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Rallarvegen - the ultimate in adventure road cycling
Rallarvegen - literally "Navy Road" - between Haugastøl and Myrdal is by far the most popular cycle route in the Norwegian mountains. Each year, some 20,000 cyclists take the tour through the sweeping landscape of Skarvheimen, at the divide between eastern and western Norway.
The route is along the works road built for the construction of the Bergen Line railway in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Here's there's mountainscape aplenty as well as cultural monuments from Norway's largest-ever construction project. The topography changes markedly, from rolling mountains east of the watershed divide to steep valleys west of it. To the north lies Hallingskarvet with its tabletop at 1900 m elevation, and to the south lies the Hardangerjøkulen glacier.
Most cyclist start at Haugastøl, to avoid traffic along the National Road, but many also start at Geilo or Ustaoset. A quicker, shorter tour starts at Finse and finishes at Myrdal. Remember that the season is short; the road isn't completely open until late July. If you wish to cycle before then, you can divide the tour in parts, as from Haugastøl to Finse and from Hallingskeid to Flåm, and travel by train between Finse and Hallingskeid.
If you start at Haugastøl, Finse is a fine goal for the day. Here you can stay at the staffed Finsehytta. A side trip to the Båisen glacial tongue of Hardangerjøkulen is worthwhile and takes only a few hours from Finse, but the trail isn't suitable for cycling. If you're interested, there are guided tours on the glacier; contact the staff at Finsehytta for details.
On the way to Fagernut the next day, you may have to cross snow drifts and cycle on poor road surfaces. At Fagernut, the Rallar Museum offers "Rallar Waffles" and "Trollop Soup". The downhill starts at Tågåvatnet. The road is in marginal condition down toward Gjotruset, but better toward Hallingskeid. The self-service cabin is popular for overnight stays and convenient if you wish to divide the tour in several parts. Hallingskeid is unlocked and has provisions for sale. The tour past Fagernut to Hallingskeid takes you over the highest point of the route, at an elevation of 1300 metres.
The tour continues along Grøndalsvatn and Kleivatn to the narrow Kleivagjelet gorge. Here, the topography really is western, and the road is steep. As an old cultural monument, the road has no guard rails (and consequently is unprotected against the rapids), and the ground is uneven and stony. If there are children along, they should wheel their cycles past the difficult streets, before the road bears down toward Reinuøngvatnet lake.
At the other side of the lake lies the Vatnahalsen Hotel, with a magnificent view of the Flåm Valley. There's lots of loose gravel down the 21 hairpin bends. At Vatnahalsen, you can choose to cycle up again to Myrdal on the Bergen Line or continue on an easy road down to Flåm on the fjord. The road down to Flåm is the most impressive, but it's steep and you should have good brakes! Stop and wheel your cycle on stretches where you feel that your brakes may not hold. The view of the valley is imposing, with the Flåm Line that winds its way down the valley wall, partly in tunnels, and the picturesque waterfall with a fjord at the end of the valley.
At Flåm there are several lodgings, but you should book in advance. Or, if you wish, you may send your cycle and take the train back. The Flåm line offers one of the world's most impressive train trips, itself an experience. You also can take a local train west to Uppsete and cycle onward to Voss. The first part of that stretch goes along the old Rallarvegen. Another alternative is to take a ferry from Flåm to Bergen.
NOTE: Camping is prohibited along some stretches of the route. Allow plenty of time if your party includes small children on their own bicycles. They'll need help crossing snow drifts and negotiating the Myrdal hairpin bends. There may be a few cars on the first part from Haugastøl, but from the county border further west, the road is closed to vehicular traffic.
Maps: Skarvheimen 1: 100 000
Turkart Skarvheimen i 1: 100 000 fra Cappelen Damm.