The unparalleled grandeur of Iceland is hard to put into words. Our three-day, 90% off-road adventure from the town of Selfoss provided us with breathtaking scenery around every turn and over every crest. Iceland’s stunning landscape is courtesy of the island’s active volcanic and geothermal activity. Geologic processes such as earthquakes, geysers, volcanic eruptions and more, have all contributed to the magnificent terrain.
Our host for our ride was Skúli Már Gunnarsson, along with his two partners Guðjón Þórisson and Ólaf Björnsson. They represented Ride with Locals, a team that has quickly become the “go to” for dirt adventures in Iceland. With 22,000km of trails at their disposal, we knew our guides had a great trip in store for us. Skúli started the tour company two years ago. After riding sport-bikes on the island for many years and meeting many foreign dual-sport riders, he realized a problem that many of them faced. The problem being how difficult it was for these riders to transport their bikes to the island located in the middle of the North Atlantic. Skúli’s solution: a fleet of six new Husqvarna 701 Enduro bikes.
After an easy direct flight from Los Angeles to Reykjavik, we met up with Már Gunnarsson to talk about the next three days of riding. Our plan was to sleep in remote huts on the highlands each night and spend as much of the day aboard our Husky 701 machines. Our bikes were supplied with some small saddle bags and the rest of our gear was loaded into a 4x4 support truck. The truck also pulled an extra bike on a trailer just in case we had a mechanical that couldn’t be fixed on the trail.
Our guide for day one was Ólaf. After a 35km blast up some asphalt and a quick gas stop, we cut onto a double track trail where the real fun began. It rains with regularity in Iceland, and that meant no dust and great traction. Within the first five minutes, we knew it was going to be a good day.
The temperature in late August was around 55 degrees Fahrenheit, so we were layered up under our new Fly Terra Trek waterproof ADV jackets and pants. We also knew we would be in for some water crossings and rain, so Alpinestars’ Corozal boots were our first choice to keep our feet dry. As we encountered our first water crossings, things were going well and our gear choices proved to be perfect. As the rivers got wider, Ólaf recommended we walk our bikes across a deep section with a faster current. We quickly realized that having waterproof boots and riding gear did not help when you were trudging through water above your knees. The icy water gradually seeped into our pant legs and into the top of our boots. It would be a gamble to try and ride across this obstacle. If we were to drop a bike, the water would get into the motor and that could end very badly. So, the decision was to opt for wet feet and wet everything else!
Our first night’s hut was very peaceful, and after a long day on the bikes, Skúli cracked the beers open and barbecued for the group. The hospitality of our hosts was the thing that stayed with me. These guys genuinely wanted to show us their country, and by the end of the first day we were all bench racing about our highlights and near misses on the trail. We were able to pace the ride ourselves and had enough time throughout the three days to stop and shoot some images, never feeling rushed to make up the kilometers before dark.
Our second and third days were definitely a big adventure as we navigated back and forth across various types of terrain. From black sand tracks to rocky hill climbs, and of course, plenty of river crossings, our route gave us a taste of all Iceland had to offer. Our cabin on day two had an even more remote feeling, but after another long day’s action, we were all happy to relax and get some rest.
We all ended the tour in one piece, and with just two flats and one water tip-over (by yours truly), Iceland left its mark on us.
The beauty of doing a tour with Ride with Locals is that, well, they are locals. They know all the secret highland trails and where to find the breathtaking vistas. Ólaf is the trail specialist. He has been riding the area for twenty years, and for the most part, has navigated without referring to GPS. To quote the company’s website, “sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, and in the middle of nowhere you find yourself.” This was true of our trip and it’s easy to say we returned home with a changed perspective.
If you want to go and ride in this incredibly epic location, contact the guys at Ride with Locals. Just remember to bring extra gloves, waterproof boots and socks! The all-inclusive costs (including bike rentals and lodging) for a 3-day tour is 2500EUR, 3300EUR for a 4-day tour, and 4400EUR for six days. Just bring you own gear and get ready to ride some of the best terrain on the planet. Go to www.ridewithlocals.is to plan your trip!