Sweet Protection, the Norwegian maker of the most advanced helmets, protective gear and apparel for ski, snowboard, bike and paddle sport, set out for the small village of Valldal on the West Coast of Norway to test and shoot the bike gear for this season.
Valldal, a small village on the West Coast of Norway known for its amazingly juicy strawberries is also a world-class mountain biking destination. It was a natural choice for both testing and shooting this season’s new bike gear.
The Sweet Protection photo shoot
Last summer you might have seen Sweet Protection ambassador Mads “Makken” Haugen biking on what looks like the edge of the world in Norway’s west coast town of Geirangerfjorden. Playing host to some of the most dramatic landscapes anywhere, Geirangerfjorden is a popular tourist attraction with its unique fjords, abundant waterfalls and towering mountains.
Paradise for mountain biking
However, less than an hour away you can escape the throngs of cruise ship tourists for a quieter place with world-class mountain biking and the juiciest strawberries you will ever taste. Some would say it’s mountain bike paradise on Earth, others just call it Valldal.
Placed between the two main tourist attractions of Trollstigen and Geirangerfjorden, Valldal was for a long time a hidden gem mostly enjoyed by the locals. Due to its location in a small valley away from the coast, Valldal is often a couple of degrees warmer than its neighbors (hence the extraordinary strawberry situation), making it the perfect summer outdoor adventure location. And indeed, it is. At least if you enjoy mountain biking.
Mountain biking on the West Coast is tough. There are no lifts to take you to the top. And with some climbs rising so quickly, this is definitely hike-a-bike territory, meaning you’ll have to earn your turns in the summertime, too. However, riding on the West Coast is spectacular and well worth the effort. If you aren´t convinced by the views at the top, the ride down is guaranteed to win you over.
Whether you prefer smooth, flowy trail or a more technical ride, Valldal offers it all. The quality ride, small-town coffee shop, strawberry fields, fjords and unique mountain views make it sound like a cliché, but it´s not. It´s Valldal.
Perfect for bikers as well as photographers
There’s no such thing as bad weather. Every day is a single-track kind of day! Don’t let a little rain stop you. Try the Hunter series from Sweet Protection if you´re in need of an upgrade.
Related: Mountain Biking in Norway
This was the perfect location for our Sweet Protection photo shoot. The views, the unique terrain and the best trails were searched for, like for instance the Romsdal´s Horn.
Another upside of the choice of location, is the fact that you will never run out of water. Waterfalls are not a rare sight, and the water quality is first class.
The History of Sweet Protection
The Sweet Protection story started in Trysil, a mountain village in Østerdalen, Norway close to Swedish border in 1988. The Sweet mantra, stronger – lighter – better, can be traced back to a school paper from 1988, made by one of the founders and design manager, Ståle N. Møller. A pioneering and visionary industrial designer on a relentless mission to let action sport enthusiasts benefit from the properties of high tech materials and manufacturing methods.
Some years down the road, and the scribbles on a paper have become the core of a unique brand identity, and in the process the mantra has evolved into a purified sentence: We create superior protection inspiring people to push their boundaries.
How an illegal skate ramp was the start of a successful protection company
Skateboarding was prohibited in Norway until 1989, as the only country in the world. Judged to be dangerous by the government. Growing up in a small town in the deep forests of eastern Norway, Ståle and his friends were clueless of how the banned sport of skateboarding was developing in other parts of Norway. Together they built a 7 meter high vert ramp hidden in the woods, and this was where it all went down until the prohibition law was repealed and a better ramp was built in the center of town.
Related: A Mountain Bike Paradise
Local shredders were supplied with handmade boards made of fine Norwegian wood out of the garage of Ståle´s parents. Ståle was also always busy improving and creating clothing and equipment for the boys, even making his own snowboard. In the mid 90’s, they made the clothes and backpacks they wanted and needed for their own expeditions, built to stand the harsh conditions on the biggest mountains.
Straight out-of-the-garage products made the world championships
In 1997, freestyle kayaking was gaining ground. The existing kayaks were crap, and Ståle made a kayak revolution by developing a Kevlar wonder for his friend and top kayaker Erik Martinsen. This was the first spark of the Sweet brand emerging. With Ståle still in design school, he made another head turner, a carbon fiber helmet Erik could use in the freestyle kayaking world championships.
Ståle’s innovative approach and fresh design was breathtaking. Everybody wanted it. In 1999 Gøran, a member of the crew, came up with the idea of establishing a new company: “Sweet North”. However, half of the name was dropped, and Sweet was born.
Snowboard legend Terje Håkonsen on board
The company was founded in 2000, and one of the first moves was to approach another uncompromising Norwegian; snowboard legend Terje Håkonsen. He saw the potential in the helmet prototype that was presented and joined the team. With Terje on board, Sweet made the move from the local garage to the international scene. Today no Sweet products leave Trysil without the influence of the team.
In 2003 Sweet made their first ISPO appearance, and immediately won the Brand New Award for best newcomer. The products had close ties to the initial, homemade gear the boys used exploring mountains in their youth.
Expanding the protection line
Until 2005 all helmet production was manufactured in Trysil, Norway. Due to capacity issues Sweet moved the production to Italy, a necessary move to continue to grow. In 2011 the first bike helmet from Sweet was put into market aimed towards the more aggressive part of the biking community. The biking range evolved to include the award winning Bushwacker, the go to helmet for single track biking. The Sweet gang continues to push revolutionary products into the market and MIPS, with their revolutionary rotational gravity impact technology, becomes an important strategic partner for Sweet, making the helmets even safer.
Aksel Lund Svindal proving the Sweet helmets to be first choice for alpine skiers
Sweet takes racing seriously and in 2012 Sweet teams up with Aksel Lund Svindal who gives the hand- crafted Rooster Corsa its debut in the alpine World Cup in Sölden, Austria on October 27 the same year. The helmet, made from pre-preg carbon and thermoplastic fibers, is baked in an autoclave, the same technique used to make Formula 1 racecars.
In 2017 Sweet introduces a new single-track bike helmet named the Dissenter and the iconic Falconer helmet for serious road bikers.
Sweet’s products have since received several domestic and international awards for design excellence as well as best gear.
All photos, except where noted, taken by Dan Milner for the Norwegian brand Sweet Protection.
We thank Sweet Protection for their kind cooperation making this article, Sweet and Safe World-Class Biking on the Norwegian Western Coast, available for Daily Scandinavian.