WHY? Gravel

Words: Krysten Koehn, images: Christian Meier

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Gravel is for the soul. And the vast network of gravel in the mountains just outside of Oslo–let’s just say it nearly reaches heaven on earth. After 20 kilometers you feel like you’re in the middle of a vast wilderness. Moody skies, dark forests, deep lakes and electric green flash by all too quickly as you try to reconcile the inner battle between charging over a summit into a pristine gravel descent and stopping at the top to drink it all in. This, in tandem with a poignant silence save the sound of your own breathing and the crush of gravel under your tires–it’s otherworldly.

Det Store Eventyret–The Big Adventure in Norwegian–started on a Friday evening in the heart of Oslo where about 70 of us gathered with our bikes. We headed out of the city and climbed into the densely forested mountains to the north of Oslo. A hundred kilometers of idyllic nordic landscapes and 2200 meters of elevation later, in a final out-of-saddle effort, we arrived at the Sun Observatory, a reclusive mountaintop dotted with tee-pees, cabins and now lots of very muddy bikes and very tired people.

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Graciously, a restorative feast prepared by Vélochef Henrik Orre awaited us under a monumental teepee where a campfire crackled away and warmed the damp air late into the night. Perhaps one of the best things about this part of the world is the perpetual summer twilight that lingers long after you’ve closed your eyes.

One of the guides told us that Norway is home to 450,000 lakes. Saturday’s loop further confirmed their abundance, constantly twisting between and around and sometimes over a good number of these. We lunched at the edge of one, devouring the sausages and waffles Henrik seemed to simply conjure from the pine-scented air. Water was everywhere, and we rolled back into camp just as it started spilling forcefully from the sky. Even through the dense clouds, that forever twilight accompanied us once again until every grain of risotto was devoured and every beer was drained, and we relished those last campfire smoke-saturated moments.

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Sunday’s route back into Oslo left nothing to be desired. More epic climbs and views under a canopy of heavy, indecisive clouds. An hour of hike-a-bike through shin-deep mud holes. A jaunt up a 24% ski hill. A screaming descent back into the city.

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I think the most salient thing we are bringing with us from Norway is not the sweeping views or the endless network of perfect gravel roads, but the sense of community these things, coupled with riding bikes, inevitably brings. And our people in Oslo understand this in a way only afforded only by their unique flavor of Norwegian openness and hospitality.

Krysten Koehn