Mountain bike Tour Norway in Photos
Join us on our maiden Mountain bike Tour Norway voyage as our pioneering clients get to grips with the fjord’s trail offerings.
With the broken up crackle of a radio we cast off from our moorings in Molde Harbour and begin steaming towards the maze of peaks filling the skyline, giving us a mere hint at the flavour of things to come. Dappled light flutters across the nautical charts until the sun sinks behind the hills and the eternal summer twilight takes hold.
Norway has been a country that has long sat in the depths of my mind. Enchanted by daydreams of towering snow capped mountains with ribbons of blue water separating them, unspoiled singletrack snaking through the shrub and silver-birches… oh and the abundance of attractive natives. I’ll let you decide which of the above fantasies played out.
Our home and companion for the voyage would be Gåssten – a retired minesweeper now living out her days patrolling the labyrinth of fjords in pursuit of singletrack heaven and the finest chutes of virgin snow around. Thankfully, with her military days behind her, the four strong crew of captain Sven, skipper Tash, guide Ole, and chef Izzy were anything but regimented and would make the boat life experience that bit sweeter.
“beer cans mounting, the diverse group of characters from various corners of the globe swap stories as, before we know it, today has drifted into tomorrow.”
With a scan through the binoculars Sven spots the evening’s dinner spot. We drop anchor, pack the dingy out and land on the pine-covered island, much to the dismay of the local herons who screech from their treetop fortress. With the barbecue sizzling away, empty beer cans mounting, the diverse group of characters from various corners of the globe swap stories as, before we know it, today has drifted into tomorrow.
Clambering from the depths of the sleeping quarters I find the deck looking rather damp and muted in tone compared to the soft evening glow I’d left it in, the skies are a mosaic of grey and black as the sun illuminates a pocket of rain in a distant valley.
The crew are gathered in the kitchen, coffee in hand, watching the world float by the window as we glide into the morning’s drop off point. Wheels and feet firmly back on dry-ish land, we have a short shuttle transfer in the veins of tunnels that run through the heart of the mountains here. We emerge onto the weathered west coast with the Atlantic looking decidedly angry; waves crash onto the rocky shoreline as the craggy ridge towers above us in the low lying cloud. The sheltered hollow from where we had left off lured us into a false sense of weather security, which was rudely shattered when we popped above the tree-line onto the left flank of a lake; the remnants of what would have been a monstrous corrie glacier many moons ago. Quickly we are straddling the exposed ridgeline at full mercy of the vicious crosswind clawing at our bikes and bodies. Hood up, head down, and bikes on back we march in single file wrapped in cloud until we reach a plateau and regroup. All the while our destination teases us as it drifts in and out of vision. We are all reliant on Ole as he leads the snaking cavalry through the greyness – it would be all too easy to stray from the path with the scant visibility and featureless terrain. As we crest at 760m we huddle into the rock faces for a brief shelter as the squalls continue to roll through, in between we are rewarded with a wide panoramic view from the narrow arete over the Atlantic where the hills meet the intricate coastline.
We begin our curve back around the rim of the steep headwall dashing between the glacial rocks on what almost feels like an animal track, passing an old stone cabin we have a quick fork of uphill before our long blast back to sea level. The crown of majestic ridgelines look almost fictitious but the reality is all too present when you’re placed upon them… The trail leads out and peels left in front of us, the grippy rocks switch for a brief, but slick, topsoil toboggan run back to the lake edge. Now in the lee of the mountain and in some frankly more pleasant riding conditions the group scouts the way through the wide puzzle piste of rocks with an abundance of line choices. We pass plenty of hikers who are friendly and inquisitive as to what we are up to, this area of Norway being pretty fresh when it comes to the passing of two wheels. Once back at sea level and the warmth of Gåssten’s cabins we have a short cruise to the evening’s mooring spot, giving us a chance to watch the moody weather roll over us from the safety of the wheelhouse with a cup of coffee in hand.
The gentle hum of the engine and the lapping of waves against the hull is one of the most pleasant alarm clocks I’ve experienced. With no windows in the cabin, each morning there was a sort of ‘child at Christmas-like’ excitement as you stepped up on deck to discover the scenery towering over the boat. Gåssten’s sonar blipped closer to her destination of Andalsnes thanks to the guidance of Sven and Tash, meanwhile the smell of bacon drifting from the kitchen was the only persuasion I needed to leave them to it… The dark and brooding skies hanging overhead do little to dampen spirits as they had with the ground, only adding to the surreal vistas.
Today we were following the droves of tourist buses on the Troll’s Staircase, despite the hordes of camera wielding viewpoint warriors it’s an amazing and hair-raising drive to the top where, thankfully, we ditch the tourist traps and begin our hike-a-bike up the smooth glacier carved slick rock. Once again we find ourselves amongst the clouds whilst we stumble through the stubborn snow remnants of last winter. Pyramidal peaks sprout around us as we reach what would be a snow melt lake… Problem being the snow was putting up a good fight! We tuck into lunch deafened by the thundering river taking the most direct route to the nearest fjord. After a Megavalanche-style start we are soon on a more familiar trail surface with marbly rock turns laced with sharp rock gardens, and eventually a brake-cooking hurtle back down the slick rock.
“the dark and brooding skies hanging overhead do little to dampen spirits as they had with the ground, only adding to the surreal vistas.”
We briefly join the road to take in the best view of the Troll’s Staircase and the cascading waterfalls. I’m not a massive road cycling fan but honestly, I’d take it over the other option of wingsuiting it off the edge… It’s a quick plunge to the valley floor where the somewhat barren grey rock of the Trollstigen mountains has switched for silver birches, vegetation, and still, crystal clear rivers. It was by no means less technical though! An entanglement of wet rocks and roots kept us on our toes until the sea came and the boat came into view once more. There’s little time to hang around as we have a big steam through the night to reach the world famous Geiranger Fjord by sunrise.
Popping out of the hatch I have to double take and rub my eyes at the apparent blue, cloudless sky. It was like waking up in a different country with the shimmering water glinting in the morning light. Thankfully the toasty engine room had dried out the sodden shoes from yesterday, the waterproofs ditched, and the short sleeve jerseys dug out from the kitbags. Our target is in full view above us as we rope up in Stranda harbour, with the help of the whole crew. I say ‘whole’ but I can’t tie a knot to save my life so hinder rather than help. After a plod on road and double track to get the legs going we soon find our bikes lofted upon our shoulders once again as we sidestep through a herd of speculative cows we’d disturbed from their morning’s munch. Leaving the tree-line we enter the open hillside revealing views into the deep fjords and up to the snow capped mountains above. A tall rocky cairn signals our final crest on the rolling hills, it’s quite literally all downhill from here.
A quick hit of Izzy’s home-baking offering (peanut brownie for those concerned) truly lit the fuse for the gravity assisted dash to the boat. Over the heathland upon a twine of trail we slot through a handful of grass-roofed cabins clinging to the hillside before becoming reimmersed in the pines and silver birches; this is where things start to get technical. Pick a line. Point and shoot. Hope for the best. The gradient, lingering slop, and jigsaw-like rock gardens were a potent mix that would bite back, just as your confidence would begin to surge and the brake levers tentatively released. Skimming the side of a cascading river the trail dunks into some thick and towering pines where the trail becomes wide and vast, yet still retaining its fun but somewhat fierce character. With everyone riding blind there’s a whole host of questionable line choices being made as I can make out the blur of someone a few metres to the left in my periphery. The woods chew us up and spit us out on the outskirts of Stranda giving us a short blast between the wooden clad houses back to the boat waiting patiently by the harbour.
Everyone seems content to be sprawled out on deck soaking up the sun with a cold beer in one hand as we cruise into Geiranger Fjord. The engine dropping in revs and Sven appearing from the wheelhouse signals that he’s decided upon the afternoon’s swim-spot, right underneath the Seven Sisters Waterfall. Plunging into the icy waters was enough to take your breath away but felt good on the body after a day of riding. Whilst dinner is simmering away and the sun falls into the neighbouring fjord, it seems like the perfect time to dig out the paddle-board and explore the coastline in greater detail.
“The engine dropping in revs and Sven appearing from the wheelhouse signals that he’s decided upon the afternoon’s swim-spot, right underneath the Seven Sisters Waterfall.
Ole urged us to not skimp on breakfast as he pointed to our target imposing on the skyline over a 1000m overhead. Saving the biggest, and best for last. Loading the skiff Tetris-style we depart from Gåssten and blast to our drop-off point by a row of red boat houses. No one is in the mood for racing ahead today as we plod round switchback after switchback mashing at the pedals. Passing through an old farmstead complete with rustic machinery we pull up by another hamlet of thatched cabins for lunch before the hike-a-bike begins. On the way up I was almost envious of the bike-less walkers who leapt from rock to rock not hindered by the lump of plastic and metal on their back, although I knew I’d soon get redemption! Doubling our altitude by foot, it was an ascent where you felt every metre towards the end. Sodden in sweat and red in the face thanks to the baking sun I scale the final rise with the boat a pixel in the ribbon of water. Our bodies were feeling the fact it was the end of the week but who really cared when all you could see around you were towering peaks separated by turquoise waters and your trail leading off through the middle of it all.
I ‘recovered’ from the climb in record time, mainly due to the fact I was drooling at the prospect of tackling the rock slabs and hero dirt we’d just scaled. Setting our wheels in the direction of the boat I flirt with gravity and its fight with my howling brake rotors, all the while smiles widening as we pick and pop off the rock slabs, which were quite the contradiction to the soft soil in between; adding that little extra spice to the gravity battle. As ever, you wish it could go on just that little bit longer… We departed the fond company of the open mountaintop and rejoined the tree-line for one final Norwegian climax on a trail called ‘Blowjob’… Now I should have seen what was coming next having had to scoop the front wheel and deploy my foot as a stabiliser a couple of times already that day, maybe I got over excited at the prospect, ran out of talent or a combination of both. Just saying, the hole that got me was conveniently sized at 29”. After getting acquainted with the pine needles and checking my wrist was still attached, albeit a bit fatter and unable to grip the bars, I teetered back to the group who were rightly more concerned at how good that trail was than the fact I’d just pushed down. A little dejected I left them to it and retreated for extraction by the beach. An hour later we are all back on deck and savouring the final evening of cruising the fjords, beer in hand. We drop anchor on the fringes of Ålesund and gather in the cosy galley for the last meal with a hive of good vibes before we each fly home to various spots around the globe in the morning.
It’d been a week of two halves. The first days dogged by some challenging weather that required a few gritting of the teeth moments into the wind and rain, then followed by the serene sun on the final days. This part of Norway is just beginning to find its feet in two wheel potential. We never saw another rider or tyre track all week, although it is beginning to sprout and will bloom before too long. The deep fjords and their steep sides are far from the most accessible place on the earth, but they aren’t half stashing some trail gold making the extra effort of finding them all the more worth it. Gåssten has swapped mine sweeping for trail scouting and is the perfect companion for entering Norway’s labyrinth of fjords.