Meet Oliver Andorfer, a passionate Austrian cyclist fueled by a love for mountains and a thirst for limitless adventure. With a special affinity for gravel biking and bikepacking trips, Oliver seizes every opportunity to ride, exploring trails, gravel paths, and asphalt roads with unwavering enthusiasm.
Adventures without limitations? No problem. Oliver's extraordinary experience of pedaling through Iceland, renowned for its diverse landscapes and natural wonders, could only be achieved on one bike: our very own URS!
Join Oliver as he embarks on an awe-inspiring exploration, encountering breathtaking scenery, confronting the elements, and immersing himself in the exhilaration of gravel biking in one of the most remarkable destinations on Earth.
This is Oliver’s story. This is Pedaling Iceland.
by Oliver Andorfer
In the midst of millions of cubic kilometers of water in northwestern Europe and 1,200 kilometers southeast of Greenland lies the island of Iceland, spanning approximately 100,000 square kilometers.
Yes, it's true, Iceland is a familiar term, and we all know about the almost hypnotizing cheers of Icelandic football fans, the volcanoes that can disrupt entire airspaces when they become active, and that Iceland has become one of the travel hotspots in recent years, thanks not only to travel guru readings like the Lonely Planet.
However, if one leaves behind these criticized tourist hotspots, a gravel paradise unfolds in this land created from lava stone, where the rain is even wetter, the wind is even stronger, and the thousandth waterfall is even more impressive.
But let's start from the beginning. Everything started - as it should in our century - with an Instagram post. Thank you, Chris Burkard and Lael Wilcox, for the inspiration from your trip to the Westfjords! The images, the atmosphere, the landscapes, and the route burned themselves into my mind. And why not embark on a journey to a country that is so completely different from our latitudes, as someone who is a true lover of travel, gravel bikes, and bikepacking? The choice of equipment is obvious in a country with the highest density of 4WD vehicles in the world, and only one bike in my bicycle cellar bears the label "UnReStricted" on its frame - URS, let's travel!
The idea of "PEDALING ICELAND" is born!
In the following weeks, the internet, Google Maps - thanks to the inventor of "Google Street View" - and the platform Komoot became my favorite pastimes. In the Westfjords, with a population density of just under 3 people per square kilometer, planning for a bikepacking adventure is not only half the battle but also a small extra insurance. Lastly, my Komoot Collection consisted of almost 900 km and slightly over 10,000 meters of elevation gain.
What started with a simple idea quickly grew into a real project! And then came Covid, resulting in travel restrictions and limitations, leading to a creative pause lasting for 1.5 years until the second starting shot in autumn of 2021.
Fortunately, the search for suitable and willing ride buddies who also enjoy taking photos and flying drones wasn't really difficult.
Welcome on board, Anna, Max, Moritz, and Tomaz!
With the route planned and the team in place, we were ready to go.
Ísafjörður was our starting point for 8 days of gravel biking. 8 days of pedaling, eating, taking photos, chatting all day, having fun, and absorbing everything that Iceland has to offer - is there anything more beautiful?
The first day was marked by a constantly elevated adrenaline level. Not only did one of the highlights await us on the first day in the form of a pod of humpback whales, but the weather, the tranquility, and the seemingly two cars that passed us the whole day hinted that gravel biking in Iceland, like so many things, is different and sometimes perhaps even more beautiful than at home.
The obligatory after-ride beer in one of the hot pots became a tradition from day 1 and, of course, was meticulously continued day by day. In the following days, we were treated to everything that the Westfjords Tourism Association had in its repertoire.
Incredibly beautiful gravel roads, gusts of wind reaching 100 km/h for hours, which made you feel like flying when they came from behind and drove you to the brink of madness at 5 km/h when they came from the front. Rain pouring on us from all directions, reminding us of who the true boss up here is. The terrain under our 42 mm wide gravel tires changed from perfect asphalt to the finest gravel and even impassable trails. Northern lights that left us speechless for hours on the beach, filling up gigabytes of photo and video material, and a country that often surpasses simplicity and beauty.
But hey, that's also the reason why one travels to one of the northeasternmost regions of Europe to gravel bike, right? Iceland is a gracious land and will reward everyone who embraces this adventure with something they will never forget for their entire life - I promise!
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