On June 7th, 2019, I and my longtime friend Duffy, set out to Cycle Iceland’s Ring Road. Here is part two of the day-to-day breakdown of our Iceland bicycle touring experience.
Cycling the Ring Road – Day 5 (92 Miles)
It’s warm. It’s finally warm. The sky is clear, and it’s a beautiful morning in the Icelandic town of Blönduós.
Not yet knowing, Duffy and I set on what will be the longest day of cycling on our entire trip.
As soon as we leave town, the road turns toward the South, and we spend the morning bicycling through a valley alongside a small creek. After a dozen or so miles, we approach the first climb of the day. It looks steep, but we eagerly charge forward.
Finally a sunny day of cycling
Thankfully there is no wind. It’s just us against the mountain. It takes an hour or so to reach the summit, and the GPS indicates we had done 1,400ft of climbing. Now it’s time to hit the downhill.
For the next couple of hours, the road meanders downhill at various degrees of steepness. We take turns capturing each other bombing the hills on video. At one point, Duffy manages to hit 39mph. He’s a madman.
We eventually arrive in the town of Varmahlíð, where we stop for a late breakfast. It’s increasingly difficult to pass a hot meal when it’s available. We finish and move on.
The wind picks up from the North as it does every day around noon. The road again turns South, and we enjoy the tailwind as we push towards the second climb of the day.
The climb starts, the Ring Road curves East, but so does the wind due to the shape of the valley. The wind is blowing so hard; it doesn’t even feel like we’re climbing. It’s pushing us up the hill. All I can think is that it’s about time the wind started working for us.
We finally summit after a few hours. The GPS shows 1,800ft, and we start the downhill. The valley that had bent the wind to the East is now turning it toward the West. Once again, cycling downhill is a struggle. We push on towards the town of Akureyri about 30 miles away.
We finally arrive at around 8:00 pm after cycling over 14 hours. Our total mileage for the day is 92 miles, with over 4,000ft of elevation gain. We’re exhausted.
Cycling the Ring Road – Day 6 (55 Miles)
Posing at the Godafloss Waterfall
The day starts in a rush, as we hurry to catch the morning bus out of town. There is a tunnel that doesn’t allow bikes, so we have to find a ride. There is the option of going around, but that would add 40 miles to our trip. Since we’re already behind, we opted for the bus.
The morning ride is flat with a light wind, and it’s another beautiful day.
We cycle for a few hours and arrive at the Godafloss waterfall. It’s spectacular, so we take photos and video. I do a Facebook live broadcast. Two people like it. Isn’t technology great?
Immediately leaving Godafloss on the Ring Road, there is a climb. I take off ahead of Duffy since he’s waiting on a lunch order and I’m worried about the wind picking up.
We meet up later in the day, and together we climb to the town of Reykjahlíð sitting on the shore of the stunning volcanic Lake Mývatn.
We take advantage of the grocery store, then head to our campsite for the night. Minus the 10-mile bus ride, we had covered 45 miles today with 2,395ft of elevation gain.
Cycling the Ring Road – Day 7 (73 Miles)
Amazing Icelandic Scenery
With steam rising from the ground all around us, we start our day of cycling by riding through a massive lava field littered with thermal pools. The day is cold and rainy, but beautiful.
We spend the entire morning crossing the lava field. Spirits were exceptionally high.
In the afternoon, after a decent climb, the lava field faded into a high desert landscape. Snow-capped mountains and volcanoes surround us. It looked like another planet, and hands down it’s the most dramatic scenery I’ve ever experienced. We both rode our bicycles in awe.
The day ended at a hotel/sheep farm. We feasted on beer and lamb burgers and spent the evening relaxing. We put 73 miles of Ring Road behind us today, with 2,800ft of elevation gain. We had earned it.
Cycling the Ring Road – Day 8 (44 Miles)
We woke up to the sight of dark, ominous thunderstorms looming over the day’s route. It was cold; the GPS read 31 degrees Fahrenheit. We had a strong headwind and immediately knew today would be a struggle.
We headed down the valley directly into the rain. It didn’t take long before I was thoroughly soaked. The numbness in my fingers and toes caused me some concern, but I pushed on. I diligently watched for ice forming on the road. I saw none, so assumed I couldn’t be at risk for frostbite. I pushed on ignoring the pain.
After a few hours, we made the turn East and enjoyed a 15-mile downhill with a tailwind to the town of Egilsstaðir.
While enjoying the heat and burgers at the N1, and we struck up a conversation with some locals. They recommended we abandon the Ring Road for a bit and travel via Route 95. They spoke of terrible road conditions and a monster climb, but the scenery was some of the best Iceland had to offer.
We took their advice and cycled a few miles out of town and settled in for the night. We slept well, eager to tackle our detour in the morning.
We ended with 44 very wet miles and 1,765ft of elevation gain.
The headwind was relentless. Again we had to push the bikes. I had a profound feeling of hopelessness; completing the Ring Road was starting to seem like an impossible challenge. All I could do was grind forward by putting one foot in front of the other, pushing my bike.
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The two-lane road to Chichen Itza was extremely overgrown. The jungle had completely taken over the shoulder. Every time I heard a car or truck approaching from behind, I had to pull off to the side of the road and let them pass.
The heat was also a major issue. Mid-day, I had to pull to the side and sit under a tree. Again, I was suffering from heat exhaustion.
I was eventually able to continue but decided to stop for the night in the colonial city of Valladolid.
I’m in Laos. I’m on the other side of the world riding my bicycle. Everyone I know and love is over 8,000 miles away. Most of the time it gives me a thrill to focus on this. Other times, I’m overwhelmed with loneliness.