Biking on the "Rallarvegen" along the Oslo-Bergen Railroad line
(Haugastoel - Finse, 27 km one way, 1994)
In September 1994 we were in southern Norway with our bikes. We did not have the time left for a longer tour on the bikes, so we just made a one day tour along the "Rallarvegen" and hope to come back again some day. The "Rallarvegen" is a gravel road that was needed to build the Oslo-Bergen railroad line through the mountains. Now it is closed for cars except for a part near Haugastoel and the people who live or work there, and it is a very popular bike tour. We biked from Haugastoel to Finse and back in one day. This section is not difficult, one way is 27 km.
If you want to extend, you can bike to Myrdal, this part is longer and more difficult. At Finse the railroad enters a tunnel of 10.3 km and the road is outside. You should inform about the condition of the road before doing this trip, even during July it is recommended to go the section Finse-Hallingskeid by train because of the snow. You won't see trains in this section anyway, because they are in the tunnel.
The total distance Finse station - Myrdal station is 38 km. From Myrdal you can go down to Flam at the Aurlandsfjord, either with the bike or with the Flam railroad line, Norway's steepest railroad line. One can imagine that it is difficult to bike the street down to the Fjord because of the height difference of 870 m, and the road is not too good. From Flam you can for instance go along the fjord on a ferry to Kaupanger. Or you can return to Myrdal, if you like with the train, and continue along the railroad line to Bergen or return to the starting point. It is possible to make each part of the tour with the railroad. Some trains in the morning and evening had a "sykkelvogn". So the whole area offers really lot of possibilities for bike tours, which you should check out locally. If you don't have a bike, you can rent one at the railroad and send it back from a one way tour with the train. The best time is July to September. In July you will have more snow on the road at the higher elevations, and in July and August you will have more bike traffic. In September you probably will have less traffic and less old snow with a certain risc of new snow.
When we started in Haugastoel, the sky cleared up a little bit. Don't drive too fast, especially when you come around a curve, because a herd of sheep might block your way.
During the day we were not very lucky with the weather, but a railfan has to take photos even when it rains. Near Finse new railroad tracks are under construction and the conditions will probably change from year to year. Some of the picturesque bridges and old tracks will be replaced by new ones in the next years in order to reduce the travel time for the Oslo-Bergen trains.
Finse station at an elevation of 1222 m is well known for being the highest railroad station in Norway. You can stay in a hotel or in the houses of the DNT, the Norwegian Tourist Association. We warmed up with coffee in the little restaurant, looked around and enjoyed the atmosphere, before we started to go back. On our way back we met a lot of rain. One has to expect snow at that time of the year. Some years ago, when we were on a backpacking tour in the nearby Hardangervidda wilderness, we had it already in the beginning of September.
Some days later we took a reduced tourist return ticket for a day trip to Bergen with a stop of one and a half hour in Bergen. After leaving the Finse tunnel we could see parts of the road between Finse and Myrdal and still snow in some places.
The time in Bergen was just enough to see the market and the historic houses near the harbour, before we returned to Geilo. This time, it was already dark when the train made its way through the spectacular mountains around Finse.
You can get more information in the Internet by browsing A WWW railway page for Norway. Look for the "Network" and there for the Oslo-Bergen railroad line and the Flam line. You will find detailed informations on height profiles and timetables. And a very tough guy, surely a Norwegian, describes a jogging tour along the "Rallarvegen". Finally, at local tourist offices and train stations you can get a folder with all necessary information.