I took a trip to Bergen, Norway on the second May bank holiday weekend. I’d never been there before, I didn’t know anyone there, I’d never ridden on the “wrong” side of the road and I’d never ridden over 100 miles on my own, so I thought I’d tick both off in one weekend.
Sometimes I’m incredibly organised with a plan for everything – I’m ready days in advance. Not this time. I realised that for such a long, unsupported bike ride, I’d need a rather large saddle bag to carry some snacks, a couple of tubes, spare kit and any other little souvenirs I decide worthy of my hard-earned cash. I charged all my electronics: lights, Garmin, power pack. I uploaded the route, checked-in, double checked I actually had a valid passport (in that order) and wrote a list of things I still need to buy after work.
I yanked my small North Face Duffel Bag (highly recommended, btw! I have a big one and a matchy toiletry bag.) from the side of my wardrobe, still intact with Emirates tags from the ghost of holidays past. I quickly pieced together my cycling kit, making colour-coordinated choices as I went along until I had what I thought was everything I needed for the weekend.
Originally, I was going to take my Giant Defy but that plan came to a sudden end when the seat post wouldn’t come out of the seat tube, a problem I later found out to be quite common. I packed up my Giant Propel complete with newly purchased Ortlieb saddlebag, lights, lots of food, my helmet, my track pump and a few other bits.
If you happened to see a girl with a huge bright blue bike box marching down Deansgate looking flustered, that was me.
Sundays in most of mainland Europe aren’t exactly hives of activity. Pretty much every store is closed, the city streets are somewhat lifeless and there’s just a different feeling about a place. It was the perfect day to desert the city myself and explore pastures new. My planned route would take me from Voss, east of Bergen, all the way back into the city going past Hardangerfjord, the fourth largest fjord in the world.
The first train out of Bergen to Voss was at 06:51. I was that excited, I managed to get there about 20 minutes early and surprisingly, I wasn’t the only one around the construction site of a station. I put the tag on my bike and walked towards the platform where the train sat silently.
Contrary to what you might think, the train trip out to Voss isn’t very exciting. For the most part, the train is inside a tunnel between stations. Occasionally, I’d see a nice fjord or some beautiful scenery but overall, it wasn’t too exciting.
One hour and twenty minutes after leaving Bergen, I arrived in Voss to much chillier temperatures than the big smoke. Lucky for me, I brought arm-warmers but still my poor legs had to bear (or should I say bare!?) the single digit temperatures. The moisture in the air was evident from the moment I disembarked. I was almost certain I’d get rained on at some point during the first few hours of my ride secretly hoping my insulated gilet would suffice.
One of the best things about Norway is their infrastructure for cycling. It’s second to none I’ve ever ridden on. Designated shared paths next to major roads that you can still do >20kmph on, bike paths around tunnels, signs pointing to major towns along the way – it was a real treat to ride on such amazing roads and paths.
For about 12km, I climb out of Bergen in increasingly damp conditions. Tour busses steamed past with their passengers, who I imagine laughed at the cyclist wearing shorts in the freezing cold. Soon enough that little climb was over and I found myself at the summit of one of the most stunning roads I’ve ever laid rubber on. It snaked down into a valley, the fjord below unassuming of the boisterous waterfalls which surrounded it. I hit the first switchback and couldn’t help but take photos of what laid ahead.
It was at the bottom of this road that the real rain reeled its way in. I sought shelter in one of the quaint bus stops that line many of the streets I travelled down. I opted for the ten minute break and hoped it would only be a quick shower.
Mother Nature must’ve read my mind as the waterworks died down and I was able to pedal on to my first proper fjord experience. She had a heart of glass, reflecting on her surroundings so peacefully. The faint trickle of smaller waterfalls, the clang of a sheep’s cowbell and the tick of my rear hub were the only distractions for miles.
I rode with my head constantly turned to the right as I circled the left-hand side of the fjord, taking in every moment. The snow on the tops reminded me of Norway’s much harsher climate and that a bit of warm drizzle was the least of my worries.
The masterpiece of the trip was just between some steeped tree-lined hill faces. Hardangerfjorden revealed itself and I couldn’t wait to explore more of its circumference.
The size of Hardangerfjorden was the real surprise. How could a lake cover so much space and not be the actual sea? As the second largest fjord in Norway, its vast expanse surprised me almost as much as folds of rock that enveloped this miniature ocean. The rain gone, life peaking – I’d found my happy place and it was riding solo at my pace, taking pictures when I wanted, stopping for food when my stomach growled at me, stopping to take in the view for five minutes when I felt like I wanted to appreciate here and now.
Along the banks of the fjord there were frequent laybys with toilets, benches and car parks, I suppose for the benefit of tourers in camper vans and of course cyclists. I met a friendly passerby who offered to take my photo. He must’ve felt sorry for me as I posed with my bike for some “arty” selfies.
The weather finally warmed up and I had to take my gilet off and pack my arm warmers and silk scarf away for the day. I slapped on some sunscreen a little later on and probably a little too late and rolled further through my day.
The rest of the ride took me through small townships, a ferry stop, past another waterfall, out to a make-shift fjord-beach and around quite a few tunnels. The best thing about cycling in Norway is you never miss anything. Being forced on to a bike path to avoid the tunnel means you get to see more scenery than you would in a car. Perhaps you’ll bump into an old man with a funny story like I did, perhaps you’ll see wildlife around the valleys – you just don’t know. These last few pictures don’t need words, they speak many more than I could ever write.
From Trengereid, I jumped on to the back of four local cyclists and took a bit of respite. If you’re reading this, sorry I didn’t introduce myself sooner. My Norwegian is somewhat non-existant and I didn’t know how to introduce myself being the awkward human-being that I am. Thanks for the wheels!
Some of the roads from Nesttun were a little sketchy with fast cars but thankfully those famous bike paths provided adequate protection from most. I ended up detouring from my original route and following a designated bike path, a lot like the Sustrans routes we have in England.
My only regret was not riding up to Stalheimskleiva (Google it!) in the morning, but given the dreary weather, I needed to consider that I’d be out for around ten hours at best and getting soaked through from the start wasn’t a smart decision. It also leaves me something to do next time I visit. And there will be a next time.
You can view my Strava activity here.
I flew with SAS from Manchester to Bergen and booked through Airbnb with Anna.