Difficulty of Routes

Intro

Norway without a doubt is a challenging country to cycle. If you’re planning a single day or perhaps a few short days there are of course areas of flat terrain and quiet roads to enjoy without too much effort. Nevertheless, if you want to bikepack or bike tour for several days, weeks or months you should have a reasonable level of fitness (above 5 out 10) to manage the terrain and distances required. For those that are unsure about their ability, we recommend using an E-bike or sticking to the Atlantic coastal routes as this is where the flattest roads are located. Other good flat routes are around lakes and some fjords.

For those wanting to know what to expect on a certain route, below you’ll find our criteria for grading. They include 5 main metrics: 

 

 

The Metrics

  1. Climate: Norway’s climate can play a big role in how difficult a route can be. Some areas of Norway have extremely unpredictable weather patterns such as high mountain passes and the Arctic tundra. Other areas such as Oslo Fjord and the south coast are reasonably stable with predictable weather forecasts. 
  2. Terrain: Norway has over 13,000 mountains/hills above 100m. Climbing and descending are part of cycling in this mountainous country. Is it also difficult to cycle in straight lines. You may have to cycle around fjords or use ferries and there are plenty of other natural obstacles that make getting from A to B more challenging and time-consuming than you would like at times. 
  3. Traffic/Tunnels: The long valleys in Norway are like arteries sending blood to the heart. Without them, Norway would not function. Unfortunately, some of the valleys become narrow in places and only offer space for one road. The E6, E39, E16, Road 7, and 13 are just some of the main roads that are included in the National Cycle Routes. In addition with over 1200 tunnels, you will be required to cycle through some of them on certain routes. The long, dark, or poorly lit tunnels with traffic can be unpleasant to cycle and thus add further difficulty. 
  4. Technical Difficulty: In general, we don’t add many technical routes to the collection. At present, there are no long hike or bike sections and limited single tracks to deal with. We understand most people will be traveling with heavy bags attached to their bikes and thus only the Norse Gravel Series has routes considered technical. Nevertheless, dropping 1000m down into a valley can feel scary and dangerous if you lack bike handling experience. Routes with steep descents will score higher on the difficulty scale. 
  5. Resupply and Logistics: In general, there are small supermarkets located all over the country and water is plentiful in most places. Nevertheless, every route must take into consideration factors such as ease of resupply, drinkable water, transport to and from the beginning and end, and the total length of the route, 

A Word of Caution: 

There is no science to grading routes and many factors can alter the difficulty including, the time of year you ride, whether you ride alone or in a group, the weather forecast, and the individual’s attitude, fitness, and abilities. Always do your own due diligence and research. It’s okay to stop, turn around, or give up on a route when the challenges go beyond your abilities or safety requirements. There is always another day. There is always another time. 

 

Stock up and be self-sufficient before you hit any remote gravel routes

Make sure you are highly visible before going through tunnels (Credit: www.cycletourer.co.uk)

If the weather turns bad going over the high mountains you must ensure you have enough gear and clothing to deal with it. It can go below zero Celsius in July.

Degree of Difficulty 1-2

For any route to be considered 1-2 out of 10, it will have to be considerably short such as a simple summer ride along part of Oslo Fjord. All bikepacking / touring routes traveling a long distance (over 150km) will start at a minimum of 3 out of 10. 

Category requirements:

  • Mainly flat roads with nothing going over 4% gradient. 
  • Light traffic on all the roads and no tunnels.
  • Weather conditions are relatively stable or predictable. 
  • Unexperienced/beginers cyclists should feel comfortable and confident on the route.
  • Shops and accommodation are easily accessible along the route 

Degree of Difficulty 3-4

Most of these types of routes will be around lakes, fjords, and coastline as well as some flattish valley rides. This will include some long bikepacking trips .

Category requirements:

  • Comfortable flat or low gradient roads with nothing going over an average 6% gradient for a sustained period. 
  • In general the route will stick to quiet safe roads but it’s possible to have small sections with some cars going past at speed (50-80kph). Some short tunnels are also possible and on occasions a few long ones but they should feel very safe to cycle through
  • Weather conditions are relatively stable or predictable but expect areas where rainfall is high and exposed regions will have blustery days making it challenging to cycle. 
  • Some cycling experience is recommended but not essential. Some short descents may be included.
  • Shops and accommodations are usually accessible along the route but might require 20-30km+ of cycling to reach. 

Degree of Difficulty 5-6

These routes will include short or low mountain passes, and some long uneven, and hilly gravel sections. Many of the bikepacking routes on this site will fit into this category. You should have some cycling / bikepacking / touring experience and comfortable cycling between 60-100km in a day.

Category requirements:

  • Mountainous areas with climbs usually averaging over 6% gradient in places.  
  • Certain small sections could be on a main road with occastional supply trucks passing. Expect plenty of short and perhaps a few long tunnels on certain routes. Some might feel slighty unsafe or disorinating to cycle through. 
  • Weather conditions are unpredictable and tempertures can turn very cold even in summer. Wind can be powerful in unsheltered areas on unsettled days.
  • Having cycling experience is important to handle the long descents and gravel tracks.
  • Shops and accommodations are usually accessible along the route but might require 30-40km+ of cycling to reach in certain places. 

Degree of Difficulty 7-8

Routes that are long, with mixed surfaces, and high mountain passes usually fit into this category. Most of the mountainous routes will fit this score. There will be plenty of physical suffering and a mixture of emotions from euphoria to feeling depleted, tired, and perhaps annoyed or frustrated.

Category requirements:

  • Mountainous areas with climbs usually average over 8-12% gradient in places. And/or tough gravel routes over hilly demanding terrain. 
  • In places possible sections up to 30km long on a main road with supply trucks and buses passing at speed. All types of tunnels are possible – some might feel unsafe or disorientating to cycle through. You should consider taking a bus or train to bypass certain tunnels or sections especially at busy times of the day. 
  • Weather conditions are unpredictable and temperatures can turn very cold with strong winds even in summer. You should consider canceling riding any high mountain passes in bad conditions.
  • Good bike handle skills to deal with long descents and uneven gravel tracks.
  • Shops and accommodations are usually accessible along the route but might require 50-75km+ of cycling to reach certain places. 

Degree of Difficulty 9-10

Bikepacking routes never really go above 8 out of 10 as they are too long with too many different sections to classify it above 8. Therefore, this category is predominantly for short-distance focusing on the toughest climbs or gravel sections in Norway. 

Category requirements:

  • Norway’s toughest mountain roads with climbs averaging well over 10-15% gradient in places. 
  • Any sort of road and tunnel conditions, full safety equipment should be at hand. 
  • Extreme weather conditions are possible and the road may be unsafe or unsuitable to ride in these conditions. You should cancel the planned trip under such circumstances. 
  • Only for experienced cyclists with excellent bike handling skills. Fast long descents on poor surfaces should be expected.
  • The route may lie in a remote area and reaching it may be difficult to do. You shoul be fully orgainsied with the right supplies and gear. 

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