We set an ambitious task for ourselves today, planning to ride 90 km (56 miles) from Holmavik to Reykjanes, a small outpost at the tip of an isthmus jutting out between Reykjarfjordur and Isafjordur fjords. We stocked up on supplies at the grocery store in Holmavik, knowing that we would need to supply most of our meals over the next two and a half days.
The wind and terrain have a material impact on how far you can travel when long-distance cycling, so setting ambitious distance goals is risky. I knew we had a long, steep climb early in today's ride, but otherwise the route was gently rolling with some nice flat sections. As we prepared to leave Holmavik, it was cool, but sunny with a light breeze - not bad cycling weather. I asked a local if she had seen the weather forecast. "It looks pretty good, but you may get some rain and a little wind."
The wind seemed to intensify as soon as we started riding. It was a steady headwind that made us all work to maintain a slow pace. Rippling waves rolled across any body of water we passed. Our muscles were well warmed up by the time we reached the foot of the mountain two hours after starting. It was a challenging climb (see pic) that took over an hour. I took a picture of Arisa celebrating at the top. We ate lunch huddled beside the road, partially protected from the wind and marveled at it's increasing intensity.
Snow drifts and shallow glistening ponds dotted the top of the mountain, which stretched out like a broad mesa. I was looking forward to the downhill reward after working so hard to climb up, but instead we trudged at 3 MPH across the flat expanse, heads bent against the roaring gusts. My lower back ached with the effort.
When the road finally began to descend, the wind changed from annoying to dangerous, coming at us from the side in blasts that threatened to blow us off the road. I was careful to ride slowly and in control, but despite my efforts, a sudden powerful gust caught me by surprise and shoved Sho, Saya and me across the road toward a rocky slope. I was lucky that a car wasn't coming the other direction. I pressed the breaks and leaned back into the wind and almost recovered, but was not able to keep the bicycles on the road. We slipped over the edge, and I lurched over the top of my bike, slamming my knee and rolling over the rocks. I glanced back to see Sho tumbling over and over down the slope and watched in horror as Saya's bike trailer dipped and rolled a full 360 degrees, coming to a stop on its side. I jumped up and ran to Sho, who had come to a stop on his back around ten meters (30 feet) down the slope, and lay crying. I told him to stay still and ran up the slope to free Saya from the trailer. She was crying desperately but unhurt, thanks to her seatbelt and the sleeping bags and other gear cushioning her. Eiko and Arisa had been riding behind us and jumped off their bikes to help. Sho had some bruises on his back, but was otherwise ok. My bike's handlebars were askew, but I couldn't find any other damage. We had slowed enough before falling to keep from getting seriously hurt. I shook my head, disappointed in my poor judgment, but thankful that we were all ok. We were lucky.
Within a few minutes, we had the bikes back on the road, and Sho was cracking jokes about how crazy the "crazy accident." We walked beside the bikes for the next hour, struggling to keep them upright in the gale. When we reached the fjord, we turned out of the wind and began riding again. We were rewarded with some incredible nature scenes. Large groups of white swans drifted peacefully over the dark glistening water. Several seals popped their heads out of the water to spy on us. A lone dolphin glided gracefully up the middle of the fjord.
As we finally rolled into Reykjanes at 10 pm, eleven hours after leaving Holmavik, I felt a complex mix of exhaustion, relief, triumph and humility.
Here are some pics:
Data on the mountain we cycled over:
Can you spot Eiko and Arisa cycling up the mountain?
Arisa celebrating at the top:
Our mountain top lunch spot:
Scene of the crash:
- An Iceland Bike Adventure post