SCANDINAVIA BY BIKE – BACKYARD EXPLORINGA 700km journey by bike from Oslo (Norway) to Copenhagen (Denmark)
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Text by Carl-Emil von Arenstorff | Photos by Ron Olofsson
Harsh weather and steep cliffs gradually turning into deep forests and plain fields. That briefly sums up our trip from the Norwegian capital of Oslo to Copenhagen, Denmark, roughly 700 kilometres by bike in 3 days over harsh terrain.
The idea of the trip came about on a cold January training ride around Copenhagen. Being from Scandinavia, where the Winter seems to last forever, our minds always seem to wander off and dream of warmer weather and new adventures.
As we talked, the idea started to crystallise in our heads and we knew it was something we had to do. Favourite climbs, past rides and future adventures were all on the agenda. One rider in our group suggested we ride from Norway, into Sweden and finally cross the border to Denmark. Intrigued by wanderlust and adventure we set off for this ride of a lifetime …
Day 1: Oslo (Norway) – Smögen (Sweden)
Waking up on the ferry without much sleep, looking out the window to see the Norwegian Fjords, we were greeted by an array of tiny islands. Everybody was uncertain of what would come, but ready to get going.
Docking in Oslo and rolling off the ferry on our bikes, it felt like reality finally hit the majority of the group. This trip had been a casual topic on training rides, but this was finally it. 700 kilometres of riding and no fixed route planned. The only things that were certain; we knew where to stay the night and we knew we had to keep riding South.
Call it foolish, but during the planning of this trip, the weather was never really something we discussed. What really sparked the discussion was the urge to explore and discover new roads. The romantic idea about the endless Scandinavian open roads filled the our brains. Of course, being in late Spring, everybody was hoping for warm weather and blossoming trees. However, on this morning of departure, a whole different reality was upon us. The sun was hidden behind low hanging clouds, the wind was whirling and everything seemed to remind us of these early January rides back home in Denmark (the ones we were trying to escape).
We left the harbour to ride South and headed through the city, before finally reaching the small suburbs of Oslo. Breathing in the fresh air and zig-zag’ing between countryside, gravel sections, rolling hills and deep forrests, we knew that we were on the right path; on the Road to Nowhere.
The headwind was fierce with a cold sting to it. We switched at taking turns on the front, knowing that apart from our minds, our biggest challenge would be to reach our accommodation before nightfall. After several hours of constant headwind, fatigue slowly started to set in as we battled with the silent assassin that blocked our paths.
The roads kept twisting and turning, making their way to the magnificent Solbergfoss Kraftwerk, an old power plant standing in great contrast to the nature surrounding it.
As we rode, we ran into new challenges. The skies turned from grey to black as the rain set in. We decided to stop at a gas-station in a small town. To our surprise, the manager rolled up the entry to an old car wash, where he offered us shelter from the rain and cold. ”Where are you going?”. Replying ”Copenhagen”, the manager laughed, shaking his head. At that moment we realized how crazy the next days were going to get.
Several hours later the rain stopped as we reached the first border crossing of our journey. Nestled in between steep cliffs, was this bridge, which served as the border between Norway and Sweden. The scenery was absolutely breathtaking and riding into a new country sparked the motivation of the group. I’ve always liked the thought of crossing borders on my bike. You get a real sensation of actually crossing something monumental.
Delayed by the elements, the sun started to set with at least an hour of riding left. We decided to skip dinner, refuel on energy bars and focus on getting to Smögen, our destination for the night, before complete darkness.
As we smelled the fresh sea air, we knew that we were getting closer. The last 20 kilometres was ridden along the coast with deep forest on the left of us and the sea of Skagerrak to our right. 255 kilometres after rolling off the ferry in Oslo, we finally rode over the last bridge into the small fishing town of Smögen. A little picturesque beauty on the Swedish coastline. As the adrenalin wore off and we sat there completely smashed from the wind and cold I realized what we had achieved and what was to come… Would it be another freezing 480 kilometres of downpour and headwind?
Day 2: Smögen (Sweden) – Varberg (Sweden)
Waking up to the sound of wind and rain spotting at our window we knew it was going to be a long and hard day in the saddle. With yesterday’s sufferfest in our minds we did our morning routines, put on the bad weather embrocation and crawled back on our bikes and reminded each other why we were there: the lust for adventure.
When we started the journey in Oslo, we were greeted by small mountains and a rocky landscape, which gradually turned into the lush scenery of Sweden. All that change in only 300 kilometres.
After exiting the small town we once again turned South and were met by the unrelenting headwind. Looking back, this would end up probably being the hardest day of riding each one of our lives. Our legs were heavy from yesterday’s ride and with little sleep during the night, our minds were just as weary. We knew then that it would take a huge group effort to make it through the day.
Even though the wind was howling in our faces, there was still something magical about riding with close friends for 25 kilometres without a car in sight. The moral was challenged, but this was definitely what we had been searching for. It wouldn’t last the day though…
150 kilometres into the day, after way too many hours of riding into the wind, we reached the Swedish coastal city of Gothenburg. With exhausted minds the ride through the city seemed like a blur. Exiting the city the wind picked up and the rain made its return.
During the last 100 kilometres of the day, everyone suddenly turned into survival mode instead.
When we finally reached our destination, Varberg, it felt like an anticlimax. We’d been riding the last 2 hours in complete darkness and ended up in this beautiful hotel directly on the beach. But completely shattered and drained we went straight to bed. I wondered how many of us would make it back to Copenhagen on the bike. The elements almost took the last breath out of our journey through Scandinavia, as we barely made it through.
Day 3: Varberg (Sweden) – Copenhagen (Denmark)
”This is the last day. This is our last day on the bike”. These words kept going through my mind.
Everyone in the group had grown accustomed to the constant headwind, carried on merely by the thought of the arriving in Copenhagen later that day. We reached the city of Halmstad. An old city in the Southern part of Sweden which used to be part of Denmark centuries ago.
Navigating between clouds, we stayed dry and continued our way South riding into sunshine for the very first time. The warm rays of sunshine came as a life saver. Boosting moral and energy levels throughout the group. Smiling and only 135 kilometres from our end destination we counted them down kilometre by kilometre.
Reaching the city of Helsingborg that connects Sweden and Denmark by ferry, we knew that we weren’t far from home. From the port in Helsingborg, you can see straight across the sea to Helsingor in the North of Zealand, Denmark. Functioning as a border crossing and our final refuel, we rolled onto the ferry and embarked on the final part of our journey.
Being from Copenhagen, we’ve done this final stretch of road a million times. This time was different though, after almost 3 days of battling with the elements through this beautiful, yet challenging, part of the Northern Hemisphere.
Just as we feared this final hour of riding, something magical happened. We hit Danish soil and our energy levels exploded from the burst of adrenalin. We blasted down the coast line with the wind at our back for the first time during this adventure. The past days of struggle were suddenly far behind and now we only fed on the thought of rolling into our hometown of Copenhagen.
We rode South towards the capital of Denmark. With the ocean on the left side and the sun setting, the journey really sunk into our minds. The challenge of riding from Oslo to Copenhagen had been so much more of a challenge than firstly anticipated. But even though the elements had been against us, this ride had definitely been the most rewarding and adventurous any one of us had ever come across.
We’d experienced our ”backyard” from a whole different perspective. Cultural differences, changes in nature and chance friendships stand out strongly in my mind.
Would we do it again? Maybe…if we are promised sunshine and tail wind from Oslo.
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