Content and images by Tom Johnstone After a night of relative comfort on a reclined leather chair in the main hall of Bergen airport, I face the somewhat mammoth task of shifting my 23kg (~50 lbs) hold bag, 26kg (~57 lbs) bike box and 8kg (~17 lbs) flight bag, by bus, train, minibus and a fair bit of carrying, to my start point. 1 The buses start early, so I opt to get up and get this adventure started. I arrive at the Bergen train station with plenty of time for my 6:40am train. The station is deserted, cold and grey, but my excitement has overtaken my struggle with the mountain of a kit I’m moving, and it is coursing through my veins in place of the caffeine I’d normally need for a 4am start like this. 2 Once the train pulled in and my kit pile was aboard, I could relax in the knowledge that most of the effort required to get to the start point from here was mechanical and engine driven. 3 How refreshing it is to be on a train that actually gives some space over to bikes and luggage! Enough space in fact to get my bike built while the first hints of this country’s amazing scenery blur past the window, interspersed by just a few of the hundreds of tunnels dug through the Norwegian mountains. 4 On arrival at Voss, where I meet my lift into the mountains, I’m greeted by the only Norwegian I’m going to recognize. Normally I find tourist tat nauseous, but I was happy to see this guy and hoped it’d be my only encounter. 5 Once I’d met my lift and been kindly shuttled back to his base, I got a bit of local insight into my biking plans. We talked about my chosen route and other options for hours. Every time another local wandered past we asked their thoughts on my route, and none of them hunted at a green light to my plans. Jan, who’d collected me from Voss, told me straight “it’s unrideable up there”. Manu, one of Jan’s staff, who is a fell runner and mountain biker, pointed to various bits of the map, told me “that’s the steepest tunnel you’ve ever seen, you’ll be pushing through there,” “this whole area is 100% unrideable” and “why not leave your bike here and go hiking so you actually get to see it up there?” The most optimistic opinion I had on my plans was “I don’t know how good you are on a bike, but I can tell you this for sure, no matter how good you are, you’ll be carrying your bike through this whole area [while pointing at a 70sqkm area of map]” 6 My biking career started as a kid, exploring the woodlands, fields and mountains of North Wales going wherever we fancied, so “it’s not rideable” is all the incentive I need to get out there and find out for myself how “unrideable” it actually is. So, route unchanged and with the locals shaking their heads and rolling their eyes at the “crazy Brit,” I headed out… well ok, I went to head out, and found this little fella snooping round my exped rations, so re-homed him to the other side of the river and then headed out. 7 And so my solo bikepacking adventure start, 50ft from the fjord with it’s staggering beauty, clipped by the main Bergen to Oslo highway, a petrol station and a few houses clustered together. I turn my back on the fjord and head out along the highway in search of wilderness, summits and views, not really knowing what to expect. 8 My ride starts with about 8km (5 mi) of riding up the hard shoulder of the main Bergen to Oslo road. You’d be forgiven for picturing a four lane highway with high speed trucks blasting past my bars, but this is Norway so think two lanes of very occasional traffic. So occasional in fact I got bored waiting for some to pass and decided this shot would do. 9 Whilst rolling down the tarmac my eye was caught by this great little bridge, which upon closer inspection was entirely rideable and crossed to a little riverside shelter. As a perfect lunch spot, I was tempted to sit back and take in the scenery, but was only 2km into my ride so sadly pushed on. 10 Once finally off tarmac, the fire road sharply starts climbing alongside an awesome gorge of waterfalls and surging pools. I was sorely tempted to head off piste and see where this ‘north shore’ trail led, but the sensible head kicked in, with no one to call an ambulance if it did go horribly wrong, I opted to plough on and get the miles ticked off. 11 Next comes the first of two tunnels, which one of the local guides had described as ‘ridiculously steep’, and as I fought to keep the front wheel on the floor and rear wheel maintaining traction I was forced to agree. Normally a decent sized bar bag guarantees the front wheel stays on the ground unless you want it to lift, and 3″ tires give ample traction that my legs give up first, but this steep, dark, wet gravel proved too much – and I got off to push (not for the last time). 12 Once out of the first tunnel the gorge and cliffs are suddenly surrounding you and the evidence of rockfalls and floods frequently present. This ‘roof’ has been placed at the bottom of one huge avalanche gulley to feed the debris straight over the ‘road’ and into the gorge below. I wasn’t sure how long I wanted to hang around given the size of some of the debris directly overhead. 13 Onwards uphill takes me into tunnel number two, which is no easier than tunnel one but does give the wonderful distraction of having ‘windows’ out into the gorge below, some only a few feet in diameter, some big enough to loose a car through. It took a good dose of motivation to not stop and explore every single one, but this particular one was irresistible. 14 Above the final tunnel the valley opens up and suddenly takes on a very different character. While riding up the main road your view is dominated by 1,000+m (3280 ft) peaks rising sharply out of the valley within a few hundred meters. Up here the peaks are no smaller, but seem somewhat gentler in gradient. By this point I’ve gained over 400m (1312 ft) since leaving the main road just a few kilometers ago. 15 The valley continues upward past farms and homesteads before coming to a gateway where the toll road starts. Thankfully bikes aren’t on the toll list so I figure it’s safe to roll on through the gate without dropping anything into the honesty box (yes, an honesty box toll road! Maybe the M6 toll should try it for the day). 16 Immediately after the toll road honesty box is this bridge with a view upstream. On a summers day I could have convinced myself to take a quick dip, but late August in Norway is definitely autumn already so onwards and upwards it is. 17 The toll road continues to climb slowly into the mountains, passing the 700m, 800m, and eventually the 900m contours. All the way along the valley there are dotted occasional houses and log cabins. Many are now holiday homes but some still used by the upland farmers for summer grazing. 18 Finally as my turn off approaches I skirted this spectacular mountain lake. This spot is truly jaw dropping and a cluster of Norwegians have built holiday cabins up here, most of which seem to be used as bases for fishing, hiking and hunting trips as the lake is teeming with fish and mountains alive with herds of reindeer. 19   For part two click here.

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  1. Pingback: Into the Fjords - Part Two - Bikepackers Magazine

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