Icelandic Wishlist: A ferry from St Johns to Reykjavik please!

Iceland is at the intersection of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, so in essence it’s part of North America and Europe. Unfortunately, only Europe is making an effort to connect to the place.

You can take a ferry from Denmark to Iceland with your own bike and tour this spectacular island for just over 1000 Euro (personal cabin – half that if you share) in the summer and for less than 400 Euro in the off season. If an enterprising ferry operator would start sailing from St John’s Newfoundland to Reykjavik, not only would we North American types be able to explore this beautiful and relatively empty piece of the world, but we’d also have a land line to Europe since we could explore Iceland and then ferry to Denmark if means and time permitted.


I’m just a couple of days past a 9 day odyssey around Iceland in a rental car, and all I could think of was how brilliant it would have been on my Triumph Tiger that is sitting in a garage in Canada.

The ferry wouldn’t have to run all the time, but four sailings a year would allow a number of adventurous North American motorcyclists to discover the magic of Iceland, and maybe wander on to Europe itself on their own two wheels.

It’s in between them!
Costs to get to the European leg of your ride.  With a St John’s to Iceland ferry you’d be able to surface travel without special cargo headaches from Los Angeles to Tokyo across Eurasia.













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Icelandic Motorcycle Culture

I’m sitting in England thinking about our 9 days in Iceland.  We covered over two thousand kilometres in the land of fire and ice, alas, none of it on two wheels, but I was always on the lookout for motorcycle culture and there is no shortage of it on Iceland.  In a future post I’m going to hammer out all the advice I’ve garnered from our Icelandic reconnaissance.

You see a lot of BMW GSes on Iceland.  Viking Biking rents them out of Reykjavik and a ferry delivers them from mainland Europe on the east coast.  The adventure bike is the perfect motorcycle genre for Iceland as the roads vary from smooth tarmac to potholed hard dirt, and everything in between.





On our second day I discovered another side of Icelandic motorcycling culture.  The big-twin cruiser rider can also be found here, albeit in much reduced numbers.  The Norse Riders Iceland Chapter are a mashup of your North American patch club with viking imagery.  Like every other biker I’ve talked to, they look rough but are the nicest people when you chat with them.

Later that day we were making tracks back to Keflavik Airport to return the rental car when we came across some massive lava fields in the south west of the island.  We’d been driving 20 minutes at a time without seeing traffic either way, and this was during the height of tourist season when a number of people had asked me if we should be going there then.  If you like empty roads, you’ll love Iceland.  Through the lava fields eventually came two GSes making time on the empty, winding roads.  I can only imagine the smiles on those riders’ faces.

Even in the capital of Reykjavik you’re looking at something the size of a small North American town.  Traffic moves all the time and there are seldom any backups.  Out in the country you’re making tracks all the time with sporadic traffic at worst.

You’re driving on the right, so you’ve got none of the headaches involved in riding in the UK or Australia/NZ, and the drivers themselves are polite and efficient.  If you pull up behind a slower moving vehicle they’ll turn on their right indicator when it’s safe for you to pass.  We made good time in a hatchback and then a mini-van with six people and luggage; on a bike it’d be heaven.

This left me wondering what I’d most enjoy riding in Iceland.  The Tiger I’ve got sitting in a garage back home would be the ideal weapon – able to make good use of tarmac but able to manage gravel and packed dirt/potholes.  Iceland is adventure bike nirvana.

A couple of days later we were out near Lake Myvatn and came across a couple of Germans on KTMs.  With their light weight soft panniers and nimble bikes capable of handing any rough stuff, these enduros would be another good choice for riding Iceland.

Those KTMs slice down the valley of the Krefla Geo-thermal power plant (Iceland’s main source of electricity and heating is green/geo-thermal energy).  

On our first day with two families, 3 kids and a minivan, we did what all Canadians do and covered a lot of miles, all while repeatedly ignoring the satnav.

The vast majority of this drive was on tarmac, but the satnav kept telling us to turn back on the north shore of the peninsula and we soon found out why.  There were over 100kms of gravel roads that soon devolved into hard parked pot-holed earth roads.  While battling those roads you’re also wrapping around fjords and experiencing blind corners at fifteen degree inclines.  It’s beautiful, but it’s a tough road, especially if you’re still hundreds of kilometres from where you’re going to lay your head that night.  We saw a number of campers just pull up in a fjiord for the night to enjoy the quiet and the view.

It’d be a challenging ride on an adventure bike, but you’d never forget the scenery.  Based on how exhausting the car ride was, I’d suggest 2 full riding days to do this on a bike, and be ready for some technically challenging roads on day two.

 

Snaesfellsyokel: a stratovolcano in a land of rift built shield volcanoes.  There is a road across the back of it, if you dare. Rental cars are restricted from using F roads, and considering how rough some of the ‘main’ roads where, F roads must be quite technical.

 

Your typical busy Icelandic summer road – if you like the view you’ll get a new one like this every ten minutes.

 

Lava fields

 

1st day in Iceland: driving Canadian style (huge distances, various road surfaces)…

 

Taken five minutes past midnight – that’s pretty much as dark as it gets – dusky.

Riding in Iceland isn’t an oddity.  You’ll meet people from all across Europe exploring the continent’s last real frontier.  Whether you’re a cruiser, a sport or an adventure rider, you’ll find your people here on two wheels enjoying some Jurassic Park quality landscapes and empty, sinuous roads.


If you’re into exploration of any kind, Iceland delivers.

A 4×4 off-road ready camper van?  Yep, saw that (parked on black lava sand at the base of a cinder volcano!)

 

This couple were pros.  Their packing was exceptionally organized and the next morning they were up in a light rain in full waterproofs and gone before 8am.








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Last Grasps: A Well Timed Post Canada Day Ride

I’ve only got about a week left before we’re off on airplanes, so I’m trying to find reasons to exercise the Tiger before five weeks of motorcycling abstinence.  After a couple of days of crowded rooms and even more crowded Canada Day festivals I needed some quality alone time.  Nothing does that like a motorcycle ride does.


It wasn’t an inspired ride, and it took me to my usual haunts, but it was a lucky ride.  With thunderstorms passing through the area, they were where ever I wasn’t, which was good because I was travelling light.


The idea was to get to Higher Ground at the Forks of the Credit before it got long-weekend crazy.  I managed to get a coffee, look at some Italian exotica and then get out of there before it got really full.  


With the ice cream shop owner moving bikes that were parking out of the way anyway and signs all down the rest of the building stating no motorcycle parking, I’m starting to wonder if Belfountain is getting fed up with its place as a summer time ride stop.  It’s a boon to the local economy, but some people seem intent on stopping it rather than embracing it.  Every rider I saw there was considerate and cautious in entering the parking lot without revving loud pipes or blocking others, but I guess the locals have had enough.  I’m not sure how much longer Higher Ground can be the sole reason to stop there if everyone else in the town is telling us to go elsewhere.


I had Lee Park’s Total Control on my mind as I navigated The Forks, and damned if I wasn’t more stable and smooth through the hairpin corner by looking over my shoulder into the corner.  You’d think looking away from your direction of travel would be counter intuitive, and I don’t get much opportunity to practice it on arrow straight SW Ontario roads, but with some practice it’s definitely the way to go.

After a ride up and down The Forks I aimed north past the Caledon Ski Club and toward Hockley Valley.  It was a lovely, relatively empty ride up to the Terra Nova Public House.


The TNPH had a summer salad with fresh rainbow trout on it that was pretty much perfect, and it let me duck inside and watch the tarmac dry off from the downpour that had passed through ten minutes before I got there.


After a quick lunch I did the TNPH loop before heading down River Road to Horning’s Mills.  Mr Lee’s Total Control habits were still playing though my head and I was focused on late apex entries and clean lines while looking through the corners.  It’s funny how you feel like you’re going slower when you’re going faster on a motorbike.


River Road was generally empty and I got a clean run all the way to Horning’s Mills.  It was time to head home, so I cut south west through the wind fields of Shelburne before stopping in Grand Valley for a coffee.  A GS650 rider and his wife were sitting in the cafe and we got into a good bike chat.  As a fellow rider intent on making miles rather than a scene, we had a meeting of minds on what a motorbike should be for, it was a good talk.


The final ride home was, again, relatively empty and I pulled into the driveway mid-afternoon.  I’m still hoping to get down to the full eclipse over the Tail of the Dragon when I get back from and Iceland/UK foray.  Perhaps a motorcycling opportunity will appear while away, but if not, I’ll get in some miles this week to make sure my riding battery is topped up.

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