Inspiration: Big Trip

brent27

Two weeks that will change your life

Taking an Explorer to Nordkapp

FTR Bio: Tiger v Reindeer

Name: Brent Leport

Profession: Offshore Oil Rig Inspection Engineer

Passion: Riding (Obvs)

Least Favourite Animal: Reindeer

Favourite food: Reindeer

For years offshore oil rig inspection engineer Brent Leport had a dream “to ride a really long way” – but life and circumstance conspired against him.

For almost a decade he read books, dabbled with quick bursts to the Alps and even investigated ferry freight routes, but nothing ever came of it.

Until, that is, a few health issues in his 30s made him feel his age and sparked a new mindset of “how can I do this” instead of “reasons not to do this”.

“I had a general wanderlust without any specific place to go. To start with, travelling through Norway to the Nordkapp was just a good idea for a destination because it’s as far north as you can go in Europe and looked good for photos,” he admitted.

So just over a year ago he quit the talking and arranged for his 2014 Triumph Explorer to be shipped to Oslo in Norway for a 13-day, 3,700 mile adventure.

Here’s his humorous ‘warts and all’ account of how to use your fortnight holiday.

The Trip:

Stage 1

Oslo to Finland via Sweden

First camp in 22 years

Arrived in Oslo late afternoon. After getting the train from the airport into the central station, I walked to the hotel and then ended up eating in an Irish bar. Burger and fries with a pint of Irish cider £30 – served by a brash Aussie who explained that there’s a tipping culture on top of the crazy prices.

Next day I woke too excited to sleep at 7am and went to pick the bike up and nail the first 375 miles.
I was off.

Riding through Sweden just over the border I met a cool guy on a 1975 Norton Commando he’d restored. We ate together, chatted about life and compared experiences. Motorcycles are one of few hobbies that would allow two complete strangers to share a meal, then continue on separate journeys.

Triumph Tiger Explorer, Norway, Camp, Big Trip
First Camp in 22 Years

Lots of trees all day until I camped for the first time in 22 years, and ate dinner of  ’emergency’ noodles so I could try out the stove and feel like an adventurer (though the shower block was 50 yards away).

One thing about it being light all the time, the birds never shut up.

Cruise control drudgery

A sleep and then 490 miles of cruise control drudgery through the forests alongside Sweden’s E45.

Stopped at a campsite at 7pm after a solid 12 hours of really boring riding. At one point I found myself changing gear so there’d be a different noise.

I’d been pushing on to get to Finland but when I saw a decent looking campsite
20 miles from the border, the urge to stop and rest was strong.

E45, Sweden, Roads, Motorcycle Trips
E45, Sweden

There were heaps of biting insects, the bike was covered in them and I had to stop to clean my visor every half an hour.

There were also quite a few reindeer on the road. Most of them just stand and watch you before ambling off into the trees.
Got the tent up just in time for a huge thunderstorm that really tested the waterproofing. Thankfully it worked!

Up and showered by 7am, then into Finland where I hoped there might be some scenery I could see.

Stage 2

Finland, Sweden and the Arctic Circle

Insects and a Tiger

The road to the border was a mix of single and dual carriageway with barriers to stop the traffic colliding – frustrating when you want to overtake the car in front.

Over the border I headed north on some lovely sweeping bends and twice came across sections of the road that can be used as runways in emergencies, huge long straight parts that are at least six lanes wide on normal two lane roads which came as a bit of a surprise.

On the first section I started to wonder if I was supposed to be there as it felt like I’d ridden onto an airfield.

There were a lot of reindeer on the road. They’re properly stupid. One crossed the road in front of me three times before deciding it was happy with that side.

Tiger Explorer, Triumph Tiger Explorer, Norway
Tiger Explorer in Norway

On the plus side the biting insect quota had dropped to a more survivable level. A lot of people told me Finland would be worst for insects but the forests of Sweden were even more populated by the little buggers.

I met a bloke called Tommy on a Triumph Tiger 800 at the Arctic Circle tourist centre. As I pulled in he asked me if I was British (he’d seen the number plate). Turned out he was from Edinburgh an hour or so from my home in Aberdeen and was taking a similar route through Norway.

Reindeer karma

As I left the dark clouds building but it was still 22 degrees and sunny. I stopped at a place advertising very good food on a big sign, then after looking inside had a Pepsi and filled the bike up instead.

The roads up here are great, wide with big areas either side so you can see the reindeer coming out from the trees. I took a detour after looking for places to eat on the nav and ended up having a lovely reindeer stew for lunch. That’ll teach them!

Eventually I caught up with the weather and rode on wet roads in brilliant sunshine for 50 miles before rain and an extremely near miss with a reindeer that ran across the road. I braked hard then swerved to avoid it by a couple of feet at most. I had a quiet moment to myself afterwards. Karma for lunch?

I’d done 350 miles on day four and decided to stay in a hotel to escape the rain. I picked one I with lots of bikes outside. This turned out to be a fairly poor way of picking hotels.
The room was decorated like it was done in the 70s.  In Russia.

Norway, Finland Road
Entering Norway from Finland

Time is of the essence

Take a tip. Remember that the time zones are different in Finland to Norway and Sweden or you’ll miss breakfast.

When I came down for food it was finished and there was only my bike and two cars left in the car park.

I stopped in some random place for lunch for reindeer again. I’d decided I don’t like them after my near miss, so was trying to eat as many as possible.

I worked my way north through Finland then cut east to the Norway border and roadworks on the E6 – deep gravel that hadn’t been compacted, the bike was all over the place and I came close to dropping it a few times. Eventually I had to put my feet down and paddle through the deepest parts.

Nordkapp Scenery

The Trip:

Stage 3

North Norway to Nordkapp

Book ahead

As I rode north the views got better all the time and northern Norway is spectacular.
It looked increasingly like rain so I made a booking for a hut on my phone near the Nordkapp. Judging by the booking websites I’d got the last one.

I’d stopped for some fuel and an ice cream to calm me down after the gravel and then continued north, stopping more and more frequently to take pictures of the spectacular views and re-overtaking the same busses each time.
When I got to the campsite the woman had given away the cabin I had booked, so I used the tent. The weather had improved and it was a clear 16 degrees.

Geiranger Fjord, Norway
Geiranger Fjord

After pitching a tent, I went the last eight miles to the Nordkapp through amazing twisty roads that snake up the hills to the coast, paid £30 to get in and £5 for a sticker before getting my photo taken and heading back to camp.

Turned out the restaurant didn’t actually sell food so it was looking like emergency noodle time when a nice Swedish couple asked me if I fancied some chicken.

They were travelling by car but have bikes at home; we had a tasty meal and some of the rum I brought. I ended up chatting with them for a couple of hours.

Fuel for thought

Next morning it was searingly bright – no, tell a lie it was bright all night. I struggled to sleep with 24 hour sunlight even though I’ve worked shifts my entire life.

I woke up drenched in sweat in my insanely bright tent at 6.11am and soon I was on a lovely swooping ride through the Nordkapp and back to the mainland via a 7km long tunnel. Didn’t bother setting the sat nav as I was heading for the E6 and it’s pretty much the only road.

Mistake. One of the nav functions is to tell me how far the next petrol station is on the route planned, if you don’t enter a route it won’t tell you.  I wasn’t too concerned when the fuel light came on, petrol has been plentiful for the whole run so far.

Laerdal Tunnel, Triumph Tiger Explorer
Laerdal Tunnel

But as the range remaining ticked down from 50 miles to 5 miles I began to worry and as I trundled along at 40 mph in top gear I wondered how I was going to get out of this one. It’s equivalent to running out of fuel on a motorway because you’ve driven past three petrol stations.

After a very fraught 20 miles on a bike that was now sounding different I managed to get to the petrol station, and got 19.97 litres into the 20 litre tank.

I headed towards Tromso, the biggest town in the area, and as I rode down the coast the scenery got more and more spectacular, I must have spent hours taking photographs and being frustrated by the lack of places to stop.

Getting to Tromso required two ferries so I decided to stop at a campsite with huts and got a big one with a shower, bedrooms and a kitchen. Oh and blackout blinds. Bliss!

Nordkapp, Artic Circle, Motorcycle trip
Nordkapp in the Artic Circle

Stage 4

Tromso to the Lofotens

Food for thought – hot dog or a £90 steak?

One thing I struggled with was getting food during the day. In the UK petrol stations are little supermarkets and you can easily buy lunch, but in Norway many are unmanned or only sell nasty hot dogs. So plan ahead.

Next day ​I got up late and packed the bike after a great night’s sleep in the cabin. After a week of 10-12 hour days on a motorbike I was getting tired, and I decided to take the advice of one of my friends to have an easy couple of days to recover.

I was already well ahead of where I’d hoped to be.

The weather looked grim with low cloud and 12 degrees, and as I rode through the mountains on the way to Harstad I went into the clouds so was down to 20 mph.

I finally had the need to try out the heated vest I’d bought for the trip but it was a big disappointment until I realised it was a human error issue. Instant heat came as soon as it was plugged in.

Norway, Roads, Triumph Tiger Explorer
E6, Norway

Harstad is a pretty big place, the capital of the Lofoten islands. I had dinner in a steak house – £90 all up for a good steak, two small ciders and some apple cake. Lovely though.

Clouded judgment

Low cloud with intermittent rain all day meant I only got glimpses of how beautiful the Lofoten Islands are. It’s apparently one of the most beautiful places in Norway so it was quite frustrating.

I continued to the south of the island and noticed there were a lot of people camping in laybys. Didn’t really think anything about it until I’d spent two hours trying to find somewhere to stay!

Nordkapp, Motorcycle trip
Nordkapp Scenery

Even the campsites were full and there isn’t much flat ground anywhere to wild camp, but eventually stayed at a hostel and bumped into Tommy who I’d met earlier in the trip.

Both of us left in drizzle to make the short run to the ferry from Moskines to Bodo.
As we were waiting for the ferry, Tommy decided to see if he could find some breakfast and rode off but as we began to board there was still no sign of him, he turned up at the last minute with freshly baked cinnamon buns.

Grinning idiot

The ferry took 3.5 hours (and was surprisingly cheap at about £35) to get us to Bodo and we sat out on the deck in the rapidly improving weather.

Once the ferry docked we headed onto the E6, which turned out to be a wonderful run that snaked through the mountains and down into the forest as we came out of the Arctic Circle.

We were making progress and both had such a blast my face was sore from grinning like an idiot. My Explorer was running well with the haunting howl from the Arrow exhaust echoing off the rock faces beside the road.

Lofoten, Boats, Motorcycle Trip
Lofoten Boats

As we approached Mo I Rana I stopped and Tommy headed further to the coast as he had less time than me to complete his route. We said our farewells and went our separate ways after a great day’s riding.

After a hotel stop exhausted, I hopped on one of the surprisingly cheap ferries next morning (short crossings are subsidised and around £4)

The weather started off quite cold and damp then warmed through the day as I stopped on another 4km long island where the scenery was amazing. By now I was starting to get used to seeing stunning views at every turn.

The last run down the E6 ended at Steinkjer (chosen because I liked the name) for a room, ham and cheese sandwich and a bedroom with blinds.

To Hell and back

After starting in light drizzle, I stopped at a garage for a large can of energy drink and to put on the heated vest as it was 12 degrees. This transformed my spirits and I was quickly heading down the E6 with the music on in my headset and feet on the engine bars singing along.

It’s a pretty dull road, short sections of dual carriageway followed by long sections of single with barriers either side, but then I noticed that I was riding through the Hell tunnel so quickly doubled back to the town of Hell to get a picture.

Hell, Nordkapp, Triumph Tiger, Explorer
Hell, Nordkapp

Hell is smaller than you’d think. Obviously now I’ve been to Hell and back!
The weather was getting steadily better but at one point I went through a series of short tunnels with small open areas between them and got a different season in each.

After what felt like an eternity I turned off onto smaller roads headed for the Atlantic road, then a familiar rider passed me going the other way, it was Tommy!

I called him and we eventually ended up in the same place and got onto the ferry towards the Atlantic road.

We headed up the sweeping roads towards the 64 Atlantic road, which is actually less amazing than the roads leading to it, and we both felt a bit disappointed.

I decided to stay in Molde and Tommy headed further as he needed to be in Stockholm in two days and it was 550 miles away.

Beautiful Oslo

The Trip:

Stage 5

Molde to Trollstigen and Geiranger fjord.

Perfect shot. Scenery or Explorer?

I headed out of Molde and instead of getting the ferry I rode around the fjord, it added 70 miles to the journey but was well worth it as the road was lovely and mostly empty.

Then the Trollstigen. Lots of hairpins and a very steep road meant I gained height very quickly, there are few crash barriers and the bike would fit through the rocks placed at the edge of the road. Very scary!

Lots of tour busses full of Japanese people too. At one point I’d stopped to take a picture and returned to the bike to find people taking pictures of it.

Triumph Tiger Explorer, Norway, Nordkapp
Triumph Tiger Explorer, Nordkapp

At the top I went down the other side and headed for Geiranger fjord, where the road and scenery are amazing and the roads back down through the mountains are stunning.

The landscape changed dramatically as the road climbed out of the fjord and cut through the high rocky plateau. There was still quite a bit of snow, it felt really barren compared to the lush forests of the lower areas.

Tunnel vision

After a pizza and campsite stop and then a ferry I got to the longest road tunnel in the world, the Laerdal tunnel 24.5km underground.
There are laybys 5km from each entrance and one in the middle, all lit up blue. I stopped in the middle one to take some pictures. It was quite nice as it was dry and 20c, instead of wet and 11c outside.
Even more elaborate tunnels followed, two with roundabouts in them! This proved to be an issue as I hadn’t been paying attention to where I was supposed to be going.
Then one finished and I found myself on a bridge high above the fjord before plunging into another tunnel on the opposite cliff face.
It rained all day so I found a hotel in Hara at around 6pm ready for next day and the road to Lillehammer.

Western Fjords, Nordkapp
Western Fjords

Woke to clear blue skies and fog burning off from lower in the fjords. The road out of Hara is a good example of the Norwegian way of building things. I came into the town via switchbacks and left via a tunnel that completes a full circle before emerging on the top of the hill. It’s a very strange feeling going up a spiral inside a tunnel.

I set the nav for Lillehammer simply because I’d heard of it and it was only 120 miles north of the bike drop off. By this point I’d done everything I’d planned to do as well as everything I’d hoped I might have time for.

The road ran along the side of the fjord for quite a while and the higher sections were out of the fog, then the road would drop back into it.

After lunch at a Thai takeaway van, the second part of the route crossed a high section of mountain roads, the trees finished and the road ran through rocky terrain with numerous lakes.

Finally the road dropped into Lillehammer and I got a nice hotel for the night, then went out and had a great steak dinner. Another fortune spent but worth it for my last night in Norway.

Another lovely day and 26 degrees again and riding down the dull E6 gave me time to think about the journey and how much I’ve enjoyed it.

Random thoughts

The Arctic Circle was my favourite – amazing roads with fewer people and great scenery.

Motorcycle Trip Map
Map of the route

I spent two days each in Sweden and Finland and would like to see a lot more.
Over the whole trip everyone I met was helpful and friendly.

  • If I did it again I’d probably try to have some more short days as I was getting pretty tired towards the end, but even towards the end of the trip I was still waking up early ready to get on the bike and get moving.
  • Take a tankbag for the camera as I did spend quite a bit of time stopping, getting off the bike and unlocking the topbox to get the camera out each time. I’d also see about a more comfortable seat but otherwise the bike was faultless.
  • Allow plenty of time for the route, I covered a lot of distance because I’m happy riding the bike and taking photos without really allowing for anything else. I planned for an average of 200-250 miles a day as it’s what I would comfortably cover in Scotland. I actually averaged over 300 miles a day by having some really long days.