As a keen cyclist I've lost count of the times someone has said, "It's all downhill from here". It never is. It's not just the plain wrongness of it but the unnecessary getting up of hopes only to have them dashed.
By the time you've ridden the extraordinary Flåm to Myrdal train, from sea level steeply up through the most spectacular scenery to 867m, you're ready to believe the bike-rental man's promise of unmitigated downhill, though he's enough of a pro (and has probably ridden it so many times) that he acknowledges there are a couple of brief ups where you'll need to pedal. To turn up the heat a bit – it has been a lazy day so far – we divert, almost within sight of our starting point, up to some lakes. A short sharp climb so steep you feel the bike might rear up and spit you off the back (no shame in pushing here) gives way to an undulating track alongside the first lake, then a manageable climb to the second.
Simply by turning this corner you're away from the gorge-like valleys and verticality of the fjords and into the landscape that makes up so much of Norway's interior: rolling, rocky country with big lakes fed by icy waterfalls – endless gallons of the purest water in every direction. Below the highest elevations there's as much forest as there is water. Bird, insect and aquatic life abounds. Though the big furry stuff is out there, it's generally a bit shy – you’d be very lucky to see moose or bear. But the silence and speed of our bikes catches out a large hare: he bounds just ahead of us along the track, having failed to work out that a simple right or left turn will shake us off.
If you keep going long enough in this direction, you’ll get to Oslo, possibly just after the hare does. But that's hundreds of kilometres away and we have dinner waiting for us downhill – all the way – in Flåm. So it's back along the lakes to begin the infamous switchbacks of rough track which eventually give way to easier ground. A warning sign at the top advises walking your bike down (not as silly as it sounds when you see what you're in for) and mirrors the sign that used to be at the bottom in the pre-rail days of horse and cart, “Be gentle against the horse and walk the hill up”.
The rest of the way is about as perfect as it gets on a bike, marred only by the dilemma of concentrating on the fast going versus enjoying the spectacular scenery. But that would be to split hairs. Besides, you can always pull over – make sure to do so at least at the Rallarrosa goat farm halfway down for a drink and to test some cheese, and maybe cuddle a goat – they’re very friendly. Getting going again shouldn't be a problem. As we've already established: it's all downhill from here.