Touring Iceland by fatbike – Bikepacking the highlands
Sand. Black sand as far as the eye can see. I am biking across Iceland’s barren highlands. The next spring with drinking water is 60 kilometers away. I’m surrounded by fields of lava and black sand. My fatbike – equipped with ORTLIEB bikepacking panniers – floats above the 10 km long sand passages and also masters steep climbs. I enjoy the view: bizarr lava sculptures in colours ranging from dark black lava to grey reddish. It’s fascinating! I’m all by myself, entirely alone in the endless fields of lava. Despite strong winds I reach the spring in the early afternoon. The banks are covered by green moos, together with pink blossoms it is a friendly contrast to the black and grey ground. The water comes from a well and I enjoy the remaining afternoon in the sun.
One river crossing follows the next
Next morning everything is covered in thick fog. However, I can still see the road markings. I get started and soon the fog disappears. 35 kilometers of hilly terrain is ahead of me: steep tracks, almost impossible to ride, then along the ridge, and the same downhill. Around noon I follow the fringe of a glacier, including 10 river crossings within 30 kilometers. The first three creeks are more or less flat and I can easily bike through them. Then there is a deeper, more than knee-high roaring glacial river. I did everything wrong that can be done wrong. The ford that I chose ran slightly against the current. Therefore my loaded bike was pulled away from me at the deepest point. The fatbike swims on top, but the left Gravel-Pack is pressed under water by the strong currents, same the handlebar with the Handlebar-Pack. I tried to pull my bike, fought against the current, lost my balance. Finally I reached a gravel bar, exhausted, with a bleeding knee. That was close! I sit down for a few minutes taking a breath. Soon I get started and it keeps on going: hill, river, hill, river and so on.
Soon I know how to do it. I understand that the fat tires make the bike float. This effect can be used to manoeuvre the fatbike including luggage safely across the river to the other bank. In the evening it starts to rain, I’m now getting wet from above… I pitch up my tent on green grass land after–for the time being – the last river. I have enough: 800 meters altitude, 65 kilometers, 10 rivers, and 11 hours on the go.
Cheers waterproof equipment
Only now I find the time to check out whether my ORTLIEB bags are waterproof. Humidity and small gravel had built up inside the roll closure of the Gravel-Pack, but fortunately everything is dry, no water inside the pack. In this bag I store my food and electronic gear. The Handlebar-Pack with my sleeping bag is dry, and the Accessory-Bag is a bit humid, I hadn’t closed it properly. I am so relieved and happy to have dry gear and waterproof equipment. Soon I’m settled in my tent. I put on some dry things and enjoy my dry and warm sleeping bag. It’s been a tough ride!
Written by Waltraud Schulze