| July 21, 2022

“That’s on my bucket list!” was the standard reply from my riding buddies when I told them I was going on an adventure to Iceland to ride dirt bikes. I had ridden on the volcanic island several times before, but this time we had a bigger group of friends to take with us on the RideWithLocals.is tour.

Words and Photography by Simon Cudby

After a relatively easy flight to Keflavik airport, we were picked up by our guide for the week, Skúli Már Gunnarsson, owner of this thriving little tour company. We loaded our gearbags into Skúli’s van for the drive to the southern town of Selfoss, home of the RideWithLocals headquarters. We were greeted by a lineup of well-maintained motorcycles, including brand-new Husqvarna and KTM models, that we would be riding for the upcoming week-long adventure.

We spent our arrival day strapping our Giant Loop bags onto the bikes and adding some necessary stickers. We were all in a bit of a haze as we had taken the overnight flight to Iceland, so by midafternoon, it was time for a quick nap, then dinner and bed. Sleep for the week proved a little challenging as there were 21 hours of daylight, and it never really got dark.

On our first official riding day, we took a quick 30-mile blast up the highway to the dirt trailhead. It’s good that we were layered up nicely, as it was a little chilly, and some of the guys even had heated layers switched to the high setting. We hit the fast-flowing two-track that had a mix of sand and volcanic pumice rock.

These Iceland rides feature many challenging water crossings, and our first one was a doozy. Our buddy, TC, buried the rear end of his 450 about halfway across, and several of us waded out to get him unstuck. This was also the first real test of our Amazon $22 waterproof socks that we had all purchased for the trip after our past wet trips. It’s nice to have Alpinestars Drystar Tech 7 boots on, but once the water gets over the top, your feet are wet no matter what. As it turns out, one of our biggest assets on the trip was our waterproof riding socks!

These Iceland rides feature many challenging water crossings, and our first one was a doozy.

As the day progressed, we navigated more crossings as the rain started to fall. This was a big reminder to always be prepared for the weather in Iceland, as it’s just a matter of time before the sky opens. We all did well on this trip, but for the less-experienced riders, Skúli asked them to walk their bikes across these rivers, as a tip-over in the middle of nowhere has enormous consequences if a bike gets flooded (ask me how I know).

We passed through remote fishing towns next to big lakes, so we were respectful of the local fisherman by keeping it mellow on the throttle—until we were out of the area, then it was moto time again on the hero dirt and wet sand. We rolled up to our mountain hut for the night next to Jökulheiman, which translates to “Glacier World.” We hadn’t seen any people all day on the trails and didn’t expect to see anyone way out here, either. Waiting for us at the hut was Skúli’s team in the most awesome chase truck ever—a German fire engine rolling on massive tires, modified for carrying gearbags and a spare bike.

Day two was more perfect dirt and incredible views over every ride. As it was early in the summer, we had to cross more than a few frozen snow banks, which caused many laughs in our Sena headsets as we slipped across the terrain trying to stay upright.

Iceland is serious about keeping its remote areas in good condition, so we stayed on trails the whole trip and didn’t go bushwhacking across any areas. We followed Skúli, who followed the white marker posts through what can only be described as a lunar landscape. The weather was harsh again, so we were trying to keep on the gas and we were wiping our goggles every minute to keep some vision intact.

Waiting for us at the hut was Skúli’s team in the most awesome chase truck ever—a German fire engine rolling on massive tires, modified for carrying gearbags and a spare bike.

After a half day of riding in the monochromatic landscape, we came upon glacial lakes with unreal bright blue water. Later, we arrived at an amazing waterfall that was close to our cabin for the night. The trails were lined with purple Lupine flowers and almost fluorescent green grass. This was like saturated color film versus a morning in black and white.

The company you travel with is part of any great trip, and we had a good crew on this one. We had lots of good laughs over dinner as we reminisced about the past few days of riding. We still had two more days to go on our adventure, and day three did not disappoint, as we took in more fantastic scenery while carving through the perfect wet dirt on the trails: More volcanic crater lakes, water, snowbank crossings, and a visit to a natural hot spring where we all took a dip. This was the only tourist area we went to on the trip, and it was entertaining to look at all the cool “Super Jeep” vehicles crossing the deep river that led into the parking zone.

We stopped often to shoot the photos you see in this article, so Skúli took off ahead of us in the rain to the next intersection. That left the four of us to play catch-up, and riding close to the limit in this rainy, cold area was a highlight of the trip for me—all four of us riding fast and flowing on the dirt roads. Epic.

Our last day was something special, as we rode in an area that was much more technical and challenging. One of the guys said this was the real Ride with Locals, and, as a bonus, we saw the sun on this day. Although there were tracks everywhere, we just followed our guide through the foothills at the base of Mount Hekla, the most active volcano in Iceland. Fortunately, we left the area without experiencing any eruptions and took the road back to Selfoss to the RWL HQ.

A big thanks to Skúli and his team for another great trip. If this is on your bucket list, check out the ridewithlocals.is website for details on how you can take this amazing trip. CN

Riding the Iceland Highlands Cycle News travel story

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