For years I’ve always had a dream of riding somewhere desolate and remote on my bike. I thought that dream was just going to stay a dream as I’m a normal guy with a wife and 3 kids. However, last December during a bivvy ride with my mate, John ‘Climber’ I planted a seed of riding in Iceland. After a ‘discussion’ with my wife Jo, that dream was looking like it was going happen.
After a few months of planning and looking at maps, John and I packed the bikes and kit and headed for Iceland late July for a week. Things didn’t start too good as I’d packed a torque wrench and a 15mm spanner in my hand luggage, D’oh! We’d hired a 4×4 from a local guy who met us at the airport. After a short drive we were assembling the bikes on his driveway with the Icelandic summer sun beating down on us. Within an hour we were off….
We didn’t really have a set plan, we had some ideas on where to go which looking back was a good thing as we didn’t put ourselves under any pressure to be here or there. After stocking up on food in Reykjavik we headed out on the quiet roads to the first tourist hotspot, Pingvellir National Park. It’s known for the Alþing (Althing), the site of Iceland’s parliament from the 10th to 18th centuries and also the dramatic point where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates run through the island. This was where my Salsa Bucksaw and John’s Travers Bat Fastard christened their Jumbo Jims on the Icelandic ground. That dream was now a reality! The weather was a surprisingly 70°F, so the wet weather gear stayed in the bags and it was shorts and short sleeved tops. The dramatic split in the earth’s surface gave a surreal view at how ‘new’ the island was. The pace was social as we both enjoy taking photos and getting footage for the film. Once back in the 4×4 we made our way to Geysir and the enormous Gullfoss falls. It was now getting late and despite it being 11:30pm the sky was still full of daylight. We found a great wild camp spot downstream of the falls where we pitched for our first night in Iceland.
The morning was sunny but very windy so our plan of riding up the Hekla volcano was put on hold as it would have been too gusty. So we played tourist once again and headed to the Haifoss waterfalls on our way to Landmannalaugar. It was here where we got our bikes out for a pootle around the stunning area. The terrain was volcanic and the bikes handled the surface with ease.
After wild camping in a 500 year old lava field we headed up on the Landmannalaugar walking trail. Yes it was busy with walkers from around the world but they loved the bikes and a few even stopped us for a photo of them! The route climbed up past sulphur steam released from the volcanic rumblings beneath us. Pockets of snow lined the mountains around us as we struggled to comprehend that we were riding our bikes with some of the most dramatic stunning views our eyes had looked at before. After climbing for a good couple of hours we spotted a large area with bubbling water rising from the ground and yet more sulphur being released in the atmosphere so we made our way down for more photo’s. After a few minutes of taking photo’s I made a mistake, I assumed the grass on the ground I was walking on was the same I had walked on all my life but I stepped onto some soft mud. The thing is, this wasn’t ‘normal’ soft mud as it was boiling hot. After a split second I felt an intense burning on my left foot as I hopped around to find somewhere safe to stand. I ripped off my cycling shoe and sock and quickly found a glacial stream to soak my now very red foot. After soaking it for 10 minutes I had thoughts that my riding was now over as I knew I had scolded my foot and was thinking how big the blister was going to be. During the descent the views took the feeling of pain away as we ripped up the compacted surface we had rode up. Luckily as it’s a busy trail there was a mountain rescue centre at the start so I popped in to get patched up.
The next day was spent mostly in the 4×4 driving along the forever bumpy F208 road. And to add even more drama to the trip, John had a text message from the guy who we hired the car from saying that there was an earthquake measuring 3.6 on the Richter scale on the volcano Katla and that we should be aware! And the thing is, we were heading very close to Katla that day.
We got talking to a park ranger at Langisjor who told us there was a risk of the ring road being closed on the south of the island due to the rising rivers coming from the melting glacier on the volcano. So we had to leave the bike in the 4×4 for the day and drive to the road to try and get across before it was closed. After passing through the ‘cloud’ which looked like a sand storm from afar we were safely over the bridge. With the drama over we could now concentrate on riding bikes again. We pitched about 1km away from another glacier (Sólheimajökull) but I made sure we stayed 200 foot above, just in case.
We set our alarms for 5:30am as the plan was to visit the popular Solheimasandur plane wreck which has featured in many videos on the internet. Being there at 6:30am with no one else around was simply amazing. The black volcanic sand led us to the coast where the North Atlantic Sea was as calm as a city pond. The ride back up from the coast was just as good as we had volcano’s Eyjafjallajökull to our left and Katla to our right and the plane wreck right in front of us, just stunning. We then had a ride close by to the glacier we had camped near the night before. With a few creaks and cracks the glacier was not the place to hang around by.
Then we made our way down the very rough track to Thorsmork, with its numerous river crossings the 4×4 was a good call. After finding yet another wild camp spot we headed up the glacial flood plain. This is where the fat bikes came into their own as they handled the large glacial rocks with ease. Keeping on top of the technique to keep pedalling was the tough part.
We headed further and further up the valley until we passed a corner and the Krossarjokull glacier came into view. This was huge, it was standing over 3,000 feet high and it was just a few miles ahead.
On our last day with met up with local rider Haukur who showed us around the magnificent city of Reykjavik. Once again the tourists and locals were intrigued by our bikes. Surprisingly not many locals ride fat bikes in Iceland. We popped into Lauf HQ and met up with Benedict who filled us in with all things Lauf. The week was now at an end and we only had a few hours of rain and that was overnight, so although we had the best possible time I doubt we actually experienced Iceland and its fluctuating weather.
This trip just proves that dreams do come true, where next then……..?