Photo essay: Biking Iceland.

Photo: Aaron Dixon

Photo: Aaron Dixon

Sixteen days. Ninety-three hours. 1,760 kilometers. Over a half dozen jars of Nutella. Those are the facts behind my cousin and I's latest bike expedition around Iceland's ring road. But for these two Canadians, this trip is much better captured in the memories we made and the photos we took.

I keep replaying scenes in my head of my cycle trip around Iceland. Random stretches of road will shoot into my brain and I'll feel each corner, hill, and scene. When I hear music by Of Monsters and Men or Sigur Ros, I get more Iceland flashbacks. The photos help and the memories remind me of my craving to be back there on my bike.

I keep replaying scenes in my head of my cycle trip around Iceland. Random stretches of road will shoot into my brain and I'll feel each corner, hill, and scene. When I hear music by Of Monsters and Men or Sigur Ros, I get more Iceland flashbacks. The photos help and the memories remind me of my craving to be back there on my bike.

I packed my stuff until 4am in Vancouver, slept two hours, woke up, flew to Iceland, landed, built my bike, met my cousin, cycled 75km, woke up here then cycled all day again. We repeated this process for an enjoyable 16 days until cycling back to where we started in Reykjavik. 1,750 km in 16 days.

I packed my stuff until 4am in Vancouver, slept two hours, woke up, flew to Iceland, landed, built my bike, met my cousin, cycled 75km, woke up here then cycled all day again. We repeated this process for an enjoyable 16 days until cycling back to where we started in Reykjavik. 1,750 km in 16 days.

There really are more sheep on the roads than cars most times, which makes for comfortable riding even when there is no shoulder. I haven't seen night time since I left Vancouver. Nor have I seen stars - just a sunset and a sunrise within minutes of each other. It's really weird. Highlights have been countless waterfalls, cycling through lava fields, and sleeping on a black sand beach last 'night'. This place is purely out of some mythical movie and I'm happy to know that without counting the sleeps in my tent, Jason and I will have spent the entire trip outside. No windshields, just pure Iceland.

There really are more sheep on the roads than cars most times, which makes for comfortable riding even when there is no shoulder. I haven't seen night time since I left Vancouver. Nor have I seen stars - just a sunset and a sunrise within minutes of each other. It's really weird. Highlights have been countless waterfalls, cycling through lava fields, and sleeping on a black sand beach last 'night'. This place is purely out of some mythical movie and I'm happy to know that without counting the sleeps in my tent, Jason and I will have spent the entire trip outside. No windshields, just pure Iceland.

This is Iceland's busiest highway. But when you cycle in a country that has the lowest population density in Europe and where 66% of the population lives in one town, there is a lot of empty space. I took advantage of the emptiness to practice my control of my bicycle with my feet while giving a double peace sign. Peace signs are always relevant.

This is Iceland's busiest highway. But when you cycle in a country that has the lowest population density in Europe and where 66% of the population lives in one town, there is a lot of empty space. I took advantage of the emptiness to practice my control of my bicycle with my feet while giving a double peace sign. Peace signs are always relevant.

We parked our bikes here to fill up our bottles at a creek. We later cycled around the corner to camp our first night in Iceland. This routine was repeated the entire time when cycling - find free water, then find a free camp site. Iceland is incredibly easy to find wild camping and water - there is nobody around and water cascading down from the icecaps is everywhere. The only costs we incurred while cycling were groceries. In this regard, cycle travel is very cheap and it becomes very easy to travel for a very long time. We each spent about $300 on food in 17 days - that's $17.5/day. It wasn't much more money than what I would be spending while living at home. Cycle travel is also the only method of traveling (other than walking across a country) that actually makes you fitter after you've finished.

We parked our bikes here to fill up our bottles at a creek. We later cycled around the corner to camp our first night in Iceland. This routine was repeated the entire time when cycling - find free water, then find a free camp site. Iceland is incredibly easy to find wild camping and water - there is nobody around and water cascading down from the icecaps is everywhere. The only costs we incurred while cycling were groceries. In this regard, cycle travel is very cheap and it becomes very easy to travel for a very long time. We each spent about $300 on food in 17 days - that's $17.5/day. It wasn't much more money than what I would be spending while living at home. Cycle travel is also the only method of traveling (other than walking across a country) that actually makes you fitter after you've finished.

This is Michel. He's from Montreal and in his sixties. He's cycling around Iceland for two months. When cycle touring, it's often assumed you will stop and meet anyone on the road you come across. We cycled up to this guy, saw his MEC pannier bags and immediately knew he was Canadian. Sure enough, Jason and I cycled with Michel into the next town, Grundarfjordur, for some coffee and WiFi, where we met another solo Canadian doing her very first cycle tour. It was awesome.

This is Michel. He's from Montreal and in his sixties. He's cycling around Iceland for two months. When cycle touring, it's often assumed you will stop and meet anyone on the road you come across. We cycled up to this guy, saw his MEC pannier bags and immediately knew he was Canadian. Sure enough, Jason and I cycled with Michel into the next town, Grundarfjordur, for some coffee and WiFi, where we met another solo Canadian doing her very first cycle tour. It was awesome.

Cycling into Grundarfjordur in northeast Iceland.

Cycling into Grundarfjordur in northeast Iceland.

Peace.

Peace.

Cycled around Iceland without music, books, internet, or any real intentions on solving any self issues, goals, aspirations, or anything. I just wanted to ride my bike and look around. I did just that and after the 16 days of doing so, I didn't want it to end. Camped here at 66.2°N. The arctic circle is at 66.5°N.

Cycled around Iceland without music, books, internet, or any real intentions on solving any self issues, goals, aspirations, or anything. I just wanted to ride my bike and look around. I did just that and after the 16 days of doing so, I didn't want it to end. Camped here at 66.2°N. The arctic circle is at 66.5°N.

Some numbers from my circumnavigation of Iceland with my cousin:    Total distance: 1760.61km   Total time: 92h 32m 13s   Average speed: 19.03kph   Daily average: 110.06km   Daily average time: 5h 47m 1s   Number of days: 16   Jars of Nutella: > ½ dozen

Some numbers from my circumnavigation of Iceland with my cousin:
Total distance: 1760.61km
Total time: 92h 32m 13s
Average speed: 19.03kph
Daily average: 110.06km
Daily average time: 5h 47m 1s
Number of days: 16
Jars of Nutella: > ½ dozen

This is Jason riding by the summit of Kirkjufell. We saw this rock feature on many postcards but were slightly unimpressed relative to all the landscapes we'd seen previous. This secret to cycle travel is sometimes hard to describe. We're traveling around five times slower than motorists - we have the luxury of intimately digesting every single landscape. Unlike motorists, we aren't rushing around to see the popular sights. I love cycle travel because it delivers a full range of constant simulation. We felt Iceland's rain, sun, and wind. We smelled it's flowers, geysers, and fish factories, and we heard it's birds, sheep, and silence.

This is Jason riding by the summit of Kirkjufell. We saw this rock feature on many postcards but were slightly unimpressed relative to all the landscapes we'd seen previous. This secret to cycle travel is sometimes hard to describe. We're traveling around five times slower than motorists - we have the luxury of intimately digesting every single landscape. Unlike motorists, we aren't rushing around to see the popular sights. I love cycle travel because it delivers a full range of constant simulation. We felt Iceland's rain, sun, and wind. We smelled it's flowers, geysers, and fish factories, and we heard it's birds, sheep, and silence.

If only you could see wind. This photo is full of wind, like every photo in Iceland is. Wind is every where there and it's highly variable. I recommend cycling the country hands down and a million times over. But just do it with a pal for drafting advantages. The wind makes this adventure both challenging and rewarding.

If only you could see wind. This photo is full of wind, like every photo in Iceland is. Wind is every where there and it's highly variable. I recommend cycling the country hands down and a million times over. But just do it with a pal for drafting advantages. The wind makes this adventure both challenging and rewarding.

My bicycle and everything I needed to cycle around Iceland.

My bicycle and everything I needed to cycle around Iceland.

It's always exciting passing fellow cyclists. There is a common bond that we share because we experience the same intimate sensations of slowly crossing various landscapes, feeling the weather, and pushing our physical limits. The friendly wave encapsulates our shared passion for cycle travel.

It's always exciting passing fellow cyclists. There is a common bond that we share because we experience the same intimate sensations of slowly crossing various landscapes, feeling the weather, and pushing our physical limits. The friendly wave encapsulates our shared passion for cycle travel.

My cousin and I cycled up to Will, on the right, who came to Iceland from Scotland. We all cycled a few kilometers together, got to know each other and then cycled off. It's always a thrill running into fellow cyclists. You'd never see two cars meet like this, cycling keeps things personal. We later ran into Will in Reykjavik a week and a half later and shared stories.

My cousin and I cycled up to Will, on the right, who came to Iceland from Scotland. We all cycled a few kilometers together, got to know each other and then cycled off. It's always a thrill running into fellow cyclists. You'd never see two cars meet like this, cycling keeps things personal. We later ran into Will in Reykjavik a week and a half later and shared stories.

If your idea of a relaxing vacation isn't to pedal a bicycle with 60 pounds of gear +100 kms a day for 16 days straight through high winds, steep grades, rain, and areas where nobody is around but just you and a friend and maybe a few sheep - I think you might be the one that's nuts. Cycle travel is often associated with difficult and strenuous situations which sometimes makes for an uncomfortable experience. But I think the downsides from cycle travel outweigh the downsides from costly car travel. There is nothing more self-empowering than having just toured around a country using only your muscles.

If your idea of a relaxing vacation isn't to pedal a bicycle with 60 pounds of gear +100 kms a day for 16 days straight through high winds, steep grades, rain, and areas where nobody is around but just you and a friend and maybe a few sheep - I think you might be the one that's nuts. Cycle travel is often associated with difficult and strenuous situations which sometimes makes for an uncomfortable experience. But I think the downsides from cycle travel outweigh the downsides from costly car travel. There is nothing more self-empowering than having just toured around a country using only your muscles.

Snaefellsne peninsula, western Iceland.

Snaefellsne peninsula, western Iceland.

I'm smiling here because of what we just tried to do. Instead of going around the volcano, Snæfellsjökull, shown in background, we tried going over it. We went up the steepest gravel mountain pass road you could dream of with a loaded touring bicycle and on the hottest day of the trip. We started cycling past deep snow on either side of the road, and then pushed our bikes through it. Eventually we got totally denied by kilometers of deep snow over the road. We then had to travel back another 8km to start our 40km windy detour, seen here. Next time I cycle past snowmobilers, I'll take it as a sign of inevitable cycling doom. This volcano is the mountain depicted in Jules Verne's 1864 novel 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth', so if you want to head into the earth, you can find the door somewhere up there.

I'm smiling here because of what we just tried to do. Instead of going around the volcano, Snæfellsjökull, shown in background, we tried going over it. We went up the steepest gravel mountain pass road you could dream of with a loaded touring bicycle and on the hottest day of the trip. We started cycling past deep snow on either side of the road, and then pushed our bikes through it. Eventually we got totally denied by kilometers of deep snow over the road. We then had to travel back another 8km to start our 40km windy detour, seen here. Next time I cycle past snowmobilers, I'll take it as a sign of inevitable cycling doom. This volcano is the mountain depicted in Jules Verne's 1864 novel 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth', so if you want to head into the earth, you can find the door somewhere up there.

How ever you decide to ride your bike, just ride. Ride and see the world.

How ever you decide to ride your bike, just ride. Ride and see the world.

I think the fondest memory of our cycling circumnavigation of Iceland was simply the routine of getting up from the tent and cycling all day for 16 days. The freedom of direction and intimacy of our slow speed gave us such a feeling of independence that it made me smile even during the toughest of winds or steepest of climbs.

I think the fondest memory of our cycling circumnavigation of Iceland was simply the routine of getting up from the tent and cycling all day for 16 days. The freedom of direction and intimacy of our slow speed gave us such a feeling of independence that it made me smile even during the toughest of winds or steepest of climbs.

A mere 33 kilometers straight north from my tent here along that North Atlantic water sits the watery boundary of the Arctic Circle. If you were to travel straight north from this spot, you would just clip the northeastern coastline of Greenland, but other than that, it is essentially water from here to the North Pole. Me being a Geography major and Cartographer, I thought staring at the Arctic Circle from my tent was pretty darn cool.

A mere 33 kilometers straight north from my tent here along that North Atlantic water sits the watery boundary of the Arctic Circle. If you were to travel straight north from this spot, you would just clip the northeastern coastline of Greenland, but other than that, it is essentially water from here to the North Pole. Me being a Geography major and Cartographer, I thought staring at the Arctic Circle from my tent was pretty darn cool.

Jokulsarlon, Iceland. My favorite camp spot in the country. We spent $0 for accommodation the entire time while cycling.

Jokulsarlon, Iceland. My favorite camp spot in the country. We spent $0 for accommodation the entire time while cycling.

Jason and I have made it to the town of Hofn. It's starting to feel like we've rounded the final corner of this country. We are in the final 5 days of riding. Europe's largest glacier is in the distance and getting closer with each pedal stroke. Still having a blast being a bush man. Going to be weird seeing a mirror and feeling the sensation of a shower. The adventure continues.

Jason and I have made it to the town of Hofn. It's starting to feel like we've rounded the final corner of this country. We are in the final 5 days of riding. Europe's largest glacier is in the distance and getting closer with each pedal stroke. Still having a blast being a bush man. Going to be weird seeing a mirror and feeling the sensation of a shower. The adventure continues.

Jason and I are less than 60 kilometres away from completing our clockwise cycle of Iceland. 1,750km in 16 days. The tailwinds have been kind to us so we've been kilometer-crushing the last few days. Our biggest day was 167km along the flats. We took our time to get into Reykjavik now, and stopped in a cafe in Selfoss to grab some calories. We've met scores of cyclists from all over the world. It's been an incredible time. The celebration has already started. It's one high five moment I won't soon forget.

Jason and I are less than 60 kilometres away from completing our clockwise cycle of Iceland. 1,750km in 16 days. The tailwinds have been kind to us so we've been kilometer-crushing the last few days. Our biggest day was 167km along the flats. We took our time to get into Reykjavik now, and stopped in a cafe in Selfoss to grab some calories. We've met scores of cyclists from all over the world. It's been an incredible time. The celebration has already started. It's one high five moment I won't soon forget.