Amongst the most prestigious winter rallies; the Elephants in Germany, the Dragon in Great Britain, the Millevaches in France and the Pingouinos in Spain, the Krystall Rally holds a special place in the motorcycling calendar most notably for its amazing location.
The Kristall Rally happens in the most unlikely of places and at the most inhospitable of times ... Norway, in mid-February. The Norwegian winter can easily herald temperatures -28C below and this makes it a meeting for only the hardiest of rallyists!
The ultimate challenge in the ice and snow
Since its inception in 1970 the rally has often been held in different Norwegian locations, the number of participants being limited by the local accommodation available. In the past, it was restricted to 100, but more recently has climbed to around 200 and pre-registration is a must if you want to avoid the cold and secure a hotel bed for the night.
There are no planned events at the rally site. The fun and excitement is provided purely by the challenge of the tough winter journey from your point of departure to the rally itself and the satisfaction of meeting old friends and making new ones with mutual rallying and motorcycling interests.
The Krystall Rally organisers seek to maintain the original spirit of the gathering by giving an air of secrecy and mysticism and few bikers have managed to achieve this extreme adventure on ice and snow.
Maarten Mager (1938 - 2019)
The origin of the Krystall Rally has something in common with that of the Millevaches: same cause, same effect and we owe the establishment of the meeting to Maarten Mager, a Dutchman who made his first trip to Norway in 1957 and fell in love with the country.
He had taken part to the Elephant meeting in Germany and his trip to Norway gave him the inspiration to organise a similar event in his 'adopted' country.
Maarten Mager passed away a few years go after a long illness but without doubt there was never anyone more important to the history of Norwegian motorcycling.
Mager possessed enormous enthusiasm, humor and charisma coupled with a shrewd understanding of people. He was creative and a gifted organiser, indeed he was the driving force behind legendary local rallies, the Troll and the Norgestreff as well as the Krystall.
In the early 1960s, he published the very first motorcycle magazine in Norway: 'Motorsyklisten' (The Motorcyclist). In 1963 he founded the first real Norwegian motorcycle touring club: the MC-Entusiasters Klubb in Oslo, and in 1965, he organised in Grinddaheim the first meeting of the now legendary Troll-Rally.
The 1970s saw him organise the Kristall-Rally, assisted by his friend Leif Arnesen.
In 1967, Maarten Mager started a business selling MZ and BMW motorcycles. In 1969, he journeyed to the Milan motorcycle show and became the importer for Moto Guzzi until around 1999, later importing Kreidler, Fantic and EMZ sidecars as well.
He loved motorcycle outfits and organised many sidecar events. As a pioneer, he also promoted 'ski joering' events in Norway.Towards the end of his life Maarten discovered a deep passion for Trial and was a regular contributor to magazine and news articles.
He was a talented photographer too and regularly collaborated with the German motorcycle magazine 'Das Motorrad'.
First Kristall Rally in 1970
Originally, Maarten Mager and two friends: Leif Arnesen and Thor H. Gulbrandsen from Eidsvoll, had planned to organise the 1970 meeting as a one-off event.
However, when the first rally took place in 1970, the meeting at the Femund Hotel in Femundsenden, close to the Swedish border was so well received that Leif Arnesen had no choice but to keep it going for the next three years.
The Krystall 71, 72 and 73 took place at Narbuvollen in Os, south of Bergen.
The meeting 74 was cancelled because of the world oil crisis.
There was no Krystall rally in 1975 either so Maarten Mager organised the Holketreffet in Dalen in Telemarkinstead.
From 1976 onwards, the organisation of the Krystall was entrusted to Leif Arnesen and it became then an annual event in the winter calendar, although it was held over the ensuing years at more than a dozen different sites in Norway.
Though many rallyists have taken part in the Krystall Rally several times, only two of them have attended every meeting since its inception in 1970. Respect to these two heroes: Thor H. Gulbrandsen and Odd Annar Kristiansen!
Preparations and tips for the adventure
Of course, given the difficult weather conditions, it is a given that a Krystall Rally entrant has to be very well prepared, both in terms of the rider's equipment and the motorcycle itself.
The organisers recommend carrying the best winter gear against the cold, studded tyres, (allowed in Norway), and stringent checks as to the state of the roads. Weather conditions make the roads unpredictable, snow and ice being a constant danger and of course daylight hours are limited that far north in the depths of the Nordic winter.
This is not a cheap trip and the cost of living in Scandinavia is particularly high. If you're thinking of going, then a budget of not less than 2000€ is to be expected.
Despite the extreme conditions, for some hard-core Norwegian winter rallyists the Krystall rally is thought to be a bit soft for their liking.
Staying in the comfort of a hotel is, in their opinion too easy....the true ultimate challenge for them are rallies where you have to live and sleep in a tent!
They prefer meetings such as the Busk Vintertreff, (held mid-March with temperatures well above -10C, but they still call it a winter rally) or the Heteslaget (usually held end of January) or the Primus rally (end of February).
These rallies can provide a truly unique experience where you might awake to find -28C!
- Jean-Francois Helias
Hölze Hofmann missed the Krystall Rallye for the Covid years but successfully met the challenge in 2023, all the way from Switzerland. Photos were sent during the event by the marvels of the Interweb.