Photos From My Bike Ride Across Norway & Sweden

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yellow island house in sula norway

After two-and-a-half weeks of rest and relaxation in this Sula island vacation home, I packed up my  touring bicycle, pedaled out of the drive way, and began my 10-day self-supported bicycle tour across Norway and Sweden.

I had to leave super early on the first day, so I was super tired as I left the vacation home and began pedaling across the island toward the ferry landing. After more than two whole weeks on the island, it felt strange to be cycling away from a place that now felt very much like home. A place I would likely never see again.

Bicycle Touring Pro Darren Alff on Sula Island in Norway

I got to the ferry terminal with time to spare and then jumped on board the boat as soon as it arrived at the ferry landing. The ticket to Selje, Norway cost me nearly $100 USD, but it was a fast scenic ride that quickly transported both me and my bicycle up north in a record-setting time.

Before I knew it, I was in Selje, Norway and I was back on my bicycle. While I was extremely tired (from lack of sleep the night before), I was in good spirits. The sun was out and the weather/scenery was spectacular.

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After cycling along the coast and up over a few small mountain passes, I passed through the town of Eidsa and make a quick rest stop at a local supermarket to stock up on food for the evening. One of the great things about bicycle touring in Norway is that in small towns like this, I almost never had to lock up my bicycle when going inside the store.

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With my panniers now stuffed with fresh food, I cycled down the road just a short distance to the Koparnes ferry landing and took my second ferry of the day over the a nearby island and the town of Arvik.

To make a long story short, I spent the next week cycling across Norway on my bicycle. Except for that first day, it was cold and wet a great deal of the time.

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I filled up my water bottles at cemeteries along the way, slept in my tent each night, and fought off both ticks and mosquitoes when camping in the first. I was cold and miserable much of the time, but I also loved every minute of it. I was in Norway, after-all, and the scenery was spectacular, the cycling was superb, and I was happy to be doing what I was doing. Watch the videos on this page to see a day-by-day account of my bike tour across Norway and Sweden.

On September 5th, 2015, I experienced the worst day of cycling I had experienced all year. It was raining all day long, I had to climb over a high mountain pass, and on the way down the wind began to below. Cycling through the cold, windy air when I was already drenched to the skin made me extremely cold and miserable while I was riding my bike.

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I had hoped to ride over 100 kilometers that day, but because I was so cold and wet, I ended the day early – pedaling only about 70 kilometers before I pushed my bike up a forested hillside and pitched my tent in the woods just a short distance away from an empty vacation home.

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I quit cycling around 4 PM that day, so I had a lot of time in the evening to just sit inside my tent, read a book and explore my nearby surroundings. In the morning, I would have to cross the bridge that you see in the photo below… which would take me over to a series of small islands.

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When I woke the following morning, I was delighted to see that the sun was shining in a portion of the Norwegian sky. So I jumped back on my touring bicycle, crossed over the bridge and began my day by crossing over a series of small islands and later in the day taking my last Norwegian ferry boat from Kanestraum to Halsa.

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On September 7, 2015, I woke in the forest near the city of Vinjeora, Norway and began cycling east toward Trondheim. It was another cold, wet day of bicycle touring, but my plan was to reach the city of Trondheim (more than 100 kilometers away) and then jump on a train from there to Sweden.

Lucky for me, however, I spotted a bus on the side of the road that was going to Stjordal, Norway – a city just a short distance to the east of Trondheim. I was cold and wet, so I jumped in the bus and enjoyed the ride to Stjordal. Once there, I cycled just a few kilometers to the south and the city of Hell. I arrived there just a few minutes before the train to Sweden arrived, and I jumped on board with my bicycle in tow.

One hour later I was in Storlien, Sweden – a cold, wet ski resort town in the mountains. The place was like a ghost town, but I was happy to be there. Unfortunately, I would have to take a seperate train from Strorlien to Sundsval, Sweden the following morning. So I cycled a short distance out of town, pitched my tent on the edge of a nearby nature reserve, and then cycled back to the train station early the next morning in time to catch my train to Sundsval.

Unfortunately, when it came time for me to pay the conductor for my train ticket, my credit card didn’t work… and so the only way I could pay the conductor was with cash. Luckily, I had about 550 Swedish Krona in my wallet, but the ticket was closer to 750 Krona. Not sure what to do, I gave the conductor the 550 Krona that I had in cash and the conductor agreed to let me ride all the way to Sundsvall without paying the additional 200 I owed.

Now in Sundsvall with about 45 minutes to spare before the train to Umea arrived, I began rushing around town to find an ATM machine where I could withdraw some cash, so I could pay for the next leg of my journey. I didn’t want to get on another train (this time without any cash) and knowing that my credit card wasn’t working for whatever reason. So I ran around Sundsvall until I finally found an ATM machine. But when I tried to withdraw my money, I learned that my debit card had expired just a few days before. in fact, all three of my debit cards had expired! My credit cards weren’t working and I had no way to withdraw any cash.

Not knowing what to do, I realized I had tons of money in my wallet. The only problem was, none of the money was Swedish! I had money from the United States, The United Kingdom, Denmark, Norway, Romania, etc. if I could find a place to exchange that cash, it might be enough for my train ticket to Umea and enough food to get me through my last week in Sweden. So with only 15 minutes to spare before my train left the station, I began running around town trying to find a currency exchange office. It took me a while, but I finally found a place, and the woman inside was very understanding. I gave her what little cash I had in those various foreign currencies and she handed me back some Krona. With less than 3 minutes now before the train left, I dashed across town, rode my bike straight through the train station and slid into the train just as the doors were closing. I had made it!

I was so happy to be on the train to Umea… and amazed that I had been able to get the necessary cash for my train ticket in such a short amount of time – in a city I had never before visited. But that’s when everything went downhill. When the conductor came around to check tickets, I told him I was going to Umea and he took my money. But a few minutes later the conductor came back to my seat and informed me that I needed to get off the train – they would not be taking me to Umea as they had promised. The conductor explained that this particular train, while equipped with bicycle racks, was not supposed to let anyone with a bicycle on-board. And even though the conductor himself had no problem with taking me and my bicycle to Umea, the driver of the train was insisting that I get off. Apparently, he didn’t want to get in trouble for breaking the nonsensical rule. So, to make a long story short, they kicked me off the train at the next stop and I got off in the city of Harnosand (213 kilometers from Umea) not knowing what to do. I had been planning to be in Umea by nightfall.

There was no one at the train station to ask for help, so when the next couple trains pulled into the station, I asked the conductors onboard if their train (with was also heading to Umea) would take me and my bicycle in that direction. But none of the trains heading to Umea would take my bicycle on-board. Instead, they suggested, I look into taking a bus. So, that’s exactly what I did! There weren’t any buses going to Umea until late that night. But I found a bus heading north to the city of Ornskoldsvik and I decided to take the ride there. I had hoped to arrive in the city just before nightfall. The plan was to get there, quickly find a place to sleep in the woods for the night, and then cycle from Ornskoldsvik to Umea over the course of the following two days.

The bus ride to Ornskoldsvik was a pleasant one and when we arrived at the bus station there, I was the only person left on the bus. The bus driver was incredibly nice and offered to let me go inside the private bus driver bathroom and fill up my water bottles there. But when I came out of the bathroom, I discovered that the bus driver was no where to be found. Now trapped inside the building on my own, I tried the door leading outside, but as I turned the knob on the door, the building alarm immediately sounded. I had set off the security alarm!

After a couple minutes, the bus driver came back, found me, and definitely heard that the alarm was going off. He was upset at me for trying to go out the security door, but I was upset at him for leaving me locked inside there without an explanation of where he was going. So, as soon as I was back outside, I grabbed my bicycle and took off – the security alarm still going off as I cycled off into the now pitch black night.

I tried climbing up a steep mountainside in order to find a place to camp for the night, but the trail was too narrow and the mountain was too steep. So after abandoning that idea, I cycled across a gold course and found a small patch of forest near the edge of the golf course where I was able to climb inside, push my bicycle back just a few meters from the path, and set up my tent for the night. I can’t explain just how frightening all this was. It was pitch black and I was climbing through the forest at night – not able to see much of anything and too afraid to turn on my light for fear that someone walking past might see me and call the police for setting up a campsite so close to the road/gold course.

But I did eventually get my tent pitched and I crawled inside my tent, still not quite believing how my day had gone. I had had it all planned out in my head so well at the beginning of the day, but nothing had gone to plan.

Now I needed to cycle another 110 kilometers to Umea and I figured I could do that over the following two days. No problem! So, that’s exactly what I did.

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Over the course of the next two days, I slowly made my way north to the city of Umea on my bicycle. The first day of cycling required a fair amount of highway riding, which was loud and stressful at times. But the second half of the ride was nice and peaceful on quiet side-roads that took me through flat, colorful forests (like you see in the photo below).

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About 35 kilometers west of Umea, I spent the night camping in a blueberry patch just a short distance off a dirt forest road. After 15 years of bicycle touring all around the world, I feel very much at home in places like this.

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As the sun set that night, I lay in my tent thinking about how this would be my last real night of camping in the woods in Sweden this year… and that the following day would be the last real day of my trip. My 2015 bike tour was just about over.

Sweden sunset

The next day (September 10,2015), I cycled into Umea, Sweden… and I was so happy to be there. The town was small, but incredibly charming. I wasn’t sure what to expect really, but I really liked Umea. It was my kind of place – just big enough to have everything you need, but small enough that you don’t feel suffocated by its size.

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I spent my first day in Umea just biking around and exploring. I bought some food at a local restaurant and then sat by the river watching people walk past. In the evening, I cycled north outside the city center and spent one more night camping in the forest.

The next morning, I woke up super early and cycled back into the city center so I could meet a young woman who had rented me her apartment on AirBNB.com. The apartment was located on the third floor in the building you see below.

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After 10 days of bicycle touring and access to no public or private bathrooms that entire time, I was in serious need of a shave and a shower. This was the longest I had ever gone without shaving!

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When I rented the apartment on AirBNB.com, it came with the stipulation that I must also care for the resident cat, whose name as you might have guessed, was Pumpkin. She was a quiet cat that kept to herself at the start of our time together, but as the days progressed, she became ever more friendly. At night, while I was sleeping, she would jump up on my bed and demand that I pet her.

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I was in Umea, Sweden and my AirBNB apartment for four nights. During that time, I sent “Thank You” postcards to some of my Bicycle Touring Pro readers, I picked up a cardboard bike box from one of the local bike shops, I packed up my touring bicycle and prepared or my flight back to the United States, I went on several long bike rides around the city, and I walked across the city time and time again.

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Eventually, the time came for me to fly back home. I called a taxi to come and pick me up at the apartment I had rented. The taxi came right on time and carried both me and my bicycle to the tiny Umea airport. Then, just a half-day later, I was in Los Angles, California, saying hello to my mother and father – whom I had not seen in nearly two years. My 2014 – 2015 bike tour was over… and I was home! For a while… at least.

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