Each year I take several bikepacking trips around Norway, exploring various areas and roads. At Cycle Norway, it's our job to discover hidden gems in a country that is still relatively unknown on the bikepacking front. The first trip of 2023 started in Bergen, Norway's famous west coast city. In the first week of May we planned to cycle the popular Atlantic Coast route up to the Arctic Circle. However, instead of following the regular route, we added a few exciting detours that most people are unaware of.
Norway's Atlantic Coast is one of the most picturesque in the world and is 100% paved on mainly low-traffic roads. Every day you are treated to high mountains, fjords, forests, and the odd glacier. Our planned route was over 1200km and too much for the seven days available. To reach the Arctic Circle, we would use the famous Hurtigruten, Norway's coastal express service. We planned to hop on and off, skipping certain sections so we could see more of the North while still getting to experience some of the hidden gems in the South.
We decided to take road bikes for speed with 28mm tires and 11-34 cassettes. There are a couple of challenging climbs on the way, but overall it is reasonably flat in places. Due to the unpredictable May climate, we decided to do credit card bikepacking (no camping). The temperatures would average between 5-12 degrees Celsius and thus, a hotel was a welcome treat after many hours on a bike.
Setting up your bikepacking rig without a tent and other camping equipment certainly makes life easier. Nevertheless, we were heading to the Arctic, this meant all clothes options were essential. Winter gloves, thermal shoe covers, raincoat, down jacket, thermal bib shorts, leg warmers, etc. I could go on, but you get the point. The temperatures can drop quickly in the North, so you must pack for all eventualities. We decided to go with a four-bag setup. Restraps, 14L saddle bag, half frame bag (medium), Race top tube bag long, and Race bar bag 7L. We could have removed the race bar bag, but it is convenient to have extra food space. In the North, many small shops close early and close entirely on Sundays. A good rule of thumb is, ensure you have 36 hours' worth of food available on Saturday evening.
Reaching Bergen with your bike requires little effort from Oslo. The train takes about 7 hours and has excellent bike storage at an additional cost. On arriving in Bergen, there was no chance for sightseeing as we planned to jump on the Hurtigruten that evening and skip the first section north of the city. After 8 hours on the boat which included a tasty evening meal, we jumped off at 5.30 am the next day at the small remote fishing village called Måløy. Fifty kilometres north lies Stadlandet, one of the most beautiful peninsular on the planet and a hidden gem to cycle. This was our destination for day 1.
The forecast stated rain the whole day but not heavy or intense, more 'pitter patter,' which is manageable on a bike. We waited in Måløy for an hour to pick up supplies, and at 7 am, we headed up the coast. We had no idea what to expect and was unsure if this route would compete with other areas of Norway. After about 20km, we realised we should never question or doubt Norway! The views, even in poor weather, got better every kilometre we cycled. By the time we reached the Stadlandet peninsula, we were pulling out our cameras every 2 minutes.
The whole area has a distinct feel, with mountains rising from the fjords, small protected coves with sandy beaches, and lakes and forests covering the inner parts of the coast. But the icing on the cake is at the end of the road, which hugs the Atlantic Ocean.
A 500m mountain named Vestkapp is Norway's most western point. The 5-kilometer climb up is very challenging, averaging 10% most of the way. But the views are incredible at every turn! On the southern side, you have a very barren mountain range, brown in colour and uniquely suited to this area of the country. On the northern side are the higher snow-capped mountains with all the grace and dignity a snowy mountain range can offer. Lastly, facing west, you can see the vast Atlantic Ocean stretching as far as the eyes can see. What a place to ride a bike!
Matthew Tolley, Founder of Cycle Norway
www.cyclenorway.com is a comprehensive website dedicated to inspiring and informing you about Norway's opportunities on two wheels. They have over 140 routes with loads of practical information that will help you plan a memorable cycling holiday in the land of the midnight sun.
If you want to find the incredible Atlantic Coast Route mentioned in this blogpost, head over there and get signed up.