Icelandic Motorcycle Adventure

Competition between streaming video services has become intense, with each company struggling to define its unique value as movie studios pull their content and create their own platforms. I primarily watch Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, and while I prefer the original content on Netflix I love how Amazon has embraced the long tail. You may not find your favorite blockbuster steaming on Prime, but you will find deep cuts including foreign language shorts and incredibly niche British television. As someone with a taste for the unusual and oddly specific, I love mining this obscure archive.

My latest obsession is the prolific genre of motorcycle adventure videos, and there are countless to choose from. Their abundance no doubt stems from their ease of funding: sending a few guys off with bikes and cameras won’t guarantee a huge success, but it won’t set you back much either. I’ve watched a group trek from London to Beijing, a pair of riders circumnavigate India, and most recently enjoyed GlobeRiders: Iceland Expedition a month-long motorcycle trip across Iceland.

GlobeRiders: Icelandic Motorcycle Adventure

GlobeRiders: Iceland Expedition is exactly the kind of niche content you can really only stream on Prime, and was originally released on DVD by GlobeRiders, LLC, a motorcycle touring company in Seattle, WA. The company was founded by photojournalist Helge Pedersen, made famous by a decade-long (1982–1992) motorcycle adventure chronicled in his book 10 Years on 2 Wheels: 77 Countries, 250,000 Miles. Despite starting that epic journey in his native Norway, nearby Iceland wasn’t included in those 77 countries. In the summer of 2001 that omission was rectified, as Helge and two riding partners set out on the adventure chronicled in this movie.

Helge and his companions arrive first in Seyðisfjörður, on the northeastern coast of Iceland, via a ferry from Scotland. From there they travel further north on gravel roads in search of bird cliffs, before looping into the interior highlands. Their route intersects with the paved ring road at times, but more often then not they find themselves riding on gravel roads or rough hewn paths. There’s some discussion in the movie about the right kind of motorcycle for a trip like this: a middle ground between various factors that balance weight, speed, and handling to perform well in a variety of situations.

Route of the Icelandic motorcycle adventure
The route included a mix of paved and gravel roads, looping into the interior highlands at various points throughout the 4-week journey.

The quality of the video is poor by today’s standards, low resolution and with an older aspect ratio. This is made up for by the calm narration of Helge sharing a mixture of information about motorcycles, landscapes, and Icelandic history. Stopping through small villages they talk about economic changes and local culture, such as the decline of the herring industry in Siglufjörður. It’s also fascinating to compare the Icelandic infrastructure from 19 years ago with today. For example, their route through the Westfjords seems to be entirely gravel, whereas many portions of the road are now paved.

My favorite parts of the movie are when Helge and his companions ride through the interior highlands, providing a glimpse into places that tourists rarely see, and even fewer spend the night. The route required fording rivers with their motorcycles, the most dangerous maneuver of the trip since it’s hard to tell how deep they are, or if an unseen boulder might block the bike’s path.

After riding over 3,000 miles in 4 weeks, Helge and friends return to the ferry on the eastern coast. Strangely, the video ends by recovering some extra tires they had stored under a house, and stashing them in the ruins of an old building — just in case any other riders might need them. They even provide the GPS coordinates!

GlobeRiders is an active tour company, and you can accompany Helge on trips such as World Tour 2020, running 73 days and spanning 12,000 miles between Tokyo and Munich. At roughly $40K, a multi-continent motorcycle adventure isn’t cheap, but given his decades of experience I can’t imagine you’d find a better guide than Helge. For myself, I can’t help but dream about doing something similar to this Icelandic trip some day. At least I know where to find some spare tires.

Watch GlobeRiders: Iceland Expedition on Amazon Prime.