Pete headed out to explore Hardangerfjord with Any Excuse to Ride Norway with Hazzard Racing’s Lachlan Blair in tow.
Norway had been on the list of places to explore with the bike, and after a few emails to Will and Klara at Any Excuse to Ride Norway, the flights were booked and I managed to smuggle a Scottish pinner in the form of Lachlan Blair over as well.
Words and photos by Pete Scullion.
We landed in Bergen a mere two hours after boarding the smallest plane I have ever flown in, from there it was a quick scuttle to the bus station where we’d get a whistle stop tour of northern Hardangerfjord before being thrown out at the Kvanndal ferry terminal.
We’d meet Will and Klara at the ferry to make the short walk up the hill to the farmhouse that would be our home for the week. It was already late in the day, so we hit the hay early with a plan to crack on riding some of the hand-made gold behind the house the following morning.
We’d also meet Nora, Will and Klara’s Collie who is clearly in her element chasing bikes, attacking socks and getting yoghurt all over her face.
The following morning, we’d load up on weapons-grade coffee, brown cheese and cereal before sampling some of the lines cut into an old slag heap behind the house. The quarry here was started to make gravel for the road below and has left some hero dirt behind.
We soon set about sampling that and the rockier options higher up with Klara before Will returns to whisk us off up the mountains to the east.
While Klara insisted she’d been struggling with one off the super tight right-handers and I opted to fire off some photos, Lachlan proves immediately that he was the right person to bring along, slapping the living daylights out of every turn on the first go and slinging a mean turndown off even the merest up slope.
This was the perfect way to ease ourselves into what would turn out to be a pretty full-on week. The dirt was almost too grippy, with the wheels staying put regardless of what I’d ask them to do. Lachlan clearly had no issue and Nora soon learned that he was the one to try and keep up with.
From our vantage point above the house, you could see the Kvanndal-Utne ferry making its trip across one of the narrower sections of Hardangerfjord. You’ll find few bridges in this part of the World, but plenty of excellent ferries that run non-stop through the day.
This was the first time we’d get a real sense here of how sheer the terrain in this part of Norway is. The mountains might not scrape the heavens like that of the Alps, Rockies or Himalayas, but thanks to the ice that made its mark here millennia ago, you’ve got mountains rising up to 2500m above the sea usually within 2500m as the crow flies. That makes for some precipitous terrain indeed.
Higher up the hill and into the oak and silver birch forests we found more rock than dirt and a slightly longer run down the hill beneath a massive waterfall. Waterfalls are pretty common in Norway, so steep are the mountains that are almost exclusively slab rock.
The oak here is old and look like the Ents of Middle Earth, and have been formed by the elements into some weird and warped shapes.
After spending the morning rallying the woods behind the house, we headed south and west to get our first taste of some higher level Norwegian riding.
After a long van uplift up a pretty sweet fire road, dodging sheep and tourists in the process, we topped out and started winching our way the final few hundred metres to where the trail began proper.
After some short, punchy climbs, we topped out at a derelict mountain hut to a massive view across the fjord and we could see just how massive Hardangerfjord really is. We were high enough that even the larger commercial ships looked pretty small all the way down below.
After spending some time soaking in the massive postcard views in all directions, we get to where the descending starts proper and this hikers’ trail really starts to turn the wick.
The upper reaches of the trail is pretty narrow and hugs the sheer mountainside, so clipping your pedal here really isn’t an option. You’d fall the best part of a kilometre before hitting anything so eyes are up to spot all the rocks vying for the extremities of your bike.
I decide not to bother trying to keep up and concentrate on getting down clean rather than fast. After a rapid five minute descent we hit the first fire road and Will tells us he’s been a busy boy linking all the fire roads together with more trail.
From the first fire road crossing down, we’re back into the woods and the amount of rock drops off a touch. The trail here is relatively fresh, so it’s hard to tell how much grip is on offer.
Regardless, without having to worry about the massive drop to our left anymore, we can crack on, knowing it’s a tumble into the undergrowth that’s the worst we’ve to worry about.
Every fire road crossing reveals a slightly different trail. Some have just been scratched into the deck, but where the dirt allows, some serious handiwork has gone into making the most of the elevation.
Before long, we’re diving across the fireroads to get to the next section and the trail just keeps getting better and better. Some super flow leads into mega tech, then some swoopy berms before the trail almost vanishes into the pine needles then dropping into a one-line rut that makes Lachlan feel right at home.
The final section of the day takes us through a Scots pine forest and the slab rock is back in full effect. A wrong move line-wise here sees me slapping my head as my front wheel drops into a huge hole and I’m just happy I did some press ups before we came out.
We’re short for time now but Will promises me we’ll come back and section the slabs later in the week, something I’m very much looking forward to.
Day one in Norway and we’ve already ridden more different trails than we know what to do with. We’re promised plenty more of the same and much different as the week progresses.