Bikepacking in Sweden and Norway

Three years ago I ran (quite literally) into some knee problems. Running had always been my way to let of steam so I needed something new. That’s how I started cycling. First because I had nothing else, later because I really enjoyed it.

It didn’t take too long to start thinking if this new hobby could lead to any cool adventures. That’s when I started to plan my first-ever bikepacking trip.

One evening I called my friend Dries. This guy has been a cyclist since forever and I told him about the idea. I wanted to cycle from Göteborg in Sweden to Oslo in Norway. It took him no time to get excited and so we started planning. He was the experienced cyclist and I had the camping skills from my hiking trips. A perfect match! Or so we thought.. Spoiler, it abso-fucking-lutely was.

In a nutshell

Type of routePoint-to-point
Riding styleOn MTB bikes – mix of gravel, paved and MTB tracks
Start – FinishGöteborg (Sweden) – Oslo (Norway)
Duration6 days
Elevation4974 m
Elevation per section955 m – 1296 m – 766 m – 815 m – 918 m – 224 m
Distance388 km
Distance per section71 km – 92 km – 56 km – 81 km – 68 km – 20 km
Time of yearAugust
LocationSweden & Norway

The story

After a 14 hour drive, we arrive in Denmark, just in time to see the sun set from the top of this big dune. Also we drink a Vedette. The sun and the beer dissapear and we make our way to the house of Hans, our couchsurf host for the night.

The next morning we get up early. Not because we enjoy it (our host fired up the BBQ after midnight) but we have a boat to catch. We drive to the port of Frederikshavn, put the bikes together, kiss the car goodbye and of we go!

Once on the ferry, Dries looks at the map and seriously doubts if all this is such a great idea. I tell him not to panic and that swimming back to Denmark is even worse of an idea. Also, if you want to get in touch with Dries, he’s cool and was not actually doubting anything. Send me a message and I’ll set up a date for you.

We arrive in Göteborg and drink our first beer in Sweden. Our bikepacking trip has officialy started now. We begin cycling and soon leave the city behind to find the almighty Swedish gravel roads.

After a long day in the saddle, we find this perfect camping spot on our own private peninsula. The sun sets, we go for a swim, I am surrounded by jellyfish, we drink a sip of rum and go to bed. I think I like bikepacking.

After a good night we feel fresh and are ready to go.. is what I had hoped to say. I think I was a bit too excited on the first day. I’m not feeling my best and I’m having some trouble keeping up. Luckily by lunchtime (and after some kanelbulle) I feel the power has returned. Smooth sailing from here we thought. But ofcourse not. The route difficulty just got bumped to level walk-and-carry-your-bike. The next three kilometres are a mixture of cycling and hiking. It’s all part of the game and I’m loving it.

After 92 kilometres and 1296 metres total ascent we finally reach our destination for the day. There’s not much to see in the small vilage but we do find some pizza and a shop where we get ourselves a bottle of wine. Now the only thing left to do, is find a place to put our tent up. We meet a local woman who is working in her garden and strike up a conversation. No wild-camping today – we get a place in the womans garden. After we put our tent up she even brings us a cup of tea and tells stories about the history of Sweden. When we wake up she insists that we should join her for breakfast. A polite refusal doesn’t help. What a wonderful woman.

We continue our journey north. Today we are riding some sweet gravel roads. Take a look at the photo below. Imagine our speed if we were not standing still to awkwardly pose for a photograph. Along the way we pass by a lonely but beautiful house. A man outside greets us enthusiastically and is very eager to show us around his property. He was pretty much self-sufficient and also made cool statues.

We roll into the city of Ed and there is a moose ranch nearby. I have seen a couple mooses in the wild on previous trips, but never from this close, which is probably a good thing. We find a place to camp and take our dinner down to the lake. We drink wine from a cardboard box and enjoy the view until the sun goes down. If by now you have noticed our matching socks, yes we bought them for this trip.

Most of the route today is over paved road and we fly over the boarder to Norway. We stop by a supermarket, improvise attachment options for our beer and find a quiet place to camp next to a river.

On day five we ride another 68 kilometres and get a bit lost in a forrest. It’s only 20 kilometres left to Oslo now but we want to enjoy one last night in nature. We spent the evening already reminiscing about our trip. We talk about life and what we hope the future will bring for us. The next morning we start our last section of the adventure. Oslo is situated on the coast so the last part is one sweet downhill.

Then we arrive, we made it, we are done.

After we have refueled ourselves we play tourist for a few hours. We visit Oslo City Hall, where each year the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded. Obama won it in 2009, oh boy do we miss him. After our tourist trip we jump into the sea, ride to the roof of the opera and finally get on the ferry, back to Denmark.

Practicalities

The Route

If you are interested in the general direction we followed. This is a list of cities and villages we passed, in chronical order.

  • Göteborg (A)
  • Stenungsund (B)
  • Uddevalla (C)
  • Färgelanda (D)
  • Ed (E)
  • Nössemark (F)
  • Fossby (G)
  • Strømsfoss (H)
  • Rakkestad (I)
  • Askim (J)
  • Spydeberg (K)
  • Ytre Enebakk (L)
  • Oslo (M)

Want to start planning your own adventure and wonder how to get started? This is how we did it.

First, we met in a bar to discuss the rough outlines of our trip. The result of this was a list of villages to pass and a general idea of where we would be riding for each day. Very important, things can happen along the way so make sure you are flexible and don’t make a fuss if something (or everything) doesn’t go as planned.

Dries turned our discussion into a GPX file and he used a couple of tools for this job:

  • RouteYou for creating the GPX (select MTB and the option ‘Mountain bike – nicest’).
  • The satellite view on Google Maps to try and get a good understanding of the type of roads we would be riding.
  • Google Streetview to inspect the points where a gravel road connects to a street to get a sense of the quality of the road.

Navigation

As on every trip, I prefer the combination of a map and a GPS device. Dries was using a Garmin Edge. If you are looking for one right now (Q2 2020), I would suggest the Garmin Edge 530 or Garmin Edge 830.

The map we used is called ‘Norway South’ (ISBN: 9783259010310) made by Kümmerly & Frey.

Need this map? Atlas & Zanzibar – travel bookstore and a partner of the website – is selling it!
5% reduction for KBF members by the way! ☝️

Transport

Cycling for days from point A to point B is in a way quite straightforward. Another important question for such a trip is, how do we get to the start and back home again after we have completed our trip.

  1. We drove from Belgium to Denmark by car, bikes in the trunk.
  2. Next, we took the ferry from Frederikshavn to Göteborg with our bikes (the car stayed in Denmark).
  3. We spend six days on our bikes, cycling from Göteborg to Oslo.
  4. From Oslo we took the ferry back to Frederikshavn.

Video

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