Film by Ultan Coyle
Music by Henrik Schwarz
Norway’s capital Oslo offers a different take on urban road riding. The city’s quiet roads, green spaces and buildings painted in muted colours are juxtaposed to the vibrant chaos of London or New York. But it’s also a city of fronts: where imposing exteriors conceal boutique hotels, immaculate restaurants and bars playing techno late into the night.
Riding the City
Compared with many capital cities, riding in Oslo is easy and relaxing. If you stay away from the larger roads and dual carriageways north and east of the Operahuset, your journey unwinds on uncrowded roads with, for the large part, careful and courteous drivers. Watch out, however, for the tramlines, which can catch a wheel and are slippery when wet.
With the fjord to the south, Vigeland sculpture park to the north-east, the Munch Museum to the north-west and the Ekeberg to the east, Oslo is easy to navigate around. The Operahuset, kvadraturen (old town), town hall, palace and station are all central and within five minutes ride of each other. Frogner and Grünerløkka, Majorstuen and Bislett are all neighbourhoods worth visiting and an easy cruise away.
See below for bike hire details, or use the municipal hire scheme. These bikes, which rather pleasingly resemble Choppers, have three hub gears and are great fun to ride. Some have a back-pedal brake; all are high-geared enough to hit a decent speed. To use them you need a swipe card, which can be picked up at the tourist offices next to the Natural History Museum and the station. Eighty kroner gets you a card for the day: keep each bike for up to three hours at a time and you won’t be charged anything more. There are relatively few docking stations around town but the city is small enough that you’ll make short work of all trips.
Ride to… Kvadraturen
Oslo’s handsome old town, with its armoury, bank and crumbling brick buildings, is perfect for a Sunday afternoon spin.
Ride to… the Vigeland sculpture park
Created by artist Gustav Vigeland in the middle of the sprawling Frognerparken, the 32-hectare landscaped sculpture garden is home to 212 of the artist’s muscular, stylised sculptures celebrating the human form.
Frognerparken: Nobels gate 32, 0268 Oslo map
Ride to… Akker Brygge and the boat to Bygdøy
Once the heart of the city’s working docks, the area’s renovated warehouses are now home to shops, designer outlets and boutiques. In summer, visit the Solsiden restaurant on the water for the freshest seafood you’ll ever taste. Aker Brygge is also where the number 91 ferry bus stops. Take your bike on the boat to the suburb of Bigdøye, where museums await – or simply watch the sun going down from the weathered wooden dock, and the boats putt-putting through the fjord.
Solsiden: Akershusstranda 13, Skur 34, 0150 Oslo map
Ride to… Holmenkollen
For a challenging training ride strike out to the north, towards the ever visible Holmenkollen ski slope. The elegant steel structure seems to float in the air and there’s a museum and coffee shop to pass the time. Or punish yourself on the six kilometre climb which leads to some of Oslo’s wilder roads.
Kongeveien 5, 0787 Oslo map
Refuel, repair, replenish…
Eat, drink, sleep, and look after your bike.
Grims Grenka, on the edge of the old town, is the first – and so far only – design hotel in Oslo. Come for modern rooms with Bang&Olufsen televisions, a stylish Scandinavian lobby and, in the summer, a rooftop terrace.
— Kongens Gate 5, 0153, Oslo | www.firsthotels.com/Our-hotels/Hotels-in-Norway/Oslo/First-Hotel-GrimsGrenka
United Bakeries is the perfect place to stop after a turn around the Vigeland Sculpture Park. Order hot chocolate, boller (spiced bun) or a range of patisseries at the white-tiled, shabby-chic counter, then try to bag a place in the sunny courtyard.
— Frognerveien 58, 0266 Oslo | www.united-bakeries.no
The Bike Shop
Raske Sykler, just north of the Slottsparken, is a trustworthy, independent bike shop that is well used to handling both road and mountain bike repairs.
— Rasker Sykler, Pilestredet 47, 0350 Oslo | www.raskesykler.no
The Pasta Stop
Bruno’s Proseccheria serves cold meats and large, warming bowls of pasta in an immaculately designed setting. Eat tagliatelle with blue cheese and walnuts, or linguine with locally caught seafood, surrounded by globes of light hanging from the ceiling, white china elephants and ceramic guns stuffed with red roses.
— Rådhusgata 30, 0151 Oslo | www.proseccheria.no
The Coffee Shop
In a quiet side street off the main square of Grunerløkka sits Tim Wendelboe, one of the world’s premier coffee bars. With bare, blackened floorboards and no food, nor much furniture on offer, the setting is austere. Pull up a wooden chair next to the roasting and bagging machines, listen to the scratchy transistor radio and lose yourself in one of the carefully selected brews.
— Grunersgate 1, Oslo 0552 | timwendelboe.no
The locals: skiing and Styrkeprøven
Until recently, Norwegians were likely to come to cycling as a summer respite from skiing, just as their top cyclists would ski cross-country (great cardiovascular and leg exercise) during the cold, dark winters. These days skiing is still popular but Edvald Boasson Hagen and others now visit the Olympiatoppen, the national elite sport institute only a short ride from Oslo city centre, where the facilities include a giant rolling road for indoor cycling training. The alternative: spiked tyres, heated insoles and cycling through the blizzards.
Despite the climatic difficulties there is a local competitive racing scene, the highlight of which is, perhaps, the Styrkeprøven. These are long organised events, inspired by resistance fighter and cyclist Erik Gjems-Onstad, who cycled the length of the country – and Finland and Sweden, too – monitoring the Nazi retreat.
Though they’re open to all, at the top level the Styrkeprøven are fully supported team time trials, in which up to 30 riders from each club work together. The record for the longest Styrkeprøven, the 540-kilometre Trondheim-Oslo, is less than 12 hours, an average of 42kph. The prospect of giving your all for the team and being spat out of the back with 300km to go doesn’t bear thinking about.
In Oslo for a while and looking for someone to ride with? Try contacting a local club. Rapha recommends: