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Cycling around Iceland in Only Seven Days!

Sometimes you hear of feats that make you shake your head in disbelief. One of those things is the trek of two Danish cyclists who went cycling around Iceland in just seven days. Consider the distance covered, the ring road spans 1.332 kilometers. The cyclists, Simon Thomsen and Rasmus Rask Vendel­bjerg managed to ride about 7 – 8 hours a day. The daily distance was about 160 – 240 kilometers and this resulted in a average speed of 30 KM per hour. The Icelandic ring road ain´t straight and flat. It is narrow compared to highways in Europe and North America. It is full of slopes and bends. And then there is the often hostile and changeable Icelandic weather.

I read about Simon and Rasmus in the Icelandic news site I was able to find out that Rasmus is a DJ  in Copenhagen where he performs under the name ´Acid Pigs´ As am writing this I am listening to his  MIXTAPE: Distortion 2014 which is very groovy indeed. You can also follow Rasmus on his Instagram account.

Cyclists in the rain in Iceland.
So how is your day going so far?

Hello Rasmus and thank you for taking the time for this interview. I know you are a DJ, can you give me a bit more background on you guys and tell me why on Earth you went through what must have been a really difficult challenge?

We’ve been cycling for three years and already been to the usual hotspots for cyclists in Southern and Western Europe – and then the question came up: where to next? Both of us have been in Iceland several times on holiday and with work related stuff, and we’ve been thrilled by the almost indescribable and diverse nature. But we almost NEVER saw people on bikes… We wanted to take on a new and more unexplored destination – and then we decided to go for the great adventure!

Our friend, who is a video producer, heard about our plans and was like ‘I wanna go with you!’, so we decided to make it into a movie. The doc ‘Route 1’ will be the first movie in a series of cycling docs focusing on alternative cycling destinations. We wish to inspire people to jump on their bikes and take another destination than the usual suspects like France, Italy, Belgium and Spain. It’s a personal doc about our struggle on the road and the obstacles we experience when we go out on these monster days with 200 km on the road for several days in a row. But for us it has also been important to show that you don’t have to use a four-wheel drive and rent a helicopter to experience the greatness of Iceland.

We did between 160-250 km each day, which was about 7-8 hours per day. When we were cycling around Iceland we usually did a nice break around lunch, which made the days a little more manageable. On the rainy and cold days this was especially necessary! In total we were on the bikes for around 50 hours, covering around 1.400 km and 10.000 meters of altitude. Our average speed was a bit below 30 km/hour.

Can you tell me what other countries you have done comparable things? How does Iceland compare to those cycling routes?

We’ve been to the regular cycling tourist destinations – Italy, Spain, Flanders (Belgium) etc. Cycling around Iceland was like being in 20 different countries in just one week. The landscape is constantly changing! We are used to pretty long and steep climbs – take Stelvio in Italy. It’s 22 kilometers going up, up, up. Iceland doesn’t have that, but it has something else: The wind! Normally, forests and buildings offer a lot of shelter when we ride, but in Iceland we went through hundreds of kilometers with nothing but mountainsides to boost the wind. That was the biggest challenge.

Cycling in Iceland.
Cycling in Iceland.

What did you do to prepare?

It was pretty difficult to prepare for the weather. We had the best Danish summer ever with almost only sunny days and almost no wind, so the preparation was simple: Ride a looooot of kilometers. Training started in January, and we had been on the road for around 6.000 kilometers when we entered the plane to Iceland.

What were the biggest challenges you faced cycling around Iceland?

We had been planning the trip for a while, and also visited Iceland on multiple occasions prior to this one, so we had a basic idea what we were getting ourselves into. This being said, I don’t think we realized how big of a factor the wind would be. We had full days of blasting headwinds, which had a deep impact on our bodies – and our mood! It’s just draining… This also proved a challenge because of the constant noise we got exposed to, making it impossible to communicate while riding. Makes 7 hour days on the bike feel even longer!


Let´s do it again!
Let´s do it again!

What advice would you give to cyclists who are planning on cycling around Iceland?

We had a film crew following us in a small motorhome. This was our base throughout the trip, allowing us to chose our stops more freely which worked out great! Also, we didn’t have to storage anything on the bikes, and you really don’t want to carry extra weight in the harsh weather conditions. So: Make some friends or family follow you in a car or make sure to keep your equipment on a minimum. When you are cycling around Iceland it is important to be flexible. The weather can turn pretty fast and you mat not be able to make your daily goal. On the other hand, if you get tailwind you can maybe go 300 kilometers in just a single day – so it’s pretty important not to book all your accommodation around the iceland before your journey.

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Cycling around Iceland in Only Seven Days!

time to read: 4 min