Iceland Bikepacking Route, Gear and the Ambitious Timeline

Like most athletes this year, I’ve been blurring the lines of purpose-built fitness and fun all summer long. Training has been a blend of epic long rides with family and friends that have been more route-centric than training zones and structure.

Maintaining a stable baseline of fitness has been essential to performance and sanity, and it’s been pretty fun taking a casual approach to training while still pushing the limits and gradually increasing the workload as we near closer to our bikepacking trip across Iceland.

A trend begins to emerge. As most things Adam and I do, it’s a pretty funny starting point, and opposed to starting small and scaling the idea, we went big out of the gate. This will be an intro to bikepacking for both of us. However, the route and journey itself will be anything but an intro. We are tackling one of the hardest routes on the planet, with more than likely adverse conditions, significant river crossings, terrain that will test equipment, and duration exceeding our ability to self support ourselves. The physical and mental capacity required will be enormous, and that’s only providing we don’t have any catastrophic bike or body breakdowns, which is possible.

The Route

Many people have bike packed across Iceland before. We certainly aren’t the first, but to our knowledge, nobody has ridden from the furthest eastern point, across the heart of the interior, and ending at the further western point. Initially, we thought the route would be around 930 km, but after additional mapping of our journey, we will be closer to 1100 km.

Of course, this brings on some serious challenges and especially when attempting the route un-supported. We are carrying all of our gear and food required to complete the trip without outside support. Food alone will be a significant challenge to overcome. I plan to take close to 30,000 calories for the journey, and I will still be at a deficit each day. We don’t have the carrying capacity to meet our daily calorie expenditure. We aim to complete the entire route over eight days, but there is a strong possibility that could end up being ten days if we encounter significant wind storms, heavy rain, or river crossings and lengthy detours to cross safely. Oh, and did I mention the Volcano that erupted in 2011 and shut down transatlantic air travel for a month is once again showing signs of activity? Our route takes us just north of this very same volcano.

Day 1: Dalatangi to Hallormstaðurskógur Fjords, Forrest, Lakeside
Day 2: Hallormstaðurskógur to Laugarfell Valleys, Highlands, Waterfalls, Mountains
Day 3: Laugarfell to Askja Rivers, Highlands, Hot Waterfalls, Mountains
Day 4: Askja to Kistufell Rivers, Highlands, Sand, Mountains
Day 5: Kistufell to Nýidalur Mountains, Glaciers, Black Sand, Highlands
Day 6: Nýidalur to Ingólfsskáli Mountains, Glaciers, Vast Tundra, Highlands
Day 7: Ingólfsskáli to Hveravellir Geothermal, Glaciers, Vast Tundra, Highlands
Day 8: Hveravellir to Arnavatn Litla Lakes, Glaciers, Vast Tundra, Highlands
Day 9: Arnavatn Litla to Hvammsfjörður Lakes, Fjords, Mtn. Passes
Day 10: Hvammsfjörður to Djúpifjörður Lakes, Fjords, Mtn. Passes
Day 11: Djúpifjörður to Bjargtangar Lakes, Fjords, Mtn. Passes

The Gear

I will be riding my Trek Supercaliber outfitted with as many bikepacking bags as possible, and I will be carrying a backpack as well. I’ve gone thin on clothing despite knowing the weather will likely be cold, wet, and windy. All of us will be carrying only the essentials. We will be running 2.4 – 2.6 tires to maximize our footprint for the sandy sections on the west side of the island. Hopefully, by the time we hit the west side of the island, the bikes will be significantly lighter.

I’m running Sram AXS electronic shifting, which is a bit of an unknown with the water crossings, but we will see! We have enough portable lithium battery packs to keep our devices charged, and Lululemon provides all of our camp clothing, and Santini provides our riding clothing. We have the essentials to complete the trip, but nothing more. Two chamois each for ten days, three pairs of socks each, one riding jacket each, booties, gloves, lightweight sleeping bags, and camping pads, and some essential camp clothing to change into each day. We’ve also sought out calorie-dense foods while trying to meet our nutrition requirements.

The Timeline

As I sit here on the plane and write this out, I’m nervous and excited. We will build bikes as soon as we land, drive to our drop point the following day, and then on August 19th, and we will set out to complete the eight-day journey. We’ve done as much reconnaissance as we can, but there are still so many unknowns. I’m feeling fit and as prepared as I can be.

If you want some behind the scenes video insights, check my latest vlog on the trip where I outline some of the gear required to complete the journey.