Building a mountain biking community in Norway

Words and Photos by Carmen Rey

What would you say are the greatest innovations in Mountain-biking?

Most would agree the invention of full suspension, then there is the dropper seat post; in more recent times we have purpose-built trails and bike parks and of course; e-bikes.

Hans Rey has been a huge advocate for both purpose-built trails and e-bikes, to him this is the next level of fun with boundless possibilities, and he feels strongly that developments have opened up the sport to far more people than ever before, of all ages and demographics. They have made mountain biking inclusive to families, the young, the old, people with physical challenges as well as those that already love the sport.

Before purpose-built trails, people were grateful for a hiking trail or fire road where they were tolerated, but sharing trails has its limits. Now there are trails for all level of riders, entry level to allow novices to find their feet and learn basic skill sets, then more technical trails for those that want to shred. But they must be built properly, sustainably so they don’t erode with use and abuse, safe and predictable, so there are be no nasty surprises. Riders can relax and emerge into the flow and have fun.

World Trail lead by Glen Jacobs has built some of the best trail networks in the world. An old friend of Hans, Glen invited him to get a taste of his latest European venture creating a cycling Utopia at Hogevarde, Norway.

Norway is a land of lakes, fjords and mountains, houses with rooves that look like wildflower meadows….and  Vikings. To the north is the arctic circle and closer to the south of the country is Fjell Park trail center at Hogevarde in the Hallingdale valley. It is here with its expanding trail network, and for now, lacking an uplift that Hans found the e-bike perfect for climbing the mountain without any pain, to then be able to enjoy a huge network of trails. Berms, rollers and flow carved through the natural landscape of pine trees, stream crossings and huge granite boulders that become part of the experience. Whatever the World Trail crew build is both eye candy and ride candy.

Hogevarde itself is an example of a relatively new concept in mountain biking, it is a community that is very much geared towards bikers needs and desires. Not just to visit, but a community where people want to live and work. Although a ski resort, they put summer first, this means mountain bikes first.

We have seen examples like this with Blue Derby in Tasmania and Oztrails in Bentonville, Arkansas. This town is being developed in an environmentally sympathetic way to become a community for like-minded people who just love to ride.

Pedaling up the mountain in “trail mode” Hans was also putting his new GT e-Force with Shimano EP801 drive unit through its paces, this system has more power and torque, it is smoother and lighter than before. What he is really excited about is putting the Free Shift and Auto Shift to the test.

Free Shift technology enables you to change gear multiple times without pedaling; and Auto Shift intuitively knows when a gear change is necessary by tracking the cadence and torque.” Hans explained. To demonstrate Hans rides uphill no handed, you can hear the gears switching, but he isn’t doing a thing with his hands. “It’s like an automatic car.” He says. There is a lot of adjustability with the E-Tube App to customize the system to a rider’s style and needs.

Once at the top Hans notices a giant rock and since he loves to “play” on his e-bike, pushing his skills, he had to climb and then roll it.

“I really am impressed with the Linkglide drivetrain”, said Hans. “It is strong and robust, it enables me to change gears smoothly even under high torque, which for my kind of riding is invaluable.”

We drop and roll down the flowy trails, the scenery is exquisite, the dirt is smooth, the A and B lines offer options for every level of rider…you want to wall ride the rock face? Sure, go ahead. You want to ride along the top and gently roll down, you can do that too, or hit a jump to the side.

The following day Glen Jacobs joined us and invited us to meet the trail building crew and test the next super trail, still under construction called Blueberry Jam, a 16Km trail that starts at the resort and ends in the valley below.

Named after the wild berries that grow prolifically here, the flow is endless, except when it’s not because of the tumble of boulders beside the water fall that Glen promises will be a “blue trail” when finished. Right now, we struggle to clamber over these massive rocks at the construction site, struggling with our bikes and what Glen describes seems unimaginable. But having said that, we have seen what they achieved at other places, so we don’t doubt him.

To be honest, it was hard work making our way down kilometers of work in progress, the recent rain meant lots of mud and bugs, it was squelchy under foot and sections were unrideable…. Unless you are Hans. But then out of the blue a mirage appeared. The most perfect, beautiful berms like a serpent sprawled on the landscape. Golden, groomed and smooth, with rollers between and endless flow. This was a giant pump track that only nature could provide, with the skilled help of the builders. Riding this already finished section was worth the bug bites.

The next day meant time for the big adventure, a backcountry tour from Hogevarde village up to the summit of Hogevarde mountain (1,459m), From the top we are afforded a vista that displays just how beautiful Norway is, they say on a clear day you can see 15% of the country from here. We rode along the rocky ridge, hung with the reindeer, had lunch in a hut, dodged a storm, did the big descent and took a ride home in a boat along the fjord. Actually, not really a fjord, but it looks like one and the locals affectionately call it that. It was an epic ride, an amazing day and having e-bikes made it more viable.

There is already a trail network in the region, Hallingdale Rides consisting of 6 bike resorts scattered along a long valley. Nesbyen is one of them, a short drive from Hogevarde, the small town has infrastructure firmly established for bikers, bicycle friendly breweries, bike shops and rentals, coffee shops, bike wash, shuttles and of course plenty of trails. This center for biking compliments Hogevarde adding variety and miles more opportunity to shred and it was a perfect destination to conclude our Norwegian adventure. Skoll!

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