When Mattias (Fredriksson) called at the beginning of 2016, I could feel his excitement through the phone. He had an idea for our next catalogue shoot, and he had arguments to sell it: the fjords, the mysterious ever-lasting Scandinavian light and trails still relatively unknown to mountain bikers… It was enough to make us want to sign the deal.
Once the location was set, we started to think of the riders we wanted to have on the shoot. After a few emails and phone calls, we had put together an international team of riders hailing from Canada, Sweden and Germany. With Kevin Landry, Karen Eller, Janne Tjärnström, Jenny Liljegren, photographer Mattias Fredriksson and our French filmer Gaëtan Rey, the crew was ready to go capture the Sunnmøre and Nordfjord regions.
The Swedes had a 10 hour drive from Åre to Stranda, whilst the rest of us flew to Ålesund. Our guide Oscar Almgren from the Uteguiden guiding company came to pick us up and 2 hours later we too had finally arrived at the Stranda Hotel, our “base camp” for the week. A good sleep and there we were, ready to kick-off the shoot on the next morning.
Bikes set-up and ready to roll, outfits adjusted, sandwiches packed (as for many shoots and more generally for many bike tours, there aren’t many trailside snack opportunities) and off we were to Lievarden, a beautiful mountain just a few miles away from Stranda. With stunning views overlooking the fjord and in close proximity to town, this trail is very popular amongst local hikers and trail runners. The “ride” starts straight with some narrow singletrack that features some steep technical sections interrupted by flowy segments- all featuring breathtaking views. The area is stellar for getting in front of a camera, but before actually riding the trail down, we had to get to the top. This is one thing we learned on our first day riding in Norway: the way down is often also the way up. So we started our day with a nice hike-a-bike to the top of the mountain, didn’t forget to sign the guestbook once up there and then everyone was ready to send it for the first session.
The weather was changing steadily and so was our daily program. After a few discussions, we finally decided to get on the ferry and go ride Liahornet, another of the many summits which make up the Sunnmøre region.
We started on an easy gravel road before merging onto a hiking trail; once again, the hike-a-bike technique prevailed. As we were pushing our bikes towards the summit, we recognized the link between ski touring and this distinctively Norwegian style of MTB. Most Norwegian bikers are skiers too and ski touring seems to have inspired this way of biking, with long climbs, and often times long hikes. The first goal is to get to the summit, regardless of the difficulty. Once at the top, the real fun can start. On that day, we made our way down a mix of wild, natural terrain and semi-shaped “hiking-turning-to-biking” trails; finding flow in between majestic Scandinavian Birch trees and passing some small quintessential Norwegian style wooden cottages, the so called Såtra.
“The serendipity of travel is never to be ignored. On the morning of our thrid day I received a text from my friend Tennyson back home in British Columbia. His childhood friend Torstein Engeset was living in Stranda and Tennyson encouraged us to drop in and say hi.” — Kevin Landry
After 2 long days of shooting (the upside of long summer days in the North), we decided to take it a bit easier. We spent the morning in an idyllic spot for postcard-like pictures with typical Norwegian cottages before heading to Torstein's family farm, Solgen Mat, for a traditional Norwegian Fenalår (dried lamb leg) and fresh home brewed beer. The afternoon was totally unexpected and was much appreciated by the crew enabling everyone to get some energy for the rest of the shooting.
Thanks for the good times Torstein and Engeset Family!
Despite the weather still not really being on our side, time was limited and we still had places to explore and pictures to shoot. So we decide to leave Sunnmøre for the Nordfjord region. A few hours and a couple of ferry rides later we were on the road to Gloppen/Haugsvarden and it appeared that we weren’t the only ones! Sheep and cows were also in transit, forcing us to drive with utmost care and attention. For those not driving, this meant enough time to enjoy the landscape and listen to our guide Oscar.
He is an endless source of knowledge about the region and its mountains. He informed us that Gloppen is one of the places where bike communities are actually building official bike trails. With everyone looking forward to discovering the brand new trails we once again neglected to remember that our way down would also be our way up! The summit offered a splendid view of the fjords below and we were lucky to have the time to capture them just before a thick fog enveloped us. We would spend the rest of the day further down in the forest, enjoying some loam.
For our last day in Norway, we chose to ride one of the region’s classics, the old postal route: Den Trondhjemske Postvei. What we were about to ride was actually a section of the 700km long route running from Bergen to Trondheim that was built in 1785 to ensure post service across the region. We started our climb on a gentle gravel road that soon turned into beautiful, timeworn singletrack snaking all the way up to a pass. With good legs and technique, you can almost ride it to the top! We had an awesome final session on the plateau up there, taking in every single bit of the breathtaking view on the entry of the very famous Geirangerfjord and its parade of cruise ships.
After 5 action packed days of shooting, and much to everyone’s delight, our fearless leader Mattias declared a camera free descent. With that he dropped in and the chase was on! Our team relished the descent, cutting corners, smashing turns, inside passes and huge smiles. Everyone was hooting and hollering treating this is as our celebration run.
Mountain biking around the Norwegian fjords definitely doesn’t feature what we would call “typical” riding (or at least nothing any of us were used to). But if you like discovering and if you are up for the challenge of getting to the top, then the effort is totally worth all the pushing and carrying. On top of all the great pictures, you’ll discover beautiful, wild nature, inspirational singletracks and unforgettable culture. Make no mistake, Norway has got the goods.
Text : Sarah Merminod, Kevin Landry | Photography : Mattias Fredriksson | Video : Gaëtan Rey
Special thanks to : Fjord Norway and Uteguiden for their great support