Gravel goodness

The other weekend I couldn’t resist the urge to get more gravel under the tires. So I headed for Tynset.

The Osendalen area is really, really a pearl for gravel riding!

The Osendalen area is really, really a pearl for gravel riding!

There was a hotel based rally going on at the Savalen Spa this particular weekend. Not my usual cup of tea, but it proved ideal to bring my wife, daughter and dog along, as neither of them are particularly fond of staying the nights in a tent. But to here they could drive in my wife’s convertible, bring along the dog, stay in a comfortable hotel room and even have a spa treatment. In return, I could ride my Yamaha WR250R on as much gravel as I could find to the same place. Not a bad deal, after all, as I was looking at some 10 hrs ride each way.

I was glad I chose the Yammie as it was light enough for me to manhandle around a few obstacles - not on this road, though.

I was glad I chose the Yammie as it was light enough for me to manhandle around a few obstacles – not on this road, though.

I did some route planning on my Garmin Basecamp software, and decided on a route that was some 70-75% gravel, which is not half bad. It’d take me through some magnificent areas in the midst of Southern Norway, and even across the Birkebeiner road. Yep, I was looking forward to this one! I opted for the Yamaha as it is quite a bit lighter than my KTM, and also had Garmin Zumo 660 already in place. I thought that as I was riding alone, I wanted as light a bike as possible, just in case of spills or other incidents where I’d have to manhandle the bike.

I was glad I chose the Yammie, as I encountered a couple of areas where I’d need to get around a few obstacles in the roads by going along the ditches. Some of them were quite stoney, and having meager enduro skills I was not able to ride through it: I had to walk along the bike to get it through. It was an ordeal – I’m glad I’m in good shape (well, round is a shape, right?)

Apart from these couple of less dignified moments, the ride up through the route was quite nice with even a few high speed gravel roads to choose from. As I came to the Birkebeiner road, I encountered a sign saying it was closed – which was strange at this time of year. I asked the couple who are running a small cafe and collects road toll in the middle of the forest why the

Sometimes, when I go motorcycle riding, I opt to stay in a hotent...

Sometimes, when I go motorcycle riding, I opt to stay in a hotent…

road was closed. “Because there is still some 2 meters of snow on the top, and they haven’t cleared it yet. Maybe next weekend”, was the reply. I was a bit astonished, but then again not really: It has been the coldest, wettest and snowiest spring in Norway since 1946, and there is still a lot – A LOT – of snow in the mountains. I had no option but to find an alternative route. As I was running a bit behind schedule and I needed to get to the hotel in reasonable time, I called it the day and went “high speed” along the tarred roads. It was only the last 150-160 kms of a total of 555 kms anyway, so it was fine.

Very sweet gravel roads on the route I found.

Very sweet gravel roads on the route I found.

I arrived at Savalen some 10 hours after my departure, and I suddenly felt that I had been riding all day: All stiff and a wee bit sore here and there. A nice dinner and a glass of wine later I was sound asleep, even with my dog yapping all around the place.

The rally in itself was ok, I guess. Not too many attendees, but nice folks and good music on Saturday evening. I opted for a ride-free day to recuperate and get ready for the return ride on Sunday, so we had ourselves another great dinner, some wine, music, a few laughs and hit the hay in due time for an early-ish departure.

Nice old cabins decorates the area.

Nice old cabins decorates the area.

The return was not so gravelly as the trip to Savalen, but some 200 kms in total wasn’t half bad. I know several of the guys in the Offroad Touring Club (OTC), which I am a member of, know these neck of the woods pretty good and know the good routes. But I hadn’t had the time to consult The Elders, so given that I think I fared pretty well. Besides, I heading back to the area in August, when OTC has its annual “Bukkerittet” – a four day gravel bonanza with plenty of roads to enjoy.

I’ll save the best for when I go back 🙂

Nice scenery by the lake at Savalen.

Nice scenery by the lake at Savalen.

My dog Diesel enjoyed the stay at Savalen.

My dog Diesel enjoyed the stay at Savalen.

Categories: norway, Trips | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A tradition is born

9 people, 7 bikes, 4 days, 3 nationalities – 1 brilliant ride! Actually so brilliant that we need to do it again next year. 

The crew from Finland: Antti, Mia, Jaana, Reijo, Ilpo and Timo, flanked by Danish Andreas.

The crew from Finland: Antti, Mia, Jaana, Reijo, Ilpo and Timo, flanked by Danish Andreas.

Ilpo (FIN), Andreas (DK) and myself (NO) are working for the same company in our respective countries. When we learned that we also loved to ride motorcycles, the plans for a joint ride in Norway took shape rather rapidly. So when the day arrived for a proper Tour de Force in the tenderloin of the Southern and North Western Norway this Thursday in June, we were no less than six Finns on four bikes, two Norwegians on each of our bikes, and a Dane on his. A pretty good set-up for an extended weekend.

Even though the bike models were spread from my rather off road biased KTM 690 Enduro via my wife Sølvi´s Moto Guzzi Breva 750 and Andreas´ Honda SP1 to the Finns´Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic Heritage whatever, the route we chose was suitable for all. You can find the majority of the route here.

We had decided to go for a more luxurious accomodation than I usually prefer. Tents and self catering was substituted with hotels and multi course dinners with a fine selection of wines. Very comfortable and dangerously addictive…

Therefore we chose to meet at Nermo Hotel just north of Lillehammer. I met up with Andreas as he pulled off the ferry from Copenhagen on the Thursday morning, and we set off for Nermo. My wife had some work to do first, so she would join us later in the evening. The Finns – Ilpo, Mia, Reijo, Antti, Timo and Jaana – arrived by ferry to Stockholm the very same morning and set in for a 700 km ride towards Nermo. Andreas and I tried to find all the smallest roads towards the hotel, just to extend the trip a wee bit in the warm and sunny weather.

At Nermo, we found that we had the whole hotel to ourselves, so when the rest of the crew arrived in the late afternoon, we had our riders´meeting and dinner quite uninterrupted in the hotel´s library. The Finns even brought the necessary ingredients to make “salmiakki-kosso” as a gift: Koskenkorva vodka with bon-bons which you soak in the spirit to flavour it. Apparently a Finnish speciality which we will try out in due time. Oh, and they also brought Moomin cups from which to drink the stuff. Very posh.

Friday morning was as sunny as the previous day, so when we set off for Venabygd mountain and Rondane, we couldn´t have asked for a more scenic friendly weather. The Finns and Dane, more accustomed to the flatness of their countries, seemed pretty satisfied with the scenery. Mia was even a bit sceptical when I told her that this was just a warm-up for the scenery ahead of us. But as it would prove later, it was.

After Oppdal, heading towards Sunndalsøra, Kristiansund and the Atlantic Road, the Weather Gods decided to test our spirits. They opened all the showers and sprayed us thoroughly. The Atlantic Road, which usually is quite an experience to ride across, was now cold, wet and something we hurried across to get to our chosen accomodation for the night, the Hustadvika gjestegård. My KTM´s speedo decided to call it the day at the last tank stop before the Atlantic Road, presumably getting tired of all the water. My wife´s Breva had a small oil leakage through a brittle valve cover oil seal, but none of these were serious faults and did not hamper our trip.

At Hustadvika gjestegård, we dried ourselves, seeking refuge in a wee drop of Jaloviina, and had another wonderful dinner as we watched the skies clear up and hoping for less rain the next morning. When Saturday morning broke, it was still raining. It eased off after breakfast, allowing me to fix the Breva´s wee oil leakage, so when we set off for Trollstigen, it was only raining a bit here and a bit there. The scenery as we neared Trollstigen was very dramatic, with the low hanging clouds and wet road. But the pay-off when we got to the top (and the souvenir shop where mandatory Trollstigen regalias were bought) was no less than awesome. The rain kept easing off, and we started to feel the heat from the sun as we set off towards Geiranger.

When we settled for lunch at the Jordbærstedet cafe, the sun had returned, and the ride got even more joyful. We could not have asked for better circumstances as we entered the Eagel´s Bend to look out on the Geiranger fjord. Mia now realised why the Venabygd and Rondane mountains were only warm-up. Reijo decided that the view was unreal and had to be created by special effects, smoke and mirrors. Andreas on his Honda was just a big grin inside his helmet, and Antti couldn´t get enough of video taping it all. Indeed a fantastic ride and a fantastic view. Even if we had to negotiate our bikes through a rather tourist crowded Geiranger to get to the mountain top on the other side, we were quite a happy band of riders when we met the intersection of the Stryn mountain road, which would eventually take us back to Lillehammer and our final stay-over for this trip.

Reijo, a seasoned rider who as taken his bike to most parts of the world, including the Americas, Myanmar and Africa, concluded that parts of the road he had ridden today was all the way on the top of all he had ever enjoyed on a bike. Quite a statement, and quite an endorsement of Norwegian motorcycle roads.

The trip was a success to such an extent that we decided to repeat it next year, only then we´ll go to Finland. It will not be like this trip – but it will be different. And in the end, that is what it is all about.

Andreas and yours truly on our way to Nermo Hotel.

 

Andreas and his bike, although not for rent.

A KTM 690 Enduro works fine in Norway, I´d say.

Cheers to the Gudbrands Valley!

Ilpo (left), yours truly, and Andreas. We are working for the same company in our respective countries.

My wife Sølvi´s Moto Guzzi Breva 750.

Well, the Finns have their regalias in order.

Even flying flags from their Harleys 🙂

Sølvi at Venabygd mountain, Andreas in the background.

Taking in the view of the Rondane mountains

A wee stop on our way to Trollstigen. This is at Bolsøya.

Parked at Trollstigen, watching over the bikes while the rest of the crew takes in the view.

Sølvi (left), Mia and Ilpo at Geiranger.

Final dinner at Hvelvet Restaurant in Lillehammer.

Categories: Routes, Trips | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Norway Bike Weekend

Tomorrow, a band of Finns, a Dane and a couple of us Norwegians are joining force to do a Norway Bike Weekend. It will be a blast!

The Rondane Mountain Range

Actually, this is a trip that has been planned since last October, as one of the Finns is a colleague of mine. He has never ridden in Norway, and when I suggested to do a spring trip he was all in. He has invited some of his riding buddies from Helsinki and area, also bringing their wives riding pillion. From Denmark we are having one guy, whereas my wife and I are representing Norway. Some Swedes and Icelandics would have completed the Nordic set-up, but maybe next time.

We are doing the Tenderloin of South-Eastern and North-Western Norway, including the Venabygd Mountain Range, the Dovre Mountain Range, the Atlantic Road, Trollstigen and Geiranger. Quite an extensive route for a weekend, even for an oval one, but these guys are used to riding long and hard. They are Iron Butt Masters, so they know the drill.

I had to adjust the riding comfort of my KTM 690 Enduro with a comfy seat from Seat Concepts.

This evening, prior to our departure, I have prepared my KTM 690 Enduro with a more – shall we say – touring friendly seat from Seat Concepts. The standard one is not made for long hauls – not for my butt, anyway – so fortunately it arrived this afternoon, just in time for our departure. A while ago I bought a similar branded seat for my Yamaha WR250R, and I am so satisified I didn´t have to look further for a comfy seat. The pannier rack for my KTM didn´t arrive in due time, though, so I have to use some packing space on the Mothership.

     

The Mothership is my wife´s Moto Guzzi Breva 750, which also got its Krauser panniers mounted today. They fit very nicely, and is a breeze to install. It is one of those C-Bow thingies, and looks and feels pretty sturdy, even for being semi-rigid panniers. We will se how they fare in the debut this weekend. The only worry is the weather forecast. It has been the wettest, coldest and most snowy spring since 1946. It has become a tad warmer, though, so let´s hope the Weather Gods will treat us nicely.

 

Stay tuned for pics from the Norway Bike Weekend trip 2015!

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Papa’s got a brand new bag!

I am in happy circumstances. I’ve got a new bike!

Papa's got a brand new bag: A KTM 690 Enduro R.

Papa’s got a brand new bag: A KTM 690 Enduro R.

Those who know me well knows that I’m a Guzzi-fan. I’ve had many of them, and still have a few in my garage. Unfortunately, Guzzi doesn’t have a contemporary offering in the gravel hooligan class. The Stelvio, which I used to have, is way too heavy and is by all measures a street bike. For some reason, Moto Guzzi has yet to respond to the plea of its die-hard followers to make a proper lightweight gravel adventurer based on their V7 model. Until that happens, those of us who love to do gravel touring are forced to look elsewhere. A couple of years ago, I bought the Yamaha WR250R, which is very capable, but a bit on the lean side power-wise for longer trips. Hence – enter the KTM 690 Enduro R! I’ve only had it for a very short while, but I must say it is a very capable ride. Except for the extremely uncomfortable saddle, it seems like it will be my prime choice for my upcoming gravel trip to the North Cape. I only need to do some smaller adjustments: A new seat, as mentioned, a larger tank, maybe a fairing of some sort, wider foot pegs, soft panniers and rack, a GPS – and that’s about it, I think.

If there is such a thing, I think the 690 Enduro is close to the ideal bike for riding in Norway. Then again – people are touring on all kinds of bikes over here, so maybe it’s true what they say: It’s the mindset, not the tool, that makes the adventure.

Let’s see how it goes.

There is something pristine and clean about an odo with all zeros on it.

There is something pristine and clean about an odo with all zeros on it.

IMG_6447

If there is such a thing, maybe the 690 Enduro is close to the ideal bike for riding in Norway?

If there is such a thing, maybe the 690 Enduro is close to the ideal bike for riding in Norway?

A quick how-to by the garage guy.

A quick how-to by the garage guy.

Yep. A happy chappy!

Yep. A happy chappy!

Categories: Misc | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Garage Mini Rally

The Guzzisti of Eastern Norway had to have a test run of the rally equipment before the Big Italian Spring Rally later in May. So they spent a weekend in a garage.

The Norwegian Moto Guzzi Club has several branches, covering different geographical areas. In the South East, the local Guzzi branch is named “Østenfjeldske Foroverlænede Guzzisters Forening”. This name is practically impossible to translate, but it goes in the direction of “The Forwardly Inclined Guzzi Riders East of the Mountains”. It makes your espresso go cold even before you’re half way through pronouncing the name…

Anyway: In only a couple of weeks, the riders of Italian bikes – predominantly Guzzis – will have their annual spring rally at Røldal in the West. The Guzzisti of the East couldn’t wait that long, apparently, because they threw a get-together in the garage of members Berit and Tor the other weekend. Tents were erected on the lawn outside Berit and Tor’s house, barbeques were lit, beer consumed and Guzzis discussed throughout the whole weekend. It was for all practical purposes a test run before the Great Rally. Here is a pick of the bikes that were there – quite a few belonging to the very garage in which the party took place.

This original Guzzi Storenllo 125 Scrambler is up for some careful restoration to get it running again.

This original Guzzi Stornello 125 Scrambler is up for some careful restoration to get it running again.

Rain didn't matter as the garage was turned into a party cave for the occasion. Yes - it's a garage of proper size...

Rain didn’t matter as the garage was turned into a rally cave for the occasion for some of the participants. Yes – it’s a garage of proper size.

This sweet sidecar rig, a Guzzi V11 and Mobec sidecar, is owned by Lars and is the envy of many Norwegian Guzzisti.

This sweet sidecar rig, a Guzzi V11 and Mobec sidecar, is owned by Lars and is the envy of many Norwegian Guzzisti.

We camped on the lawn and had a barbeque just outside Berit and Tor's house.

We camped on the lawn and had a barbeque just outside Berit and Tor’s house.

The Guzzi S3 is a rare sight. One of the few around was here.

The Guzzi S3 is a rare sight. One of the few around was here.

Another sweet sidecar rig, with a 1000 Le Mans engine and Hedingham sidecar.

Another sweet sidecar rig, with a 1000 Le Mans engine and Hedingham sidecar.

Il Presidente Bjørn (left), while Lars signals that there is something missing in this picture.

Il Presidente Bjørn (left), while Lars signals that there is something missing in this picture.

The Guzzi V35/65TT was an attempt from the Mandello engineers to make a dual sport back in the '80s. Not too successful, but popular among Guzzisti. Of course.

The Guzzi V35/65TT was an attempt from the Mandello engineers to make a dual sport back in the ’80s. Not too successful, but popular among Guzzisti. Of course.

It's a Guzzi bastard, looks dubious, and goes like hell. Eigil knows his way around engines.

It’s a Guzzi bastard, looks dubious, and goes like hell. Eigil knows his way around engines.

Beside a commuter Kawasaki 500, my Yamaha was the only non-Italian bike at the scene.

Beside a commuter Kawasaki 500, my Yamaha was the only non-Italian bike at the scene.

 

Categories: Rallies | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Time to lose weight

It’s still a couple of months until we depart for this summer’s great gravel road expedition, and I need to lose some weight. Off the gear. Here are 6 weight-shedding items.

Aiming at max comfort, I packed my WR250R way too heavy for gravel riding on my test trip. Now it's time to lose some weight!

Aiming at max camping comfort, I packed my WR250R way too heavy for gravel riding on my test trip. Now it’s time to lose some weight!

 

A couple of weekends ago, a buddy of mine and I went for a weekend gravel trip into the Forest of the Finns near the Swedish border. This was some sort of a shakedown trip, as I packed the bike as I thought I would for the upcoming gravel expedition from South to North of Norway, paying special attention to bring along stuff that would make the nightly stay-overs more comfortable. You know – a bed AND a mattress, a big roomy lavvo, fat sleeping bag, et cetera. Heavy, but comfortable and cozy.

Ingenious design on this table.

Ingenious design on this table.

The incredibly light and small-packed Helinox chair. And it actually works!

The incredibly light and small-packed Helinox chair. And it actually works!

Not particularly surprising, this focus on comfort also meant that the bike behaved like a pig on the loose surfaced and quite muddy gravel roads. It became far too heavy overall, and particularly in the rear. I could not imagine a ride like that for some 5000 kms return. So I need to lose some weight. Off the gear I’ll bring.

So here is parts of my weight shedding plan:

A down McKinley sleeping bag. Being stuffed with down (90%) and feather (10%), it is light (1 kg), packs really small, have a decent rating of 0C, and is – above all – on sale for half price at the local outdoor gear store.

McKinley Enduro Ultralight.

McKinley Enduro Ultralight.

McKinley Enduro Ultralight tent. Weighing in at 1.3 kgs, it’s very light and not very expensive. The downside is that it’s only a single sheet tent, so it’ll probably not be 100% dry in case of heavy rain, which is why I’ll also bring along a tarp.

Dovrefjell Tarp 4. This 3×4 m tarp is very light, packs very small, and provides extra shelter in case of foul weather.

Exped Downmat 9 sleeping mattress. It packs quite small, and provides all the sleeping comfort I’ll ever need.

McKinley sleeping bag

McKinley sleeping bag

Helinox chair and table. These collapsible camp furniture are extremely light and also packs unbelievably small. I’ve tried them in the field, and they really work! They’re a bit on the pricey side, though, but lightness costs.

I haven’t checked the total weight yet, but I’ll think it’ll be around 6 kgs, which seems quite good.

Now all I have to do in addition is to bring lightweight food, cooking gear and clothes. Oh, and let me know if you have any tips on lightweight gear!

Categories: Misc | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

5 Viking biking destinations

Why not turn your bike trip in Norway into a Viking theme trip?

Norway is famed for its viking heritage, and here you can find the Top 5 picks where you can learn more about a culture that was far from as savage as it has been portrayed especially in popular culture. More importantly: You can get to drink proper honey mead!

The Oseberg ship. (Photo: Grzegorz Wysocki)

The Oseberg ship. (Photo: Grzegorz Wysocki)

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Fun in the Forest of the Finns

It was way past due to grind those off-road tyres on proper gravel roads. Last weekend, Henning and I decided  to do just that. 

We spent the night in one of the cabins which are available for free or nearly free. Peaceful and nice!

I am quite a newbie to proper gravel riding, even though I´ve been facinated by it since many years. Not until I bought my light, nimble and powerful-enough Yamaha WR250R did I dare to venture into the loose stuff for real. 

Henning, on the other hand, is a former motorcross, road race and enduro rider and instructor. Thanks to him, my learning curve has been pretty steep – although this particular weekend I felt like it was my first time on gravel: My riding was stiff, my cornering awful, and things just didn´t feel right. 

However, the area in which we were riding, Finnskogen (eng. “Forest of the Finns”), is extremely inviting when it comes to gravel riding. There are miles and miles of gravel roads, very little (if at all) traffic, and free cabins all over the place, which you can borrow for the night. In other words: A Mecca for gravel riders.

The first leg was all but muddy: The track was thick of slippery mud, so we admittedly had to struggle a bit to get our bikes through – Henning on his Transalp, me on my Yamma. Or at least: It felt like we had to struggle. I think I was the only one who did it, as Henning effortlessly steered his Honda more or less sure-footed through the slippery stuff. 

It did become a lot better when we arrived to the forest roads themselves: Dry to the point of dusty, vacant and available.

We spent a night in a small cabin, had a meal and just relaxed before riding back home the day after. A short burst of season debut for me, but it was good to shake loose a bit. I´ll even try to do better next time.

If you´re a gravel rider too, make sure you visit Finnskogen when you visit Norway. It´s well worth spending a few days on this area. 

Stay on these roads!

 

Henning (right) and yours truly. We´re heading for Kirkenes in the north by gravel this summer.

Henning and his trusty Transalp in the back and my Yamma in the front 🙂

There was no firewood in the cabin, but Rolf, who lives nearby, provided us with a couple of bags to heat the evening.

Pretty nice view by the lake Fjørsjøen

You just have to love this…

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23 more reasons to ride Norway

If you still need reasons for visiting Norway on your bike, here are 23 more.

Reine in Lofoten. (www.earthporm.com)

The website Earthporm.com has posted these stunning images of Norway. Alright – a few of them are of taken in the winter, but still they should give you more reasons (if you need them) to pack up your bike and get over here. Not entirely unexpected, a majority of the images are from the Lofoten area. Of all the scenic pearls you’ll find in Norway, Lofoten is probably the most shiny of them all. Come see for yourself!

 

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9 useful things to bring

Beside your bike, riding gear, passport and credit card, there are a few things that makes out the mainstay of every riders touring set-up. These are the 9 things I can’t do without.

A lavvo is the ultimate compromise between enough living space and pack size. A mainstay in my touring set-up.

A lavvo is the ultimate compromise between enough living space and pack size. A mainstay in my touring set-up.

Categories: Good to know | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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