Biker's Bucket ListLife on bikes

Biker’s Bucket List: Touring Norway by Motorcycle

Dramatic scenery, winding mountainous roads and near perfect tarmac, Norway really is a mecca for bikers looking to push themselves past the (relative) comfort of being closer to home on the continent. Ollie Rooke takes a look.

Of the 14 countries I’ve ridden my bike through Norway is by far my favourite, so I don’t want to go on too much about why you should go.

Simply put, you just should. Besides, taking a quick look online or on Youtube should be more than enough to convince you.

Although it’s a must for any biker’s bucket list this paradise does have its drawbacks. And after spending 4 weeks exploring the country from top to bottom I hopefully have a few practical tips to make sure your trip to one of the happiest places on Earth leaves you with a smile on your face.

Getting there and when to go

Sadly, Norway isn’t quite next door…. You’re going to have to be prepared to iron-butt it on the way up and endure plenty of autobahn miles. Regardless of how, and where you get to with your crossing you’re going to be aiming to get to the top of Denmark in order to catch the ferry over to Norway.

Leaving from London it took me 3 days to get to the top of Denmark, although it’s certainly doable in two. And granted, the long roads up aren’t particularly exciting, although if you have the time there are plenty of interesting detours on the way. But don’t worry, it’s all worth it in the end…

The best time to travel is probably mid-June to mid-August. I arrived towards the end of July and the weather quickly turned as it hit August, I was told that it had been a lot better for about a month before. The further north you get the colder it will get so prepare yourself for the sort of temperatures you’d get in early Spring/Autumn, with a bit more rain… Definitely ensure your gear is thoroughly waterproof, it’s going to be pushed more than ever before!


Where to go, and where not to go

In short, if you’re blessed with unlimited time, everywhere. Sadly it’s more than likely that you’re not, which makes planning your trip particularly important when there is an abundance of places to visit. Norway is a vast country and it’s easy to underestimate that when looking at a map, where the curvature at the top of the globe isn’t taken into account.

While there are a few main roads that can take you up or across fairly quickly it doesn’t make any sense to ride to Norway and then spend your time on a mad dash to the top via a motorway. Sure, you made it to Nordkapp, but your tyres are squared off…

So below I’ve outlined some personal recommendations of places you don’t want to miss, places you should try not to miss, and places that I don’t think you should be too fussed about missing.

Don’t miss…

● Riding road FV 17. A stunning road that hugs the coast (and island hops at some times with the help of frequent small ferries) as you wind your way in and out of Fjords and travel north. On this route, you’ll cross the Arctic Circle by ferry which officially makes you an arctic explorer (sort of…) which is pretty cool.

Starts in Steinkjer and ends up in Bodo, which is perfect for the next must do:

● Taking a ferry to the bottom tip of the Lofoten Islands, and riding the road leading you back to the mainland. A majestic, rocky outcrop of islands that have been linked with bridges/tunnels to allow you to ride them uninterrupted. Mind boggling scenery around EVERY turn, after a few days you’ll get bored of stopping every 5 minutes to take photos… maybe. Once again, stunning. Must see, must visit.

● Getting off the bike and going for a walk! A controversial one I know, spend half a day not riding?! But bear with me, let’s see if we can combine one of the best roads in Norway with a chance to go on an iconic hike. Why not visit Lysebotn, a small town in south-western Rogaland county. Located at the end of a huge Fjord the town is only accessible in summer by the Lysebotnvegen road. The road over the mountains is fantastic but the short section that takes you down 3000 feet through 27 hairpin turns to get you to the valley floor is something else.

motorcycle touring in Norway
© Ollie Rooke | Lysebotn


Motorcycle touring in Norway
© Ollie Rooke | The view over Lysebotn, Rogaland, Norway taken during a hike

The town itself is a bit of a tourist trap, unsurprisingly given that it’s only open in summer, so I’d avoid staying there. At the top of the hairpins is a visitor centre and a car park. Take off your riding gear and leave it on the bike (a small wire cable with a padlock was ample protection in a country with one of the lowest crime rates in the world) and hike up to Kjeragbolten, a boulder suspended between two cliff faces 1000 feet off the ground. A spectacular hike 2-3 hour hike in Lord of the Rings-esque country and a welcome break from riding. With that road, the hike and the boulder, this was up there with one of the best places I’ve ever visited.

Try not to miss…

● Road E69, the road to Nordkapp. A deceptively long road that takes you as far north as you can drive in Mainland Europe, right up to the North Cape. In contrast to most of Norway, it’s slightly flatter and more barren this far up, meaning you can fully focus on riding. The lack of features coupled with long sweeping bends and open straights also has its benefits if you were so inclined to push the speed limit (which I definitely didn’t do, nope not at all), as you’re unlikely to miss spotting a police speed trap or congestion on the road up ahead.

● North Cape. I was torn between this while writing this article; the elation of making it as far north as I could go and the road before it was quickly brought down by having to sell a kidney to afford the entrance fee. The centre doesn’t have too much going on but it’s worth an explore, while the gift shop is the place to go for those pannier stickers.

An alternative top tip from others that have done it, a friend of mine turned up before the centre even opened, rode around the gates and even got his bike up to the Globe for a great photo. Despite the grumbling though I paid, and you’ll pay too if you have the time to get yourself up there.

● Staying with bikers, a biker festival or meeting a Motorcycle Club. Norwegian biker culture is seriously impressive and it’s well worth using any time in the country to immerse yourself in it. Staying with bikers is easy, I touch on that further below.

Meeting motorcycle clubs or, even better, going to a rally or a festival may take a bit more planning and Googling to fit a stop off into your schedule but it was definitely a highlight and added another element to an already unforgettable tour. I found myself spending a night at the Bike & Beach rally in Horten, run by the local MC. The beer was relatively cheap, the bikes were great and the music loud, what’s not to love?!

Don’t worry about missing…

● The Atlantic Road. Looks fantastic in photos and sweeping videos when they’re taken from drones high above. In reality, at ground level it’s just another road/bridge but far busier. The weather on the West Coast is also fairly bad most of the time and you’re pretty exposed. The constant rain, wind and the prospect of sharing the road with endless tourist coaches are enough of a reason to not go out of your way to ride it, there are plenty of better roads.

● Cities/large towns. It’s fair to say the beauty of Norway is certainly not in it’s built up areas. Oslo is mind-bogglingly expensive and boring. Bergen is cool but expensive and incredibly rainy. Any other town that looks mildly large on a map is bound to be underwhelming. Don’t worry too much about flying past towns and cities, Norway has so much more to offer out in the sticks.

● The South. This feels unfair, because I spent a while in the southern counties and they’re great, I had a good time. But if your schedule is tight it’s hard to argue against trading off time in the South to give you more time up North or on the coasts. As I said, it’s a big country and you won’t have time to do it all!

Where to stay?

So you know how you’re getting to Norway, and you know your route. But now we have the all-important question, where do I lay my head? Below I’ve outlined three alternative solutions that will keep you out of hotels, will help your money go that bit further and can also take you out of your comfort zone, in the best way.

● Wild Camping. For me, motorcycling and camping go hand in hand. And there’s nowhere better to do it than Norway, where your right to roam and camp wherever you see fit is protected. Simply pitch up, keeping a good distance from private property, and enjoy the views. And if you’re worried about toilets the country also boasts some of the most amazing public toilets I’ve ever seen. You’re also in one of the safest countries in the world, take the chance to enjoy the outdoors! But, even as a keen camper Norway pushed me a fair few times, although I did pack a summer sleeping bag to save on space… It’s usually rainy, and above the Arctic Circle, it’s usually cold, particularly at night. You’ll also struggle to shower if you’re a fan of not smelling like sweaty riding gear. But for travellers on a budget, you’ll be making great savings.

● Airbnb. Airbnb was a surprising saviour a couple of times and is definitely a good option if you prefer the creature comforts in life. A cursory glance at proved that hotels weren’t going to be an affordable option. But rooms available with live-in hosts were very cheap and even rivalled a pitch at a campsite (£10 a night sometimes), much cheaper than the huts advertised by the side of the road. On top of that, the two hosts I stayed with through the app took pity on the damp, tired traveller at their doorsteps and cooked me dinner and breakfast for free!

● Bunk-a-biker. I touched upon it above in my list of things to not miss, but I’ll say it again. The Norwegian biking community is awesome. Add yourself to Norway’s ‘bunk a biker’ Facebook group {], post a short introduction to yourself and your planned route and ask for tips/places to see off that route. Motorcycle clubs may also have bunks for you to stay in.

Long story short, you’re bound to have plenty of offers to stay in spare rooms/sofas within hours from fellow bikers across Norway. You’ll meet some great people, swap plenty of stories and may even have your route changed by those who know where the best roads are. I even stayed somewhere with an outdoor jacuzzi, who said touring wasn’t glamorous?!

* A word on campsites. Campsites will be well equipped with cooking facilities and good shower blocks. As I travelled further up North I tended to opt for them more and more, if only for a hot shower in the evening and again in the morning when the weather took a turn. Don’t be afraid to have a barter, most campsites I ended up at were fairly quiet and the owner wasn’t adverse to knocking the price down a bit.

Some campsites also boast a collection of wooden huts, they look pretty cosy and would be perfect to share with a mate but again they come at quite a considerable cost, sometimes up to £40 a night for what is essentially a shed equipped with rickety bunk beds. In my opinion, avoid.

motorcycle touring in Norway
© Ollie Rooke | A dream wild camping set up

How much will I spend?

I’ve touched upon it throughout but it goes without saying that a Norwegian road trip will be expensive. It wasn’t that no one told me before I left. I just thought people were exaggerating, I mean I live in London, I know expensive…

I was wrong. Despite dirt-bagging my way around for four weeks, saving money by wild camping and sofa hopping, making my own sandwiches for lunch and rubbish camping stove pasta meals for dinner, my time in Norway cost me over £1200.

Fuel is fairly expensive, roughly £15 worth in London could cost up to over there £20, particularly in the North. As a very rough mileage estimate, I’d plan for travelling 200-300 miles a day if you’re riding for the majority of the day.

Food is also very expensive, double what you’d expect at home, even truck stop burgers could cost over £15. And if you like your pints you may as well remortgage your house, with the average pint costing over £6 and those in towns or cities usually costing more.

A word on speeding…

Now we’ve all heard the horror stories and we’re aware that Norway has a reputation for coming down hard on speeding. So what is it really like over there?

First of all, Norwegian roads are slow. Really slow. It’s partly the reason that I suggest staying off of the main ones, the common speed limit that I encountered was 50 mph (80 km) and seeing a sign for 60 was a rare treat. So if you’re stuck going at a lower speed why not enjoy the trickier roads and stunning scenery while cruising!

The police are notorious for the action they take against those that speed. If you’re caught you run the risk of a fine up to and beyond £1000. That’s if you’re lucky. I was told of stories of motorists who have been told to leave the country within 3 days though. You are also liable to face jail time if you’re caught going fast enough.

One silver lining, you do need to actually be caught in the act on a motorbike to be punished for it. Speed cameras in Scandinavia only capture a photo from the front, in order to prove who was in control of the vehicle at the time. So don’t worry about the cameras, but do worry about the other tactics the police will use.

There are plenty of speed traps, uniformed and non-uniformed officers with speed guns and unmarked cars that will match your speed and pull you over though. I did notice these measures less and less as I got further north, but in the quieter areas you then have hundreds of reindeer to contend with instead, and they’re usually in the road!

All in all, the Norwegians take speeding seriously, so you should too. The roads there are great but there’s often not a lot of room for error and plenty of other things to be aware of. The last thing you want is to crash in the middle of nowhere ruining yourself or, more importantly, your bike!

Now… tick it off the bucket list

Norway has a lot going for it, and it feels natural to tackle it by motorbike. It won’t be comfortable, motorcycling in a country notorious for constant summer rain never will be. And sure, it’s going to cost a pretty penny. But that’s not why we ride, and it’s definitely not why we tour.

Instead, it will give you the chance to live out a bit of a boyhood dream. You’ll be exploring a country that I think surprisingly few people visit given its relative proximity and riding on roads which you could only dream about on a swift brap down to the local biker cafe. There’s nowhere better in the world to camp out under the stars, and the culture surrounding motorcycling puts Britain to shame.

It’s epic. It’s once in a lifetime. It’s Norway. It’s a must do.

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The Author

Ollie Rooke

Ollie Rooke

When I was about 9 years old I remember pulling something in my neck playing football. I don’t really remember if I was milking it or not (I probably was) but I do remember spending the day in front of the TV obsessively working my way through ‘The Long Way Round’ boxset. By the time Charlie and Ewan made it to New York I was hooked, I’d discovered my dream.

Since then motorcycling to me has always been about adventure: living on the road, everything you need strapped to two wheels and an engine, camping in the wild and travelling to places most people will never go.

Years later, in 2016 at the age of 21, I passed my CBT and started a passion that I doubt I’ll ever willingly give up. Since then I’ve upgraded to an A2 licence and will eventually go back to complete my MOD1 and MOD2 again to finally ride unrestricted.
In the two years since passing my A2 test I’ve travelled to 14 countries between my old Honda CBF500 or my current pride and joy, a bright orange BMW F650GS Twin. 11 of those were covered in one ill-fated trip that took me to the top of Norway and down through the Baltics until it was all brought to an end after 8 weeks with a crash in Latvia.

But it hasn’t stopped me, if anything it’s made me want to travel more. The dream is to one day travel around the world my motorbike, but for now I’m planning to tick off the entirety of Mainland Europe by bike.

I aim to focus my writing on all things touring, whether it be tips on preparing for a trip, country specific guides or general motivation I’d like to encourage everyone to make even just one overseas trip by bike.

I can be found on a new Instagram, where I can post constantly about bikes and touring without irritating my friends: a2adventurer. I also have a sparsely populated blog,