Bike suitability for a particular interior road in Iceland

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22camels
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Bike suitability for a particular interior road in Iceland

Postby 22camels » 18 Jan 2015, 10:10pm

I will be cycling in Iceland for 3 weeks in August this year.

I have a number of questions that I will start on a separate thread, but thought I should get the most important thing out of the way first. It concerns the route.

I have a road bike/light tourer, specialized tricross sport 2011 model, which has been pretty good for the three one week tours I've done to date and all the other riding I've done on it. Whilst I do plan to upgrade to a bike more suitable for rougher roads (which will be a proper touring bike not a mountain bike), this won't be happening this year (wrong timing) and I will be taking my tricross to Iceland and we shall see how far it will take me.

I have a route in mind that is perhaps a bit ambitious, that covers 1300-1400km, going from Keflavik toward the F26 (Sprengisandur) interior road which would bring me most of the way to Akureyri (there is a choice near the end here of the F821 or the F842, then route 1, approaches). From there on, depending on time available, it would be the ring road all the way East and returning along the South. Using the latest Ferdakort 1:200 000 atlas I have determined the total length of the unpaved section in the interior to be no more than 230km, starting at Vatnsfell and ending not far from Akureyri. Here the F26/F821/F842 are described partly as "gravel roads" and partly as "back roads maintained by government". It appears that the ring road is now entirely paved, possibly with the exception of a couple of tiny stretches in the east.

I currently have 28mm tyres on Mavic CXP22 rims, I plan to put 35mm tyres on it, which are against the Mavic recommendations but it sounds like you can do this. Above 35mm is probably pushing it.

I have already spent a fair bit of time reading up various resources, such as iviehoff's Touring Notes, Mike Erens' Iceland pages and the Icelandic Mountain Bike Club pages, and it has not escaped my attention that generally a mountain bike is recommended for Icelandic gravel roads. However I have a feeling that the F26 is one of the best known and best maintained gravel roads, so my hope is that whilst my bike will be sup-optimal, it will not reduce me all the way to walking pace.

So my question is, am I being completely stupid to even think of tackling a section of unpaved interior road on this bike, or will it be OK-ish? Perhaps another interior road, like the Kjolur route, might be more suitable than the F26?

If it's not OK, I will try and stick to the paved roads. Probably loop around the ring road if winds allow, though I would love to see more of the interior.
Last edited by 22camels on 19 Jan 2015, 12:15am, edited 1 time in total.

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stephenjubb
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Re: Bike suitability for a particular interior road in Icela

Postby stephenjubb » 18 Jan 2015, 11:09pm

If you are travelling light then you may be ok, you would be advised to get your wheels checked by a mechanic.

If you are camping and carry loads, then you are better sticking to paved roads, people do the interior on mountain bikes.

What will you do if you have wheel / component failure in the middle of nowhere.

Others may say it is possible, but Iceland demands the ultimate respect, go equipped with solid gear and you will have a better experience.

Why don't you hire a mountain bike when you get there. It is not that expensive and will solve all your problems.

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andrew_s
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Re: Bike suitability for a particular interior road in Icela

Postby andrew_s » 18 Jan 2015, 11:17pm

If your tyres are too narrow for the track, the general effect will be that you are slower, rather than that you can't get through at all.
For example, I figure I was descending the back side of the Pico Veleta at only about half the speed of my companion, with me on 700x28, and him on 26x1.75, which translated into an extra 2 hours.
With a 200 km inland track, slower may mean extra camps, which means more food, which means a bit slower again.

22camels
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Re: Bike suitability for a particular interior road in Icela

Postby 22camels » 18 Jan 2015, 11:34pm

Thanks for the comments.

Camping, yes, I don't think it's optional along this interior stretch. So would be carrying about 25kg (5-7kg more than my usual touring load to account for extra supplies.. hopefully not more?!)

If I break down, I believe there is a bus, though I might have to wait a day for it.

Mountain bike hire would be extra cost, also I heard quality isn't great, maybe it's better now.

Yes, that's sort of what I suspected about tyre width. But then again it's not just about tyre width..

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Tigerbiten
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Re: Bike suitability for a particular interior road in Icela

Postby Tigerbiten » 19 Jan 2015, 12:56am

When I went around Iceland, I talked to some who had done the interior road on mountain bikes and found it hard work to do 30 miles in places due to bogging down in ash.
So if you think of the volcanic ash is like an inch of soft sand, I don't think you'd be far off in places.
How well would you cope with that when fully loaded.

pete75
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Re: Bike suitability for a particular interior road in Icela

Postby pete75 » 19 Jan 2015, 7:57am

If the experience of Horace Dall is anything to go by a Raleigh 3 speed is suitable. http://www.roughstuffnarrativ.com/horace/


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elduderino12
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Re: Bike suitability for a particular interior road in Icela

Postby elduderino12 » 19 Jan 2015, 9:22am

Can you not just get a new wheelset. I have the same bike and it has huge clearances - room for a 1.8" tyre in the front.

I've cycled in Iceland twice now. Early May and mid August. Traffic wise the ring road was desolate in May and horrid in August (think a constant stream of tour buses and tourists in rented jeeps driving as fast as they can to get to the next must see thing).

Personally I'd prefer bigger tyres, but as long as you're prepared to go a little slower then you should be fine. Some of the gravel roads I road were rutted and washboard, but the majority were in good condition. However occasionally there were sections of deep sand which if you could keep your momentum then they were kind of ride-able, but as sson as it went you had to push.

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Alternatives to the ring road were readily available if a little longer.

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The ring road was a mile or two to the left of and this road ran parallel to it - zero traffic

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An alternative route from Geyser to Gullfoss - again zero traffic.

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pwa
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Re: Bike suitability for a particular interior road in Icela

Postby pwa » 19 Jan 2015, 9:48am

I too recommend a set of new wheels built for the purpose It may cost around £250 including wider tyres, but they will save you a lot of stress. I would ask Spa Cycles for something with 36 spokes each. The rest of the bike would be a good choice for rough roads / tracks.

22camels
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Re: Bike suitability for a particular interior road in Icela

Postby 22camels » 19 Jan 2015, 2:27pm

New wheel set is an excellent suggestion, many thanks. Knew there was a trick I'd missed :)

So something like a hand built wheel set from Spa like with Deore hubs and Rigida Sputnik 36h rims, and wide tyres (1.75 inch?) and the rest of the bike would be good enough? I have only really used the tricross on asphalt, I know it's marketed as a versatile bike that can be used on gravel, but I'm not really sure.

Nice pictures and blog, elduderino12, looks like you got lucky with the weather. I was thinking of staying on the ring road for most of the trip, after this interior diversion, second half of August.. may need to reconsider.. it would be in the East and South though so perhaps a bit less busy than the western sections you experienced..

I looked up Horace Dall, he could only ride the Sprengisandur 5-10% of the way.. I think they've improved the road a bit since his days..

pwa
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Re: Bike suitability for a particular interior road in Icela

Postby pwa » 20 Jan 2015, 9:25am

If your Tricross survives baggage handlers it will probably survive Iceland! There are plenty of forestry "roads" in the UK for you to experience gravelly tracks and test the suitability of tyres. But good strong wheels will be essential for a loaded bike on rough surfaces.

22camels
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Re: Bike suitability for a particular interior road in Icela

Postby 22camels » 20 Jan 2015, 1:35pm

Yeah ok I will probably go with the new wheel set, but I'm still a bit skeptical as I'm on a bit of a budget and to invest another 250 into a bike I won't be keeping for that much longer seems a bit rash. 40mm tyres on new wheels, or 35mm tyres on current stock wheels, that I've had no trouble with, never a broken spoke. Actually I have done, on 28mm tyres, a bit of forestry roads here and even beaches where the sand was dense enough and it was fine. There is a lot of variation in off-road surfaces, even within Iceland, so, lacking experience, it's difficult for me to say now how it will be on the specific road I'm thinking of taking. Also whilst yes sure it's true that strong wheels are essential, and Iceland demands an extra high level of preparedness, I suspect it's tempting to over prepare / over insure - yes if you want the trip to be perfect, or if it's a long trip, yes, but for a short trip of three weeks, if there is a 50% chance I'll be fine with my current setup, if a bit slow on the gravel, and the other 50% of the time, my wheels break in the first week, I have to catch a ride to the next town, and spend the rest of the trip larking around on foot, do I mind that much? Not sure..

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stephenjubb
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Re: Bike suitability for a particular interior road in Icela

Postby stephenjubb » 20 Jan 2015, 2:25pm

22camels wrote:Yeah ok I will probably go with the new wheel set, but I'm still a bit skeptical as I'm on a bit of a budget and to invest another 250 into a bike I won't be keeping for that much longer seems a bit rash. 40mm tyres on new wheels, or 35mm tyres on current stock wheels, that I've had no trouble with, never a broken spoke. Actually I have done, on 28mm tyres, a bit of forestry roads here and even beaches where the sand was dense enough and it was fine. There is a lot of variation in off-road surfaces, even within Iceland, so, lacking experience, it's difficult for me to say now how it will be on the specific road I'm thinking of taking. Also whilst yes sure it's true that strong wheels are essential, and Iceland demands an extra high level of preparedness, I suspect it's tempting to over prepare / over insure - yes if you want the trip to be perfect, or if it's a long trip, yes, but for a short trip of three weeks, if there is a 50% chance I'll be fine with my current setup, if a bit slow on the gravel, and the other 50% of the time, my wheels break in the first week, I have to catch a ride to the next town, and spend the rest of the trip larking around on foot, do I mind that much? Not sure..


Turn it around and look at it another way. You only have a short trip, a breakage could mean losing most of your holiday. To keep costs down you could just upgrade the back wheel. These at £86 for rear wheel

http://www.spacycles.co.uk/products.php ... b0s176p349

will do the job perfectly. For the front take do not put a lot of weight up front, take a few spare spokes and learn how to repair them. Most spoke breakagages are on the rear anyway. When you get rid of the bike, sell the rear wheel on here ( or transfer to the new one, it will almost always be better than what is supplied on a new one if the rear wheel is machine built), you'll get a decent price.

pwa
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Re: Bike suitability for a particular interior road in Icela

Postby pwa » 20 Jan 2015, 2:34pm

Yes, that sounds like good advice. Having the kit and the knowledge to repair wheels in the field will cost you little and give you a feeling of independence. You need to be able to get the cassette off (tiny portable tool from Spa) and you need spare spokes (mainly cassette side rear) and a spoke key.

22camels
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Re: Bike suitability for a particular interior road in Icela

Postby 22camels » 20 Jan 2015, 2:51pm

Yeah I need to learn how to replace broken spokes.

Do you think upgrading just the back wheel will be alright then, there wouldn't be some sort of imbalance between the wider heavier stronger rim on the back, and the narrow, lighter, weaker rim on the front?

That's the thing, I wouldn't lose most of my holiday as I'm sure I would still have a good time even without my bike, it's about expectations. But I guess the primary purpose I set myself for this trip is to learn more about longer distance bike touring in a more challenging environment as the max I've done up to now is one week in quite easy places and I have plans for a much longer trip. So in that sense yes I think should take the bike side of it seriously :).

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foxyrider
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Re: Bike suitability for a particular interior road in Icela

Postby foxyrider » 20 Jan 2015, 3:14pm

If you want to help preserve the wheels do not put everything on the rear of the bike, spread the load! Take an emergency spoke - no need to remove cassette to get you going again.

Looking at those roads, it looks like fun and i'd happily tackle them on my Airnimal!
Convention? what's that then?
Airnimal Chameleon touring, Orbit Pro hack, Orbit Photon audax, Focus Mares AX tour, Peugeot Carbon sportive, Owen Blower vintage race - all running Tulio's finest!