I’d always dreamed of cycling through the ever-changing landscape of Iceland. It’s a country I’ve been fortunate to visit multiple times, and as a photographer, I have been captivated by its contrasting natural beauty. So when the opportunity arose to visit accompanied by my newly face-lifted trusty Kevin of Steel, a.k.a Lunar Kev, I knew I had to make it happen. Fast forward to the end of September 2021; I found myself on a boat sailing through the East Fjords of Iceland with friends Benjamin Hardman, Alex Strohl, and Chris Burkard. The four of us were also preparing to ride from Seyōisfjörōur 415 kilomtres down to Jökulsárlón.
Day One: Seyōisfjörōur - Fáskrúðsfjörður 111.67 km/1,717 elevation
The first day of riding started as soon as we left our accommodation in Seyōisfjörōur. It was straight up, no warm-up, a little spicy but a great way to clear out the lungs and remind the legs why they were here. I quickly realised we were riding through the mountain pass from the film, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty; you know that scene where he flies downhill on a longboard, which I thought was pretty cool. Soon after, we were met with some savage headwinds at the top of our second climb, and Ben got blown off his bike! The winds in Iceland are common and unavoidable in most parts, a small price to pay for the incredible surroundings. Ben recovered quickly, and in a matter of seconds, we were all screaming down an epic descent. The best part was the cold can of coke waiting at the bottom at an N1 station and our finish location for the day, Fáskrúðsfjörður.
Day Two: Fáskrúðsfjörður- Berefjörður 77.49 km/ 712 elevation
Being British, I’m not opposed to a bit of rain, but day two brought an Icelandic combo of wind and rain that I’d never experienced before. It was overall a pretty brutal day, and we left early to avoid the big storm that was on its way. Despite the early start, challenges ahead included closed roads and rough conditions, even the locals warned us that we probably shouldn’t be out riding. However, sometimes you only get one opportunity to ride somewhere, so you need to make the most of all that gets thrown at you. One highlight of the day was fashioning some plastic bags as waterproof socks and finding hotdogs along the way to boost our energy levels. I even stuffed a couple of hotdogs into my bib cargo pockets as a pick me up for later during our ride. Who knew that cold, soggy hotdogs could taste so good!
We were soaked and frozen, but morale was high as we reached our destination for the day, Berefjörður. Once hot showers were out of the way, our remaining mission was drying out our kit. The only challenge was using the only hairdryer in our rooms, which surprisingly worked a treat!
Day Three: Berefjörður - Hófn 151.33 km/1,311 elevation
The headwind express was still chugging its way through the fjords and bashed us around all day long, at every given opportunity. It might have been the coldest I’ve ever been riding my bike, so when a sign for a natural hot spring in Djúpivogurin appeared, we had no hesitation making the pit stop. One of the most extraordinary things I love about bikepacking is the unexpected locations you stumble across and how that can turn your day completely around. After an elongated stop at the hot spring, it was time to head-on, despite the difficulty to leave. Upon leaving, Ben started having some knee niggles that made riding hard, so we worked together and managed to help him cross the finish line for the day in Hófn. Dinner that evening was consumed quickly, and being back indoors, out of the elements, felt bloody fantastic.
Day Four: Hófn- Jökulsárlón 73.36 km/ 206 elevation
Our final day of the trip brought us to the Jökulsárlón, Glacier Lagoon, with slightly less horrendous weather conditions (only just) than the days before. Jökulsárlón is one of Iceland's most popular attractions due to its stunning natural beauty. People flock here all year round to watch the free-flowing icebergs that pass through the lagoon. It was the perfect location to finish our ride and reflect on the lucky few days we had in this wonderful country. We were feeling super thankful for the opportunity to be able to ride here. It also made us start to think about where our next trip might take us.
I couldn’t recommend riding in Iceland more; it’s a humbling experience. I’ve ridden many longer days with much more significant elevation gains on previous trips; however, the ride numbers don’t seem as important when riding in Iceland. It is more about surviving the elements, making good decisions, trying to stay warm and dry, and always looking for that next hot bowl of soup.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these few anecdotes from me, and I hope to be reporting on another bikepacking trip soon.
Ride safe, Steve.