onsdag 9. mars 2011

The 2007 Iceland tour part 1

The 2007 Iceland tour!This ride report was originally posted at the Adventure rider forum

Lots of high res pictures here.
First of all.. the real star in this story is my old 1944 Indian Chief.. which got the nickname “Chief Bluesmoke” after an incident which included some prematurely failing piston rings and some thick blue smoke.Why did a 22 year old boy get interested in indians .. ?
A short history follows:
I read an article about an Indian Chief in a Norwegian magazine, and after 6 months with a poster with a ‘40s Indian Chief above my bed, I made a promise to myself that I would have an Indian Chief on the road within 5 years. Not an easy project for a poor student and no mechanical background, but 5 ½ years later I had my 1944 Indian chief ready restored for the road. The chief was bough as a basketcase, with maybe 50% of the parts included.
Have had a bit of initial problems, and often troubles with repro parts and failing repairs. And add to that whatever mistakes I have made along the way. But it’s been an interesting learning process, and I can now fix most of the stuff myself. The old chief now sports a 84” (1400cc ) stroker engine, ollie cams, Keihin CV carburetor, 4 speed overdrive transmission and a working front brake from a late ‘60s Triumph. But apart from the carb and the front brake, it’s no visual changes.

Some days before the trip, trying to shake things into place..

Anyway, the “Chief Bluesmoke” have seen over 55000 kilometers over the 5 last years. Mostly on Norwegian twisty roads, but also some trips to Denmark and Sweden . So I have had this Indian for 10 years now in total.
Usually I end up riding alone, since not too many I know have the time or the gutsJ to take their old bikes out on longer trips. There’s always something happening at work etc etc.. so it’s hard to get enough days off to do the longer trips in a slow pace. But the old chief is so comfortable that I can ride from morning until late at night without any aches. Strong headwind can be hard on the arms though, no windscreen on this bike.
I’ve wanted to go to Iceland the past two years, but I couldn’t get the timing and the cash to meet at the same time.
My brother lived in Iceland for a while, after meeting his Icelandic fiancé . So..I knew a little bit about Iceland , and what to expect from the roads and climate.

I started preparing for this trip last winter, however it didn’t look like I was going to make it this year. And then I had to go to an Indian motorcycle meeting in august, since I’m a part of the arrangement committee.
When June and then July came, I was still desperately trying to complete a project at work. So I couldn’t book the ferry tickets, and my vacation had to be moved 3 times.
But I was very lucky to get the one of the last available passenger tickets for the ferry. I had to wait for 5 days before getting a green light for the bike.
The trip with the Smyril-line ferry was about $450 (3100 NOK) with a so called couchette cabin.. more on that later.
The ferry stops in Bergen in Norway, Torshavn in the Faroes Island, Seydisfjordur in Iceland , Scrabster in Scotland and Hanstholm in Denmark .
The route is a little bit intricate, and you will have to stay for 3 nights in the Faroe Islands if returning to Bergen or Scrabster.

Waiting for my brother to unlock the gate at the sheep fence near our cabin.

So, I left my job on Friday the 27th and put all the gear on the (t)rusty old Indian chief and headed towards the Telemark province and our cabin.
The bike ran great, and some hours later my brother met me at the locked fence with the new 6x6 Polaris ATV. They had been working on the rough gravel road all day. Every other year we need to fix the road, since the road washes out in the winter. There’s a steep hill on this road, and I decided to ride up there. Last year I almost lost the chief over the edge of the road there, down into the stream some 30 metres below. Well, I discovered that they had tried to smooth out the road this year… and then the chief came to a stop in the loose dirt halfway up the hill…and since I was hovering somewhere above the bike after hitting some rocks just before.. the bike went down on the right crashbar. Not much rear wheel traction when the frame is resting on the dirt, but I managed to push the bike out of the mess by doing some weird goosewalk with the right foot only Need to keep the left foot on the footclutch, you know.. J

Trying to fix the road..

After one weekend with roadwork and the family at the cabin, I left for Bergen on Monday July 30th.
Btw, the Polaris 6x6 is such a great vehicle! It floats over the mud and rocks, and we moved quite a bit of gravel in the back of it.
I decided to take a chance on the E-134 over the Haukeli mountain, although there was a risk of waiting for up to one hour due to tunnel repairs.
The smaller vehicles were diverted to the old road which goes over the mountain instead of under it in a dark tunnel. On the side of this road is the even older road, dating back to the early 1900s . I stopped for a very short time to shoot some pictures, since there were some 100 cars waiting for the green light in the opposite direction.

The old "Dyrskar road"

Since I felt the bike was running a bit lean, I lifted the needle just before I left. But I managed to create a small leak the vacuum diaphragm in the CV carb. And this was now making the carb act funny.
So after a night in the tent (didn’t sleep much the first night) outside Bergen , I picked up a spare carb the next day. Replaced the carb piston with the new diaphragm outside the Harley dealership in Bergen . The guys there were very helpful, and the spare carb came from one of their mechanics.

Lunch rest in Bergen

After a nice, but expensive lunch near the fish market in Bergen , I walked around the town for a while. Usually it’s raining in Bergen , but this day it was dry and warmer than usual.
I’ve been to Bergen several times over the last year, and it’s a nice place with a lot of historical buildings and narrow streets built up over centuries of international fish trading. Also, a center for shipping and the oil industry. But it’s raining most of the time, due to the high mountains around the city.

After some hours the “Norrøna” ferry finally showed up, and was much larger than I expected. It’s more of a hotel ship than a ocean liner, so I guess the winter trips can be rough.
The “couchette” cabins were actually 9 or 6 bunks in tiny rooms in the bottom of the ship. I did try to sleep down there the first night, but felt I was suffocating and had problems moving around in the top bunk. The following night I slept outside on the deck, until they started cleaning the outside deck at 5 in the morning.
BOOK early, and book one of the ordinary cabins. For the July through August trips, you should book as early as in February.
It’s hard to relax when there are people and noise everywhere, but a good book and cabin can make the trip much shorter.
Apart from sitting in the cafeteria reading the lonely planet guide for Iceland and the Faroe Islands, I did some swimming and sauna down in the gym and did a lot of eatingJ
I met a guy from Istanbul who had ridden his BMW GS 1100 (?) to Bergen, and was now going to stay in Iceland for 3 weeks before riding down to Turkey again. Last year he did the North Cape and the Norwegian coast and fjords. And I believe he was going to do Finland next year. With road tires and a bike with a high center of gravity… he was not going to do the gravel roads in the interior of Iceland .
I met several riders with road bikes heading for Iceland , it’s possible to ride ordinary bikes around the island. Just be prepared for some stretches of gravel roads.
When the ferry finally arrived in Seydisfjordur in Iceland , I was soo ready to hit the road. But the clutch was slipping…and while trying to kick the engine over the battery ran out of power. Duh.. not a good start for my Iceland trip….
But with the help of the car deck crew, we managed to get the bike running…
The rest of the bikers got stock in the customs.. but the customs/ border control just smiled when I came riding at high rpm (for charging) on the old noisy Indian.
Then.. it was time to hit the Icelandic road and…

After 2 days at sea (with a short stop in the Faroe Island) I arrived Iceland

…and follow the long and slow caravan of weird looking offroad cars and trucks… with sparetires, jerry cans and lots of equipment on the roofs.
I think most of them were just on holiday actually…but their vehicles looked like something a volcano rescue team would use..:)
And there were lots of mobile homes and ordinary cars also. But not many motorcycles.

Well, no need to ride slow when on a motorcycle.. so I started passing them. Sometimes I wonder what they think when a 63 year old motorcycle do a flyby at wide open throttle..

Iceland and the Hringvegur
Anyway, the next town after Seydisfjordur is Egilstadir ( #5 in the map). The ring road (Route #1) pass this place, and I had already planned to follow this route to Reykjavik . The ring road is mostly covered, and the gravel section is usually not rough. I would have brought an ordinary car there, but I’m not sure how well the glossy painted plastic fairing on my Ducati 900ssie would do on the gravel roads with a 1940’s standard. But I saw both modern and older roadbikes there, and there were quite a number of Harleys and plastic racers near Reykjavik .
The Hringvegur (Icelandic for Ring road) is a near 1400 kilometers roundtrip of Iceland . However it take a shortcut at times, so one will miss some of the fjords and scenic places. I believe most of the tourist choose this route, with detours to the tourist places like the Blue lagoon, Geysir, Thingvellir etc.
I got out the ferry just before lunch on Thursday the 2nd, but my plan was to arrive in Reykjavik sometime the next day. Well, with almost 800 kilometers ride to Reykjavik it was a bit optimistic. Especially on a 1944 model indian with frequent gas refills, and also there were lots of places to stop along the coast.
But, I started riding, and was ready to adjust the plans as the trip progressed.

After a while I met an intersection where I could save some hours by riding over the mountain at Øxl, or do the Eastcoasts and the Fagridalur.
Well, the “intersection” actually looked like something you will meet when walking in the mountains.. but this is how it is in Iceland .

I had finally found what I was looking for… GRAVEL roads.
The steep descend from the Fagridalur (translates into something like Beautiful valley) was interesting to ride, narrow hairpin curves with loose gravel and rocks. And off course nothing to stop you if you start sliding over the edge of the roadJ

Fagridalur ( I think..)

Fagridalur was nice, rough terrain mixed with some farmland. I would guess it’s hard to grow things there, with the strong winds.
When my Viking (I’m from Norway) forefathers settled in Iceland , they must have had a rough time in the beginning. There were birds and fish there, but the sheep, horses etc had to be transported there by the Viking ships. Actually the first settlers were farmers who fled the mainland just to find peace and new land.
11 % of Iceland is covered by glaciers, however some believe they called it Iceland to keep people away. Greenland is much more like an “ Iceland ” actually.

After riding along the coast for some hours, I was running out of gas...oops.
I must have passed the gaspump along the way. Good thing I brought the 5 liter jerry can, but can I get to the next gaspump with just 5 liters..
Believe me.. there are long stretches without any people and houses to see in Iceland ..even on the ring road..
The gastanks on the chief carries about 12 liters..and the roads and headwind caused an increase in fuel consumption. Plus some gas exited the fuel cap ventilation on some hard bumps. So it was now using more like 8l per 100 kilometers.
But a short calculation showed that I could make it to the next gas station. So, out on the road again…
Just a few seconds later I caught up with two offroad cars with Italian license plates, and passed them at near 100km/h.
Suddenly I heard a very loud roar and in my mirror I could see something shiny bouncing in the road… I look down behind my right boot.
Oh no…. the whole tailpipe(muffler) fell off… !!
The Italians were very helpful, but the tailpipe was pretty beat up where it attaches to the header tubes.
The two mounting brackets holding the tailpipe was broken straight off, but I must have missed seeing the crack before leaving home.
Not that I had enough time the last weeks before the trip..
I had to carefully( well, not really ) adjust the tailpipe with a genuine Icelandic rocks..and a bungee cord, bailing wire and the passenger peg was used to keep the tailpipe in place. Two problems before dinner…this will be a loooong trip.
The tailpipe moved around a bit, but it stayed in place. Finally got to the gaspump (no station in the remote places) with about 2 liters of gas left, and also found a closed repair shop. But I thought the tailpipe would stay in place the 400kilometers to the next repair shop in the small town called Vik.
The south coast was very nice, and the weather was perfect..and I really had a great time riding along the coast. When I saw the glacier(s) up in the mountains on the right I knew I was getting closer and closer to the Skaftafell park where I was planning to stop for the night.. however… I still saw the glaciers on the right side 3 hours later, and I still had a long way to goJ
Well…more pictures..less talk..:)

somewhere near Høfn in the southeast of Iceland

Sometimes, looking back is a good thing to do..

South coast.

yes.. the mountains are actually for real!

the chief bluesmoke rests for two minutes..

This is Jøkulsarlon, a small lake at the edge of the glacier.. the edge glacier breaks off in big chunks of "icebergs". This is some 2000 year old ice..

When I arrived at the Skaftafell national park, I recieved an SMS from my brother.. "bad weather forecast for tomorrow, 20m/s winds and heavy rain in Reykjavik".
I checked with the locals about the area I was in, and they said I probably shouldn't ride since the bad weather would hit the area pretty bad. So I decided to ride as far as possible that night and hope I'll find a roof somewhere along the way. And btw.. the oil consumption was starting to get me worried at this point.. but I was riding pretty hard with the "offroad" gearing.. The thickest oil I could find was 15W40.. and even in the colder temperature, the engine was running so hard and hot that straight 50w is the only solution (and riding slower off course...:) )

Rode and rode for some more hours.. and it got darker and darker...
Had to stop for a short.. well I had too much coffee earlier.

This was a spooky place.. no wonder why quite a large number of people in Iceland believe in trolls and goblins.. :)

pyramids and lava landscape

Just before midnight I arrived in Vik and was so lucky to find a hotelroom!!
I had just been in Iceland for one day.. and had already seen a lot, and had met lots of nice people!

The next day, I went over to the car repair shop and the owner welded the brackets back on to the tailpipe. One thing about Icelanders is that they are pretty good at repairing things. After all, they live on an island far out in the atlantic ocean..with rough weather and long distances.

Goretex... well, if you want to test your clothes or riding gear. Go to Iceland. The wind makes the rain penetrate everything. Even before I got onto the bike, the boots and gloves were wet. And.. off course the clutch was slipping again..and had to push the bike up a hill to do a rolling start.

I must have ridden some 650 kilometers or more the first day.. so it was just a couple hours ride to Reykjavik. But I had to ride in the rain and the wind, although it had eased off a bit when I started riding. Luckily most people was smart enough to stay inside, so I had the whole width of the road for myself. The wind pushed the bike from one side of the road to the other, while I was struggling to combine riding with wiping out water from the INSIDE of the helmet!... The rain penetrates everything.. ok, the new Spyke jacket held up pretty well.

But...then suddenly I had escaped the rain:):)
and stopped by Skogafoss to shoot some pictures, and pour out some water from my boots..

I arrived in Reykjavik at 1500 on friday... and got an overview over the city from the tower of the Hallgrims church.

I had never been to Reykjavik, but I managed to find my brother's soon to be family inlaw where I was going to have the base for the next few days.
The Chief bluesmoke got new offroad shoes for this trip.. and now it was finally time to try them on some rougher gravel roads.

My brother's brother in law (complicated..) was going to Landmannalaugar early the next morning to shoot some videoclips with an Icelandic rockband.. and asked me to come along. Yes, but only with my bike:)

Well.. I got lost in Reykjavik after having dinner at my brother's sister inlaw's house..and rode around in Reykjavik for a while before finding the house where I was staying.
At 0600 it was time to get up, and put on the riding gear again for the ride to Landmannalaugar.
Matti, my brother's brother in law, picked up the rest of the guys in the rockband Solstafir and we then went out on the road towards Landmannalaugar.
The chief bluesmoke got a 23tooth front sprocket for this trip, usually I run a 25t. To keep the oil consumption down, I would guess below 100km/h is the proper constant speed. But here we were doing 110-115 km/h..
After the first gas stop we had to reduce the speed a bit, since the engine was using oil.
I have been riding in strong winds before, but nothing like this. And the wind was head on.. for 2-3 hours. It really was a pain for both the engine and myself, at times it was impossible to keep 60mph.
I longed for a windscreen..
After a while we hit the gravel roads, but kept a steady 90-100km/h since it was a rather smooth gravel road.
The strong winds had increased the fuel consumption to around 1 litre per 10 kilometer. So I was running out of fuel again. Instead of entering Landmannalaugar, I had to continue to the north side where there is a gaspump. The 5litre jerry can saved the day again.

Landmannalaugar was one of the main things I wanted to see in Iceland, and I went to Iceland to ride gravel roads.
Since I had some kind of backup now, I decided to ride on the limits.
Just to see how much the old Chief bluesmoke would take.. without hurting myself of course.
These old bikes are tougher than most people think today... they didn't have all the smooth paved roads back then. And my bike is a military issue, and they had a really hard time back then.
The road into Landmannalaugar had coarse gravel, rocks, potholes everywhere.. so the bike was jumping all over the place while I was trying to focus on the smoothest paths. Fun, fun:):)
Then I broke the chainadjuster.. and shot some pictures...

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