Pedal to Trondheim

– experience the St Olav Trail from the seat of your bike
The St Olav Trail starts at Sundsvall and stretches from coast to coast across scenic landscapes. The world’s northernmost pilgrim trail lures hikers from all corners of the earth – and can also be enjoyed from the seat of a bike. Tommy Nordvall has cycled to Trondheim many times, and plans to do so again.

Text: Jennie Zetterqvist 
Photo: Kristofer Lönnå

“First embracing forests and tranquil mountains. Then hills that reach for the sky – with the promise of a breathtaking roll back downhill. The route of the St Olav Cycle Trail is slightly different from that of the hiking trail, but the signs will show you the way,” explains Tommy Nordvall.

He lives in Gisselåsen, about ten kilometres past the St Olav Trail’s starting point at Selånger, and, with his wife Sigrid, has been welcoming many passing pilgrims to his home in recent years. One of the first hikers, from the Netherlands, stopped off in 2013, when the stretch had just been restored and reopened. Hikers then quickly increased in number – which aroused Tommy’s curiosity about the experience.

“In 2015 it simply occurred to me that I should cycle the trail myself,” he says.

As a practised hiker, Tommy planned to cover long sections during the day, and had his tent, sleeping bag and camp stove at the ready. But on his first trip he soon discovered comfortable and pleasant places to stay the night along the trail. The tent was never used.

“For the last five years I’ve been leaving my tent at home and booking accommodation instead. It’s far more convenient to have minimum baggage and a nice place to sleep,” he says.

Tommy is basically a skier and has also done a great deal of sprinting. But the only long-distance cycling that has really tempted him is cycling along the
St Olav Trail. The first thirty kilometres tend to drag a little, but then “you’re on a roll”, as Tommy says.

“I’ve never done the Vättern Round, or anything like that, but this cycle path is great! I meet loads of nice people and catch up with hikers who stopped off for a coffee and a snack at our place. If a stretch gets really hard, I start singing – although I’m no good at it,’ he laughs.

His favourite part of the journey starts at Skalstugan in Jämtland and follows the Karl Johan route across the Norwegian border, where the landscape changes quite dramatically.

“In Sweden the cycling is relatively easy-going all the way, but in Norway it’s different. You get hills that force you to carry on pedalling and pedalling until you feel you have reached the clouds. And when you think you’ve finally reached the top, the road turns and continues uphill a bit more. But it’s great coming back down!”

“The cycling trail is suitable for everyone,” he believes. “It all depends on what stretches you plan to take.” In 2020 he was accompanied by his 14-year-old grandchild, who mastered the challenge valiantly.

“He took to those hills like a bullet out of a gun, and vanished! But then he was kind to me and came back. We made it to Åre and are planning to continue next season in 2021, when the border with Norway is, hopefully, open again. We start at Åre and cycle to Trondheim.”

His arrival in Trondheim is special for Tommy, as so many pilgrims recognise him and want to return the hospitality
shown to them at Gisselåsen. The train then takes him back home, where his photo album and memory bank are waiting to be filled with more interesting life destinies.