On a bike called Reggie: British writer cycles to the top of Norway
Earlier this year, British long-distance cyclist and writer Andrew P. Sykes cycled from the south of Europe to the northernmost tip of the Norwegian mainland. The author of two previous books about long-distance cycling around Europe, Sykes is now writing a third about his experiences on this trip.
Sykes set off on April 8 and arrived at Nordkapp on July 28, just in time to see the midnight sun.
“Of all my cycling in Norway, the most memorable time was the few days leading up to my arrival in Nordkapp. It was the first time I truly felt that I was in a remote place. When I got to Tromsø I was surprised to find a city with so much life. I wasn’t expecting to find settlements of that size in the north. Even Hammerfest was quite a size. But from Hammerfest onwards, that was the Norway I’d imagined all along.”
Sykes was impressed at the cycling infrastructure across northern Europe, but feels there is still some room for improvement in Norway.
“In most urban areas there is a strategy in place to improve facilities for cyclists, but in northern Europe everything seems to be that bit more joined up. You can not only cycle around urban areas but between them too, unlike in other parts of Europe. In Sevilla (Spain), they are spending a lot of money on cycling infrastructure but the moment you leave the city it all stops quite abruptly.
“Norwegian cities have good cycling infrastructure. Things weren’t so great outside the cities but there is a good excuse. It wouldn’t be feasible to start making cycle paths from Trondheim to Nordkapp, it’s just too far! The roads are very quiet and in good condition, traffic in general was friendly, and the terrain wasn’t as mountainous as I’d expected.”
Which way to turn?
Navigating Norway in a car is fairly straightforward, as there are so few options for traveling long distances. On a bicycle, things aren’t so easy.
“The long-distance cycle routes weren’t so easy to follow, especially compared to Denmark and northern Germany, but I tried to piece together a route. When I was cycling from Oslo to Lillehammer there was no alternative; you had to take the main road or go significantly out of your way on poor roads and rough tracks that can be difficult to follow. There was a constant battle in my head: do I go for the main roads that are easy to follow but have constant traffic, or risk delaying myself on the poorer routes? As soon as I arrived in Trondheim, I was able to follow the coastal road north, which was much easier.
“The distances between accommodation can be long. There are a good number of campsites but they’re not always the kind you want to stay in as a cyclist. Some were basically just car parks for mobile homes and camper vans. Most are concentrated around the E6 (Norway’s north-south highway), but there’s not so many options if you’re cycling along the coast.”
Despite Norway’s famous freedom to roam laws that allow wild camping, Sykes still recommends seeking out decent facilities on a long-distance cycle trip.
“Wild camping is not as easy as people think. You don’t want to camp next to a road and most of the land is farmed or forested and not that flat. You can probably cycle all the way to Nordkapp by wild camping every single night, but if you want an easier life then you do need to find a campsite or hostel.”
Andrew P. Sykes (www.cyclingeurope.org) is the author of Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie and Along The Med on a Bike Called Reggie. This interview first appeared on David Nikel’s Life in Norway blog at www.lifeinnorway.net.
This article originally appeared in the Nov. 27, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.