Kristin’s Korner: Riding and Rollicking in Iceland
Kristin’s Korner: Riding and Rollicking in Iceland
If you have a bad ass nickname like Piston Kristin, you’re probably going to do some of the coolest things ever on two wheels. And when asked the question, “Why Iceland?”, her unflinching response was, “Well, I actually wanted to go to Mongolia, but Mongolia was booked.”
Kristin Hillman definitely holds her own when it comes to living an adventurous life. She was ready to put to use what she learned in our Advanced Riding Techniques course, and since our usual contributor to Kelly’s Korner is on a bit of a break, we thought the timing was perfect to share the story of Kristin’s trip to the Land of Fire and Ice.
AGAIN, WE ASK, WHY ICELAND?
I love traveling around new countries, and I don’t really like to go back to where I’ve been, so I have a list of places I want to visit. Mongolia was at the top of the list, but life kept pushing the trip back and by the time I got around to getting the necessary documents, Mongolia wasn’t a possibility. So I went down my list and one place stood out: Iceland.
A few things made Iceland possible. First, the plane ticket was reasonable compared to other places on my list. Second, a motorcycle was available within a three week arrival window. It was easy to coordinate the motorcycle rental which drove the plane ticket buying date.
WHAT ABOUT PLACES TO STAY?
Iceland can be a bit expensive when it comes to food and housing if you’re not smart. I love camping and Iceland is all about camping. Plus I don’t like a lot of planning and it was easy to find camp sites on the fly. Most everyone speaks English and they’re quick to accommodate a motorcyclist. The days stay light there for a long time so it was nothing for me to ride all day, setup camp at 10pm and be in bed by midnight. I actually had to force myself to go to bed because it was still light out.
Some of the camp sites are essentially clearings in a field. The average cost was $10 to $15 per night and that includes toilets and sinks; some showers are free, and some are not. Sometimes I’d go into town to play at these awesome pools. Community pools are a communal area where people meet up and have a good time. For about $9-10 a visit, it is a great opportunity to see how the locals live and get a picture of life in Iceland.
HOW WAS THE RIDE?
I was in a rental car a couple days to acclimate to Iceland before getting on a motorcycle. It is easy to get overloaded when riding solo, but this country immediately felt like an easier challenge that other countries on my list.
I actually wanted to ride a dirt bike there so I could explore the interior of the country, but unfortunately they only allow people to book off-road with a guide (EXPENSIVE!), so I decided to make the trip an on-road adventure on the ring road. I was able to pick up a BMW 700GS for $250 per day. The rental group was amazing. I had a wheel bearing seize during my trip and they arrived at my location within three (3) hours and had my bike fixed within four. Talk about service!
It is fairly easy, in the summer months, to navigate Iceland. It is roughly a 900 mile round trip. In the summer most roads are accessible. In the winter, roads can be washed out or flooded, so not all of the country is accessible.
The landscape in Iceland is amazing; awe in every curve. I wanted something rejuvenating, refreshing, and different. I certainly got it! Waterfalls are gorgeous and the colors are deep and brooding.
The biggest challenge is the wind. People actually die in Iceland by being blown off the road, so you have to watch weather reports to understand what direction to travel and when to travel. High wind advisories would actually dictate my riding plan. On windy days I still rode, and they were rough days, but ultimately they weren’t anything I couldn’t handle.
WHAT WERE THE PROS AND CONS TO YOUR VISIT?
The trip was definitely filled with more positives than negatives. I’m not one to return to a place I’ve been before; however, I’ll be back to Iceland. There is so much to explore and an off-road adventure is calling.
I loved that all of the animals in the fields seemed playful and happy. They have so much character even though they’re just totally roaming free. The people don’t exhibit much emotion and are somewhat stoic, but they are VERY hospitable.
The food was amazing. I’m not a fish person, but it was phenomenal; so fresh and bright tasting. And the bread…OUTSTANDING! One interesting piece is that the gas stations have pretty good food. I had to make sure I left enough time at the end of the day or they would close and I’d be without food. For $8-9 I could eat really well.
Restaurants are expensive but their quality is outstanding. I never would have imagined paying $15-20 for a bowl of soup, but it really is amazing and you get two big servings. It is chock full of butter and cream and fish and yummy!
Staying in touch with loved ones was fairly easy. I rented a hotspot from a camping store for $10 per day so I had wi-fi access anywhere I put up camp. It was very helpful for staying on top of weather trends and for reaching out to family and friends via social media.
Overall, there weren’t too many negatives, but these things could be irritants to some people:
- Tour buses, rental car drivers, and tourists are everywhere (I just avoid them)
- Smaller roads driven by tourists can create challenges
- Restaurants can be expensive (paid $30 for a personal pizza, but what a view!)
- Wind can be a challenge (I rented a car and when I got out the wind blew the door backwards and busted the hinge! Make sure to get insurance because the terrain is rough. Gravel and wind can cause damage to the car, so make sure you’re protected)
- Hotels are expensive and booked far in advance (Camping is easy and inexpensive…do it!)
- Be prepared to ride in the rain…a lot even in summer
If you’re in Iceland, you’re already on an adventure, so open yourself up to the good and bad. I even ate horse and went on a Tinder date! The date went very well; we still message each other.
Also, I was in one artsy town, just looking at various installations, and ended up meeting a group of KTM riders. What a moment of serendipity. I ended up hanging out with forty motorcyclists who were dual-sport riding the interior of Iceland…what fun!
Need more inspiration to go to Iceland? Check out a video by another adventurer. His adventure was supported by TEAM Arizona RiderCoach, JD Smith.