Exploring Iceland by Bike: A Photographer’s Epic Story of Fire and Ice

A mountain biker poses with his bike next to a geothermal pool with steam rising from the water in Iceland.

Have you ever dreamed of mountain biking in Iceland, the land of fire and ice? 

If so, you should read this riding story by professional photographer Dan Milner, who joined fellow rider Andrew Neethling on a journey to the earth’s center.

Well, not quite, but close enough. 

They explored some of the most stunning and challenging trails on this volcanic island, where the weather can change instantly, and the scenery can make you feel like you’re in another world. 

A Land Rover Discovery driving into a small pond or water crossing with mountain bikes on the roof in Iceland.

Follow their adventure with a story and photos as they face squalls, geysers, lava fields, and more in this epic ride across Iceland.

Exploring Iceland by Bike with a Camera

“Do we move forward like civilized creatures, or do we turn back like cowards?” asks Professor Lidenbrook with more than a little English pomp. 

I tumble the professor’s line over in my mind as I watch an approaching squall curling around the mountain peaks before us. It’s about to hurl us some of Iceland’s notorious weather, so like Lidenbrook, we have the decision to make. 

A mountain biker pedals along a rocky ledge with mountain peaks in the distance in Iceland.

Perhaps recalling a line from an old movie’s script is not the best way to reach decisions that could dictate whether we’ll make it back in time for a post-ride beer. But just like Lidenbrook’s hero moment in the 1977 movie of Jules Verne’s classic novel, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, we’re facing challenges Iceland-style. 

A mountain biker pedals along a vertical rock wall in Iceland.

We’re riding bikes across a rugged volcanic landscape rather than stumbling through an underground passage hounded by noxious gases and hungry dinosaurs. Still, one glance at the primordial terrain around us leaves me certain that prehistoric beasts might lumber from behind a rock at any moment. 

Iceland can affect your imagination: It’s likely why Verne’s book, filled with long-lost monsters and giant fungi, is so fantastic.

We press on, more out of a desire to complete our twelve-kilometer trail loop than any denial of a dodgy screenplay’s concept of ‘civilized’ or ‘cowardice.’ After all, if the adage is to be believed, there is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing. 

A mountain biker pedals along a mossy, rocky ledge with a waterfall below in Iceland.

The approaching squall is not entirely unexpected; given Iceland’s positioning between two notoriously stormy seas, we knew coming to ride here would come with meteorologically moody challenges —even in June.

But fellow Shimano ambassador Andrew Neethling and I also knew this rugged, colorful, unspoiled landscape would have its rewards—if we were willing to, as Professor Lidenbrook says, ‘move forward like civilized beasts’ when the weather rolls in.

A mountain biker pedals along a rocky ledge with mountain peaks in the distance in Iceland.

The trail opens into an amphitheater of breathtaking beauty. These views alone are reward enough for continuing onwards, even without the long, sinuous descent in wait. 

It’s a story familiar to each of the days we ride: the weather changing its mood hourly, while each turn in a trail revealing a new vista across yet more vast, untamed volcanic plateaux or becoming a gateway to a challenging pump track that rolls over jagged outcrops of lava spewed from the Earth’s bowels centuries or perhaps only months ago. 

A mountain biker launches above a small, rocky hilltop in Iceland.

The riding, the landscapes, and the idea of existing here are all humbling.

You cannot visit Iceland without being humbled—it’s probably the country’s biggest takeaway— and it comes with inspiration. 

We ride Iceland’s flowing singletrack for three days through some of its most breathtaking scenery. We gawp at tumbling glaciers and skirt deep ravines sliced through rock by untold forces as quickly as a hot knife through butter. We battle headwinds and shoulder bikes under clear blue skies. 

A mountain biker shreds a loose-dirt trail along a rock garden with mountain peaks in the distance in Iceland.

And when we depart, we swear to return. Like Jules Verne, we know we have just scratched the surface; dig a little deeper, and who knows what more might be uncovered. 

Why you should Consider Exploring Iceland by Bike

Iceland is a must-experience mountain biking destination because it offers a variety of trails and landscapes found nowhere else in the world. Some of the reasons why Iceland is an excellent place for mountain biking are:

  • It has polychrome mountains, lava fields, black sand deserts, geothermal springs, glaciers, lakes, icy river crossings, grassy plains, and forests.
  • It has active geothermal areas where steam rises from the ground, and volcanoes erupt with lava.
  • It has untouched and vast views that defy description and are away from the crowds.
  • Iceland tour groups rent electric bikes, making exploring the trails easier to reach further into the backcountry.

Why Photographers Adore Iceland’s Stunning landscape

Photographers love Iceland because it has endless natural wonders, offering surreal landscapes. And mountain bike photographers such as Dan Milner enjoy shooting Iceland’s unique features:

  • It has waterfalls, mountains, volcanoes, glaciers, geysers, fjords, lava fields, and black sand beaches that create diverse and dramatic landscapes.
  • It has unique natural light that changes with the seasons and the weather, creating different moods and atmospheres.
  • Wildlife like puffins, whales, seals, and horses add life and interest to the scenes.
  • It has culture and history reflected in the Icelandic people’s architecture, art, and traditions.
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