we figured they knew what they were talking about when, among other places, they recommended Western Norway.
As it turned out, they hit it right on the head. We now agree that Norway offers the best scenery in Europe, possibly the world. We now agree that the hills in the rugged fiord were easier to ride than the steep hills along the southern coast of Turkey. In fact, the Norwegian roads are some of the best engineered roads in the world. And we now agree that if the weather cooperates and you have deep pockets, western Norway has some of the best biking in the world.
We landed in Bergen in September 1990 and spent 10 days riding out of Bergen to the north. This is the area of the most spectacular fiords although with more time you could go both further north (500 miles north if you wanted to go to the artic circle) and further south. To the south, the fiords offer a softer beauty, further north, the distances, and cold increase but the beauty is undiminished. Further east toward Oslo, the biking is still great but the scenery and weather become more Sweden-like. That is more pastoral and more moderate in the summer.
We read the Norway chapter of “Cycling in Europe” by Nicolas Crane before we went. Our tour basically followed this recommended tour to a great degree although we added a few variations to the tour along the way at the end to position ourselves for the ferry back to Bergen.
For What It’s Worth
You just have to look at a map to see that travel will be fitful. You either go around the fiords or you take the ferries. On the negative side of the ledger, you do have to time your arrivals at the ferries so that you avoid long waits for the scheduled departures. On the plus side, the bikers can slip right on the ferries with no fuss. Also, you stop pedaling, get to take a break, but the scenery never stops.