Iceland extreme – by bike on Iceland’s hardest courses 

[big thanks to c. seywald for translation]


Stones sputter. A blue jeep stops next to my bike. “You alright, need anything?”; “I’m alright, thanks.” “Nice weather, isn’t it? Just a breeze, a nice summer day!” Reality check: about 40° F, 25 mph winds on my face, drizzle and clouds which rush through the sky as if they were under time pressure. “Just a little bit too much sun for my sensitive skin!” 1:0 to me, a smile flits over his face. He reaches behind his seat and grabs a can of “Gull” and throws it towards me. “Enjoy your dinner!” Stones sputter, alone again.

higland X-ing
higland X-ing


Sunday morning, Reykjavik, 4.17 am, ten days earlier: Out of the dimly lit disco, I step into the bright light of the midnight sun. I’m not sure what is more irritating – the sun or the Gin Tonics. Partying is hard and persistent. Apart from the party hotspots, the town is absolutely empty.
Shopping, also Sundays. I get the bike ready for an early start and enjoy the convenience of a restaurant – one last time for now.


Over asphalt to Pingvellir. This is where America is divided from Europe – plate tectonically – and Iceland is united since 930 – parliamentary. A modern bus stops at the tourist office. Fully air-conditioned with an entertainment system. A crowd of trigger happy visitors stream out and I am their first victim. The camera reflectors ratter like machine guns, their lenses directed on the loaded bike and me. I escape by bike through the ravine to a wonderful, lonely campsite, just next to a lake. Silence.

quiet camp
quiet camp


Finally, the asphalt street is over: grit under my tires, there is the first real gradient. Yet, the course is still wide. The underground changes from grit to a mix of silt and raw stones, the course becomes narrower. It wriggles single-laned over a summit. The weather veers, drizzle. The silt becomes slippery; it is like a downhill on raw eggs. Damp from rain, the tent stands by a river. Tomorrow, the real highlands begin.


For 23 hours, the tent has been rattling in the storm. The tent pegs keep getting loose in the turgid ground. Heavy stones help only temporarily. Bang! Half the tent collapses on me. String is torn, linkage element broken. I give up the camp and scurry along to a hut. The 6 miles tour takes one hour and 45 minutes. Warm up, catching breath, dry, repair. A philanthropic has left a sip of rum. In the evening, the storm dies away; clouds dispel and give way to a great view on a wonderful glacial landscape.



Shortly before arriving at the hut Nyidalur. In the centre of Sprengisandur, glacial streams cross the course. 35°F cold, thigh deep, in full spate. Unstrap baggage, wade five times though the icy floods. Per stream. Three of them. The hut’s warden places me in front of the oven, hands me a hot cup of coffee. Grateful smiling.

Tent outside; ready meal is cooking in the kitchen. The warden has been doing his job for seven years. He tips his head with his finger. “In April, I’ll have a hard disk error here and have to flee out of town.” He is talking about little water, very few tourists and even less jobs this year. Only the volcano was much. Too much. Even the Iceland media exaggerated, dramatized, were over the top. Not to mention the apocalyptic mood in the EU media. After the banking crisis, tourism crisis. Hope for the next season, “everybody knows Iceland now” – bad news is good news.


I ride by bike over damp lava sand. Almost like asphalt. The age of the mountains gets visible. They are young, very young. Slipped off hillsides, by moss overgrown gullies, mountains eroded by rain. Flat and steep, round and angular shaped, even and rutted. The earth lives, breaths, pulsates in colours which pour scorn on any man-made colour palette. A ranger shows a picture from last year. The mountain used to be green. Today, it is black. A heavy rainstorm has washed down the moss like wind would blow off autumn leaves. A few miles further on, the mountain is white. Hail hammers on its bald. “Winter wonderland” for a few minutes. Small rivers evolve on the course, dig furrows in the soft underground. The white spell disappears, the wonderful landscape stays. Fine dust penetrates through the cloth before my mouth. Yellowish fog shortens the view on two, three hundred meters. After two days without rain, the wind carries the smallest ash particles off the dry ground, shoves them like waves in the sea across the country. Driving slowly, controlling breath, eyes constricted to slots. Dust gets into every pore, every chink, every hole. The bike chain is whining its elegy. After two hours, the spook dies away. Contours get visible, the torn structure of the landscape returns.



Smooth as a mirror, the Laufanvatn lies in front of the tent. 5 o’clock in the morning, windless, cloudless. At 7 o’clock, on top of the 11889 meter high summit of the Laufafell. The prospect is misty. The lightest wind swirls smallest ash particles in the air. Nevertheless, the view is breathtaking. In the south, the Eyjafjallakökull is blowing a single cloud of steam into the sky. In front of it, green craters, black lava, yellow rocks, rutty mountains. In the east, steam banners billow out of the mountains, the geothermal area around Landmannalaugar at my feet.


Cloudless and vegetation free, the Hekla ascends majestic through the barren landscape in the west. Looking into the north, the view glides over small, harsh mountains and gets caught at white sparkling glaciers. I stay there until upcoming wind pushes the first clouds in front of the sun.

0 meters to my aim. 63° 59’ 21 north, 19° 03’ 56 west. The GPS shows doubtlessly what my brain hasn’t realised yet. I am standing at the first reached destination of my world travel project. “Show me the world”- destination number 14 is located on a lava spoil tip, slightly above the campsite of Landmannalaugar. It’s shortly past 7 o’clock, no one can see me – hilariously singing – hopping around a (for most people meaningless) stone. For me, it is the first step that means the world.



I explored Iceland for four weeks by bike. Overall, I cycled more than 850 miles, about 560 of them being on dirt roads, away from the beaten tourist tracks. Of course, I couldn’t miss a few tourist “highlights”.

To travel alone by bike offers you the possibility to experience the range and silence of the highland, areas like the mystic Landmannalaugar, the northern calm, but very hospitable and open Icelanders and yourself very close and without any filter.
Material, body and mind are well challenged in the Icelandic highlands. Without preparation, the appropriate material and a good portion of ability to suffer, such a tour resembles a proverbial living on the edge. Not by chance, an average of four phone calls from tourists in emergency situations comes into the rescue authorities annually.

Whoever doesn’t allow it to come that far, can expect a breathtaking and unforgettable journey.

campong is fun
campong is fun





2010.10.12 00:32:05


War im Sommer mit Freundin und Kumpel mittels Wohnmobil auf Island unterwegs, das war aber stinklangweilig. Dein Projekt gefällt mir da schon besser. Obwohl mir der Wind wohl ziemlich auf die N***e gehen würde. :)
Weiter so!

2010.12.26 11:04:59

Yura from Kiev

Hi !
Great movie! Liked it!
How many days was the cycling trip, and at what date?

These are our cycling trip, 2009

2011.05.06 22:19:38



thanks for comment, nice page!

I was on Iceland from 26th june to 27th of july. On 26 days i was riding.

user details | 2011.05.11 20:31:18


interessante aufnahmen plus gelungener zusammenschnitt. tolle arbeit! rückenwind! :)

2011.06.17 19:41:36


schöne Foto/Film Collage!! wir waren letztes Jahr zur gleichen Zeit auf Island mit den Rädern unterwegs, besonders das Hochland ist immer wieder eine Reise wert!

2011.07.02 14:08:04

Schmid, Karl-Heinz

Hallo Stefan, wir trafen uns kürzlich auf dem Bike nach Freiburg. Wir unterhielten uns über Island und deine Absichten. Wünsche dir stets Rückenwind. Alles Gute Karl-Heinz

2011.10.02 18:10:19


Ein Super Video, eine tolle Idee und wir drücken die Daumen für den Start zum neuen Vorhaben.

2012.01.02 01:10:33

Peter Eich

Tolles Video, war selbst letztes Jahr in Island, allerdings mit dem Auto, und ich habe JEDEN EINZELNEN Radfahrer, der mir begegnete, um seine Fortbewegungsart beneidet. Dein Film trifft auf meinen Entschluss das nochmal mit dem Rad zu machen.

2012.07.29 12:55:24


Ein geiles Video. ich selbst war leider noch nicht da, aber die Planung für 2014 ist schon den den Grob-Zügen. Gibt es noch irgendwelche MUST-DO´s?

2012.09.28 16:42:04


Einfach großartig, danke für den auch sehr gut geschriebenen Bericht! Und die Fotos sind auch erste Sahne!

Wie sieht deiner Einschätzung nach die Lage Mitte April aus? Wären da Teile der Tour nicht fahrbar?

Danke und alles Gute für deine zukünftigen Reisen

2013.12.30 18:48:44


Hi Matthias,

Mitte April dürfte der Großteil der Tour nicht (oder nur extrem erschwerten Bedingungen) fahrbar sein. Die Hochlandstrecken werden i.d.R. erst ab Mitte Mai / Anfang Juni geöffnet, vorher ist unklar ob z.B. Brücken oder Teile der Straßen zerstört wurden. Schau mal auf da findest Du entsprechende Informationen zum Straßenzustand.

Viel Spaß beim Planen, Stefan

user details | 2013.12.30 19:01:12

mikee Clarke

Hi there I'm looking to do a trip this yr was wondering if u have a gpx of ur route I could possibly have alook at please.. your pictures are amazing thanks Mike

2014.02.11 00:59:56


Hi Mike,

Sorry for my late answer I've been away from good internet for some time.
You can see the route in the first google Map on the right side, and direct unter it, there is the link to the GPX file.


user details | 2014.02.21 15:48:26


Das ist sehr, sehr inspirierend...

2015.12.24 20:17:46



The Route 

big map

 download Track

(GPX and Google Earth Format)



klare Ansage,
Alltag im Hochland
Alltag im Hochland II
Alltag im Hochland III
und wenn dir das Wetter nicht passt...
auf 1000m...
die Erde Atmet
Abendessen mit Blick auf den Hekla
öhm, 4x4?
Spieglein, Spieglein
ohne Worte
der südlichste Zipfel Islands
einer von Millionen Wasserfällen
Sand, Schotter, Lava
hinter einem Wasserfall



road conditions:

Travel guide:

free, digital maps (for Garmin GPS):

inspiration, tips, images and links:

general map