Borgarfjörður eystri is unrecognizable from the Iceland I know. I have this mental image of Iceland: a black canvas of volcanic rock with broad strokes of green Icelandic moss. Yet, as we pedal into Borgarfjörður eystri, these expansive black and green landscapes yield to something entirely different. The color gold reigns king.
Is bikepacking in Iceland fun on a gravel bike? That’s the one question on my mind as the plane touches down for my 5th visit to the country. With “make do with what you have” as our mantra, my two friends, Daylen, Quinton and I wanted to see if the gravel bikes we already own would be up for the challenge. I found several fat bike trip reports but very few gravel bike trip reports online, so I pour over maps, make some educated guesses, and trust I’ll figure it out as the rubber hits the road.
Below are a series of stories from a trip Gus Morton took across Iceland during winter on a fat bike with his friends Chris Burkard and Rebecca Rusch. They are reflections of what he was thinking and feeling in a particular moment and by no means an accurate account of the reality of any situation. Reflections which, as those present will likely attest, were probably far less dramatic.
Payson McElveen makes an attempt at being the first person in history to cross Iceland from coast-to-coast in a single push under human power.
“Monumental” is the eleventh layout of the Radavist 2021 Calendar. It was shot with a Sony A9ii and the Tamron 28-200mm f/2.8-5.6 di iii rxd lens outside of Radium Springs, New Mexico.
“With cooler temps on the way, it’s time we migrate to the Southwestern deserts for long and dusty rides. This was our cover image for our Dangerbird gallery. If you missed that, check it out!”
For a high-res JPG, suitable for print and desktop wallpaper*, right-click and save link as – The Radavist 2021 – November. Please, this photo is for personal use only!
(*set background to white and center for optimal coverage)
The mobile background this month comes from Iceland’s Black Sand Beach, Reynisfjara. Click here to download October’s Mobile Wallpaper.
There’s a place to get soup at the halfway point. We’ll stop there. They might have some dried fish and rugbraud to pack for dinner– traditional Icelandic bread; dark, dense, and sweet. In the past, the locals dug holes and used the heat from geothermal water to bake the bread. We pack a sandwich to go, throw a leg over the top tube and let the wind carry us down the way. When the wind is your friend, there’s no feeling like it.
The table has a basket of homemade hot rolls; some with dried fruit, some with seeds, all with a bit of salt. There are two loaves of hot fresh bread, wrapped in towels and a plate of cheese– local paprika and pepper sheep’s cheese, brie, gorgonzola, sliced Havarti with labels for different percentages of fat. There’s sliced ham and salami, hot scrambled eggs with herbs, bacon, and butter. There are sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, red bell pepper and pickled fish, a plate of fresh fruit– slices of melon, pineapple, grapes, apples, and oranges, all perfectly ripe. There’s thick Icelandic yogurt, a carafe of coffee, and containers of juice. There’s cereal and milk and homemade jam.
Wind in your face, wind at your back, pockets of light, sideways rain, hot springs, wild blueberries, glaciers, Arctic fox, sheep laying on the thermally heated roads, waffles and whip cream– this is the Iceland I’ve seen from the bike and we’ve only been here for three days. I’ve heard about a volcano erupting in the past year, polar bears floating on ice from Greenland to the north coast of the Island in the past ten years and a pregnant cow that swam 2km across a fjord to escape the slaughterhouse. The substance of legends, these stories are actually true. This place is dynamic. Volcanoes and lava create new land. The wind and rain create new lakes. This place is constantly changing and you feel it while you ride through it.
“I’ve ridden many thousands of miles on my bike all these years and I can’t say I regret anything… There were rough times but also good times. You just know it’s a challenge that you’ve got to overcome.”
We all have roads that lodge in our mind, routes we want to take. One such route is across the Sprengisandur, an uninhabited highland plateau crowned by an 826-metre pass in the central ranges of Iceland.
Plenty have tried to cross, and plenty have failed. In 2015, Rapha sent filmmaker George Marshall and framebuilder Tom Donhou to attempt the crossing. But after days of high winds, the pair were forced to stop. Four years later, George returned to lead another group across the 170 miles between the end of the tarmac near Reykjavik and the northern stronghold town of Akureyri. But they were far from being the first to make the crossing.
Over 60 years before, Ron Bartle joined Dick Phillips, Bernard Heath and their guide Raymond Bottomley for the first-ever unsupported ride across the Sprengisandur. They spent ten days in the wilderness, crossing rivers in inflatable dinghies and pushing their bikes for miles over boulder fields until they finally reached the first farmstead in the north.
Now in his mid-eighties and still an avid cyclist, Ron has recounted the story of his unexpected Icelandic adventure. And at a time when many of us cannot ride the roads lodged in our minds, he reminds us that they’ll still be there this year and the next.
One of the riders on the TransIceland trip Reportage we hosted with Chris Burkard was pro cyclist Emily Batty. In this video series, she documents the journey across Iceland from her perspective. Episode one is the setup and episode two covers the beginning of this harrowing ride…
As a supplement to the Reportage we hosted from Chris Burkard, Emily Batty, Eric Batty, and Adam Morka’s trans-Icelandic route is this beautiful video, dubbed “A Line in the Sand”. Enjoy!
Do you remember the crazy trans-Icelandic voyage featuring our friend Chris Burkard from last month? Well, we’d like to give his video UNNUR a shout out here. Enjoy this somber piece on your Friday afternoon!
“Elli Thor is an Icelandic photographer, surfer, and former kayaker. A decade ago Elli nearly drowned under a waterfall while kayaking a challenging Icelandic river. The near death experience became a catalyst for personal growth and his professional career. After walking away from kayaking, a newfound passion for surfing and the birth of his daughter Unnur gave him a new perspective worth living for.”
Editor’s intro: I’ve long been inspired by the work of Chris Burkard, particularly his work in Iceland, so when I saw he had taken up bikepacking and was about to embark on a crazy tour across Iceland’s interior, I reached out to see if he’d be willing to share his story. Read on below for an intro by Chris and an interview…
The plan was simple… Ride across Iceland following a little know, and even less explored medieval route through the highlands of Iceland. A route that skirts Europe’s second largest glacier, numerous active volcanos, and areas which had recently been closed due to emission of poisonous natural gases. A route by which all accounts is made up of mostly deep black sand, jagged lava fields, frigid glacial rivers, steaming geothermal fissures, and is populated only by ghosts, witches, trolls, and hidden people.
Elements is a short video featuring a group of friends exploring the F Roads in Iceland.
Here’s your weekly reminder to get out on the roads less traveled this weekend.
The thing about Iceland is it’s really difficult to capture its vast fjords and cascading waterfalls. The place is just pure magic. Mark Matthews takes to riding in this majestic landscape.