Iceland: Riders on the Storm

Iceland: Riders on the Storm

Together with two other journalists, I joined the Honda Adventure Roads tour (HAR 2022) in Iceland a few days after the start. So far, the route had taken the group from Reykjavik in the west toward the northeast to the small harbor town of Húsavík. From a bird's-eye view as we approached the Akureyri airstrip, we saw landscapes that were completely new to us—massive mountain slopes half-covered with light green grass. On top of the glaciers rolled a dense soup of clouds, and maybe 500 meters further down small farms with dairy cattle dotted the landscape. In between, like stars in the night sky, thousands of silo bales were wrapped in white foil. The line between freezing to death and growing vegetation is only a few hundred yards wide in some places here. Well, we won't be riding the Africa Twins as far as the glaciers … I hope!

Honda is running the adventure event on Africa Twin models for the third time now—2017 in Norway, 2019 in South Africa, and now in Iceland. Many manufacturers nowadays organize spectacular motorbike events in remote regions at more or less humane prices to pamper participants as brand ambassadors. Participation in the HAR 2022 in Iceland cost around $4,870 and Honda reportedly added the same amount on top. You can hardly find cheaper travel in Iceland on your own motorbike for 11 days. Like to see some current prices? A gallon of gas is above $9, a decent hotel stay is around $200, a simple hamburger with a beer costs almost $40, and a dignified dinner is $80-100. Plus you need to get there first, which takes a lot of time on the ferry.

When It Rains, It Pours

In Húsavík, there is a strong smell between the fish processing plants in the harbor. The group had a rest day and went whale watching. After the start in Reykjavik, three Dakar factory riders entertained and coached the participants in new riding techniques. Ricky Brabec, José Ignacio Cornejo, and—a newcomer to the Honda team—Adrian van Beveren trained the riders on a small motocross track built especially for the occasion under the guidance of three-time motocross world champion David Thorpe.

There are 35 riders from 11 nations participating in the event, with monster vans and pickups with huge tires following them as service vehicles. There are two groups led by the local tour guides from Iceland. I am the last one to join the "fast ones," watching the long string of Africa Twins moving south along the fjord in the morning. After 37 miles, we take the first short break at a gas station. Time for a horrible coffee, which seems to be the unfortunate standard up here.

A frightening wall of black clouds is building up in front of us above the paved, southbound F821 road. The information board at the side of the road warns us of winds of up to 33 mph and temperatures as low as 44 degrees. It's impossible to slip into a rain suit alone in this storm! I need the help of two people to don the suit. You shouldn’t wait too long with the waterproof clothes—at some point the wind is so strong that even the bike can hardly stand on its own!