Fjord Fiesta: Touring Norway

Touring in the Land of Trolls, Tunnels, Ferries and $15 Beers

By Aaron Frank, Photography by Scott O'Dell

On the third day the weather broke and we ventured inland to make our assault on Trollstigen, the spectacular mountain pass that connects the towns of Andalsnes and Sylte. The only trolls we see are woodcarvings outside the gift shop at the mile-high summit, though to be fair, we were mostly concentrating on the road. With an average grade of nine percent and 11 hairpin bends lined with precipitous drop-offs, the Troll's Ladder is one of Europe's most extreme mountain passes. It's also one of the most enjoyable to ride. There's no shortage of tourists in Norway, especially in the summer, but they're mostly corralled on cruise ships in the fjords below, leaving Norway's roads significantly less crowded with slow-moving RVs and lumbering tour buses than, say, the Alps.

On the fourth day we tasted the tourist's life with an hour-long ferry ride through the heart of Geiranger Fjord, a distinguished UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sheer, thousand-foot black granite cliffs, cut by the occasional waterfall or menacing rock form, reflect sinister patterns on the calm, inky-black surface below. The day's real highlight, however, was the road out of Gerianger and up to the 4843-foot summit of Mount Dalsnibba. Called "Eagle's Pass," this epic climb once again begins with a fast, flat section squeezed between fjord and bluff, then climbs rapidly through a succession of a dozen-odd peg-dragging hairpins that take us above the snowline, over the summit and into cold, desolate alpine meadows. No wonder locals have nicknamed this the "Summer to Winter" road.

The tour finishes on day five with "Fjordland," a 250-mile loop south of Alesund that rings around 14 different fjords. The riding is epic, and proves what a great place Norway is to ride a motorcycle. The roads are universally excellent-another benefit of the quasi-socialist state-characterized by endless miles of smooth, grippy tarmac laid over gentle, rolling sweepers. The Fjordland loop takes us far off the tourist path, through quaint and quiet fishing villages, rustic farmland and the occasional medieval stave church. Taking off our helmets after the final day, we appreciate just how unspoiled and unfranchised Norway is. It feels like riding 50 years back in time.

Technically demanding roads and ample sightseeing opportunities-not to mention the countless ferry crossings-held our daily totals to a manageable 250-mile average. Our Edelweiss guides did a fine job of keeping us safe and entertained, and were very accommodating to those who decided to head off on their own or alter a day's itinerary for more or less riding. Lodging, bike rental and most meals were included in the package price, but you're still responsible for gas and other incidentals-which can be shockingly expensive in Norway. Despite the country's massive oil reserves (it's the world's fifth-largest oil exporter) gas was more than $6 per gallon, and-more disturbing-beer was as much as $15 a pint! Hey, someone's got to pay for all those perfect roads and public health care...

Sky-high sin taxes almost seem like a fair deal to us, though, if the tradeoff is such perfect roads, agreeable people and stunning scenery. No doubt it's a different story in January, when the sun never rises and the snow piles 6 feet deep, but during the summer it's difficult to imagine a better riding destination than Norway. Edelweiss was exactly right.

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