On the way to St. Olav is not a hard route to cycle over. You climb a lot, but never steep. Apart from a fer mean point, the average ascent percentage is not so high. The hard part is the distance between accommodations and supermarkets, which can get significantly large. Some planning ahead is warranted. And then some other things:
- If you like to camp in the wild, this is a great route. There are countless spots where you stay and sometimes there are lakes nearby where you can go for a swim.
- The summers may be short, but to think they are cool is a misunderstanding. Warm summers are no exception in Scandinavia. On the other hand, the weather is more temperamental than in the south of Europe.
- The route is mainly a nature route, but there's plenty to do in the cultural sense.
- Even though you cycle through woods and along lakes, the route is by no means boring!
All practical information at a glance:
- 1 Norway (Oslo – Swedish/Norwegian border) – 89 km
- 2 Värmland (Swedish/Norwegian borde – Naren) – 203 km
- 3 Dalarna (Naren – Tungsen) – 240 km
- 4 Gävleborg (Tungsen – Armsjön) – 209 km
- 5 Västernorrland (Armsjön – Selånger) – 45 km
Altitude in meters
In my view these are just 'numbers' used for indication and can differ in the real world. Depending on the source or app, the elevation can differentiate up to 10%.
For those who still like numbers, here's an overview. The source here is judise.nl, a gps-route editor which elevation numbers in Scandinavia are comparable to the popular Strava (for The Netherlands, Belgium and Nord-Rhein Westfalen the numbers of Judise are even more precise).
Ascent and descent: 4220 m
Segment 1, Norway
Ascent: 840 m, descent: 590 m
Segment 2, Värmland
Ascent: 1200 m, descent: 1190 m
Segment 3, Dalarna
Ascent: 1270 m, descent: 1290 m
Segment 4, Gävleborg
Ascent: 840 m, descent: 1030 m
Ascent: 70 m, descent: 120 m
And then a personal note on these numbers: I know from experience that the numbers mean very little in practice. On a distance of 600 kilometres combined with a few hundred meters ascent doesn't tell me much. What is important to me is the ascent percentage. There is a big difference between climbing with 3% over a kilometre and climbing with 18% over a kilometre. And then there is this other thing: on any one given day you feel better or worse, depending on your mood, health, weather... In short, there are many aspects that make the experience of the route hard or easy to do. No number crunching can tell you that.
End May - end September.
Keep in mind that some campsites and attractions don't open until half of June/end of June and start to close as early as half September / end of September. Sometime at the end of August. So make sure to check the appropriate website.
In general, you cycle over quiet country roads. Sometimes you won't meet a soul for kilometres on end. On the other hand, there are road you have to share with motorists and that is not always pleasant. Unfortunately, there are no alternatives found to get around that without a significant detour.
Some form of planning is needed when doing groceries. In larger towns there are restaurants. For a cup of coffee or tea, you regularly encounter a hemsbyggård in Sweden.
A hembygdsgård is a Swedish term for a local history association or club. Often situated in a historical farm (gård). Many villages have such a small but cosy museum association or club that gathers and manages the local cultural heritage. Hembygdsgården is often used for celebrations like midsummer and Christmas, but also for weddings. In summer, there's always something to do. For cyclists, it is a perfect stop for a break. These spots are not only filled with cultural heritage, but they often serve fika, a cup of coffee with a range of homemade cake and cookies. This phenomenon is called a summer cafe. You can find such seasonal cafes on other places as well. In the - by volunteers run - hembygdsgård, the atmosphere is almost always easy-going. There are even a couple of them where you can pitch your tent for a night.
Cycling with a tent has some specific advantages in Sweden and Norway. Camping in the wild is allowed almost anywhere in the nature when you keep a distance of minimal 150 m from fences, and houses. On farms, you have to ask the farmer for permission. Along the route there are many campsites to find and for some you need to make a small detour. When you cycle with a tent, you have control over the length you cycle and even over your finances. Almost all camping have facilities for cooking, where you can not only cook, but also can eat warm and dry. If you want to cycle without a tent and still want to minimize your expenditures, you can find campsites with huts, cheap B&B and even cook your own food if a kitchen is available. For huts on campsites, you do need your own sleeping bag. If you're a member of Warm Showers, keep in mind that there are not many places to choose from.
There are many ways to get to and from Oslo. From Selånger (or the nearby town Sunsvall) you can't go home by bus or train if you bring your bicycle with you. This route is meant as a connection route for both Olavs Ways you'll most likely cycle from Selånger over The St. Olavs Way to Trondheim.
Some examples to get in Oslo:
- With the ferry Eemshaven (NL) – Kristiansand with the Holland Norway Lines. From Kristiansand you can take your bicycle on the train to Oslo. At the moment there is a bicycle route in the works from Kristiansand to Oslo. See here for more information on this route.
- With the train to Frederikshavn (DK) and then the ferry to Oslo with DFDS
- With the train to Kiel (D) and the ferry to Oslo with Colorline
- With the train to Kopenhagen (DK) and the ferry to Oslo with DFDS
Transportation to the ferry terminals
Depends on your personal preferences and available travel time. If you travel by train, you could try to book a trip with Fiets-mee.nl (Only in Dutch).
Train and bus in Norway
In Norway, the bicycle can come along in the train and in many cases also on the bus. Buy a ticket in advance on the website of VY(vy.no).
Please take note of the following:
- Most train stations are unmanned. You need to buy tickets in advance on-line. In regional trains, you can buy tickets for your bicycle in the train itself from the conductor.
- The price of a bicycle ticket is the same as a ticket for a child.
- Buying a ticket for your bicycle does not give any assurance that there is space for your bicycle. Space for bicycles are limited.
Tip If you travel with a regional train, buy a flexible ticket for yourself on the website of VY, and buy the bicycle ticket in the train. Oslo is a manned station. There you can buy tickets at the counter.
- If there is room, your bicycle can come along. It is the discussion of the driver if your bicycle can come on the bus or not.
- Check on the website of the bus company in advance. Sometimes you need to reserve a space for your bicycle in advance.
Train and bus in Sweden
In Sweden, your bicycle can come with the bus. On certain lines, the bicycle can come along in the train. On this route, on the other hand, there's no possibility to hop on any form of public transport. From Sundsvall, you can go by train to the west with your bicycle. Up to Duved, the line goes along the St. Olavs way. From Duved, the St. Olavs way goes to the north-west and the train to the west. In Duved, you can change to a Norwegian train.
As far as safety is concerned, Norway and Sweden are well suited to travel alone by bicycle. 'Civilization' in the shape of roads, houses and farms are never far off, and the various villages and towns are never that far apart.
For women cycling alone, there are no additional measures needed compared to anywhere else in life. Even better, Sweden and Norway are relative safe countries for women.
There is little criminal activity, but it is still wise to lock your bicycle.
Also in Norway, the e-bike is gaining popularity and this route can definitely be taken with an e-bike. With that, you'll have to consider the following:
- Charging: As long as you're not camping in the wild, it won't lead to any problems.It does help to plan ahead as far as accommodations are concerned. It is wise to call in advance to ask if it is possible and/or allowed.
- Even though the charging facilities for bicycles are not included in the map, it would seem to me that every town has a cafe where you can charge your battery. Maybe even at a gas station, which are already convenient for coffee/tea, toilet, emergency rations... and very often have a place where you can sit.
In short: Some planning is in order. And even if it seems obvious at first glance, ask! They'll almost say 'yes' any time, unless it is not possible, but plugging in without asking is 'not done'.