Video & Interview: Emily Batty's Incredible 913km Self-Supported Crossing of Iceland

Nov 13, 2020
by Sarah Moore  
Photos by Adam Morka


An incredible trip across Iceland with Emily Batty, Chris Burkard, Eric Batty and Adam Morka, biking a route said once to be impassable. We caught up with Lululemon Global Ambassador Emily Batty after the trip to find out more about the experience.


How did the trip across Iceland come about?


Iceland is the gem of all bikepacking destinations. It's one of the harshest climates for bikepacking, but that also makes it the most rewarding because the challenges one must overcome to be successful is where true growth and a sense of accomplishment comes from. It also features some of the most spectacular and diverse scenery on the planet. Experiencing Iceland made me feel so deeply connected to the planet earth as I've never felt before.

Initially, the timing with my race schedule wasn't great, but that was a sacrifice I was willing to make, to be honest. Once the race season was nearly entirely canceled, the trip became a blessing in disguise and gave me a renewed sense of purpose in my training and a goal to focus on. I was able to ride across Iceland with my brother and my husband, and I get to say I rode across Iceland by bike for the rest of my life now. It was such an amazing experience.



How long did it take you to prepare for the trip? Had you bikepacked before? Did you do a test bikepacking trip?


We had been planning the trip since January, and it took nine days from start to completion. The preparation wasn't too far off how I would normally build towards a race season, except for some much longer rides thrown into the mix. I would focus on 1-2 rides a week that were 180-200km long and 5-8 hours in length. And not just to build fitness, but to get my body and joints adapted to being in the saddle for 10 hours a day.



Did you change anything about your bike set-up for the ride? How much did your bike weigh? What was it like to ride with so much extra weight on your bike?


Yeah, I did. I flipped my handlebars from a race position to a touring position and utilized a set of touring grips, which gave me multiple hand positions. I chose to run 2.4 tires, and I'm glad. I increased my suspension pressure by 30-50% as my bike with all the gear was weighing in at around 60 pounds.




Photo by Adam Morka



How did it compare to other hard athletic events you've done before? Was it harder or easier than racing Olympic cross-country World Cups?


It's a different hard. It's a long game hard. I mean, training every day for XCO racing is a long time, so I had ample mental capacity to draw upon, but it's not like a typical World Cup XC race where you smash it at 95-98% max HR for 90 mins. I would say Olympics are ultimately more challenging because it's like aiming for a year's worth of perfect preparation, followed by one 90 min chance for everything to come together and get it right. When I was 4th at the Rio Olympics, I was so well prepared. The heavy lifting is done during the preparation phase. I just had to show up and do my job. On the other hand, the heavy lifting while bikepacking across Iceland happens during the here and the now, and it's not done until you reach the very end.



What was the highlight of the trip for you?


I think day 4 when we were rolling up to the Star Wars hut, which was very close to one of Iceland's largest glacier, and Adam looked over to me and said, what other couples in life get the opportunity to do this together? That was a pretty surreal moment for me.


Photo by Adam Morka


Photo by Adam Morka

Emily Batty and her husband Adam Morka


What was the hardest part of the trip for you?


I think the biggest challenge was the sheer amount of gear and food each individual needed to carry. We used a divide and conquered strategy to overcome this, which was fun coming from an individual sport. It was nice to have that team element bring us all together and have others around me where I felt truly supported. The other challenge was the mileage and hours. You have to take a progression over a perfection mindset for a trip like this. You need to keep moving forward and never sweat the small stuff. I think that the same attitude could be applied to 2020 in general. Most people are just doing their best with the circumstances they have been dealt. These are the great life lessons I get to experience and learn through sport and share with others.

Photo by Adam Morka
Eric Batty and Chris Burkard joined Emily Batty and Adam Morka on the trip.

Photos by Adam Morka
Photos by Adam Morka


Was there anything you didn't pack that you wish you had? Anything you packed that you didn't use at all?


Easy to say after the fact, but we were certainly over-prepared with food and extra clothing. I mean, it easily could have been a different trip if we had ten consecutive days of rain, 60mph winds, and snow, which it easily could have been. We were so fortunate. Even the locals said it was the nicest week of weather they had experienced in 25 years.







How did the trip fit into your training for the 2020 season and prep for making the 2021 Olympic team?


I mean, from an aerobic standpoint of view, it was very beneficial. Did I give up some top-end speed by taking it on? Yeah, I'm pretty sure I did based on my performance at the last two World Cups and World Champs, but those were such an unknown that I didn't even train as though they were going to happen anyway. I think a few athletes burnt themselves out training this year while the racing was so unknown. I'm not sure the bikepacking trip will hold any merit in the bigger picture of things, but if anything, it was enlightening and fun. It felt so good to experience my bike differently, and happiness is a significant component of an athlete's success.



Do you have any plans to do another bikepacking trip?


Of course, I would like to do more bikepacking trips in the near future, but I have huge goals and aspirations for next year. I'm more hungry than ever to get back on the podium and medal at the Olympics after finishing 2 seconds off the bronze medal in Rio. That's left a fire burning inside me, and I know that 2021 is the year I need to focus on being exceptional on the performance side. So, in short, all my attention and focus is being channeled towards performance.

Photo by Adam Morka


Photos by Adam Morka

Photos by Adam Morka

Photos by Adam Morka


Photos by Adam Morka

Photos by Adam Morka

Photos by Adam Morka


Photos by Adam Morka





68 Comments

  • 51 1
 Emily Batty - The Woman, who races a full XC Course, XC Sprint, does a Bikepacking-Trip and always looks stoked and happy no matter how hard it was! Amazing Pictures!
  • 5 6
 Drop dead gorgeous as well!!
  • 8 0
 I did a south to north traverse of Iceland's interior as my first bike tour ever. On a rented Trek 4300. We ate through 14 days worth of food in 9 days and still went hungry. Definitely the most amazing trip I've ever done. Also one of the dumbest.
  • 3 0
 I’ve been to Iceland once and never experienced cold like I did there. We wore every piece of clothing we had packed for our week long trip. My daughters even had their underwear on their heads! Seeing you guys all bundled up in the middle of August makes me smile knowing how rough that country is.
Looks like a beautiful, amazing journey. Glad you all made it out safe. Thanks for sharing this.
  • 8 5
 Really? Are you from Vancouver or Victoria or something? Iceland has a pretty maritime climate—it’s never that hot, but not really that cold for being so far north. Certainly not nearly as bad as we get in most areas of Canada....
  • 14 0
 @shortcuttomoncton: -10 in the maritimes often feels colder than -30 on the prairies though.
  • 2 0
 @shortcuttomoncton: without wind, -20 in Edmonton feels warmer than +7 in Vancouver in December
  • 2 0
 @taprider: It's a dry cold, haha.

I've visited Iceland in late-August and found it perfect for me in the mid-high teens C during the day. My wife found it a bit chilly and if it's raining all bets are off on comfort even if you have proper clothing. But yes, generally pleasant for where it is until you end up at an extreme end of the climate one day. That applies anywhere.
  • 1 0
 and the wind... there'se no way you can escape from it or hide. also there's no trees. car doors are ripped if you're not carefull
  • 2 0
 I went to Iceland in the middle of a "heatwave" 15ºC!!! the locals were out sunbathing.
  • 3 1
 @taprider @bishopsmike: I understand your points but as someone who’s lived in Edmonton and the east coast that difference is very overrated, haha. Vancouverites can GTFO of the cold discussion—take your +7 whining and shove it. I’ve boarded both Marmot Basin and Powder King with about -45 C at the peaks plus wind chill—regardless of how dry it is, nothing on the east coast compares.

Anyway, the point is that pretty much all of Canada (other than Lower BC and maybe Eastern NL) is colder than Iceland. Quebec in a cold snap still regularly gets well below -20 with some humidity and wind, and most of the Maritimes as well.

Iceland is kind of like Newfoundland—windy, wet, snowy and miserable but not really terribly cold except for some interior spots. What up Gander!

For a Canadian to say Iceland was the coldest they’ve ever been....again, Vancouverites GTFO!!! Haha cheers.
  • 2 0
 @shortcuttomoncton:
BWAHAHAHAHA You got me!!!! We’re delicate, fickle creatures down here. As a matter of fact, it’s 7C out right now (but feels like 5C) and it’s FAAAAAR too cold to go outside and muck about. May go for a ride later today but you’d better believe it that we’ll be bundling up! (And being from Vancouver, with close to $1000 worth of clothing on)
  • 3 0
 @shortcuttomoncton: www.coldbike.com/2019/02/13/heat-exchanger-masks-a-love-story

I have biked to work in Rocky Mtn House at -55 C (-67 F) before windchill (I had extra chilling with some downhill to increase wind chill so about -78 C -108 F). The ice cream headache from breathing air through just a balaclava was intense, I wanted to puke. Although when I started going uphill, I felt ok and my hands and feet were toasty with down mitts and gaiters, but I could feel myself getting chilled from my belly (inside out) from breathing in the cold air and realized that no matter how well I dressed that I would be in trouble in about an hour without a heat exchanger mask.

However, Ontario near a Great Lake has more unpleasant winters than Alberta

In Vancouver, I have got ice cream head ache biking downhill at +5C, so I can understand how August in Iceland can feel cold no matter how well you are dressed.

I think, extremely humid tepid feels colder than a dry cold, because you are getting cooled by breathing and not by lack of clothing
www.flickr.com/photos/robban_andersson/8408321172
  • 5 0
 Best video I've seen in quite a while focusing on the experience while showing the almost surreal beauty of uninhabited areas of Iceland. Great Job!
  • 3 0
 Incredible movie can't wait to get back on my bike after recovering from this brain tumor. Makes you feel like you were there with them would love to attempt a trip like that one day even with a group of people like them. They had a good chemistry.
  • 6 0
 My wife loves Chris Burkard's photography.
  • 68 1
 My husband loves Emily Batty.
  • 1 0
 @mi-bike: Would be a nice comment to be made by Emily herself Wink
  • 2 0
 @mi-bike: comment of the month.
  • 7 3
 Why not take a 3" or bigger tire to take the edge off of things and float over the sand? Sponsors wouldn't allow it? Just didn't want to?
  • 2 0
 The XC hardtails they're running can't fit those. Perhaps they didn't want to use a different bike. Trek makes a great bike packing bike that I'm sure they'd be stoked to have Emily on.
  • 4 0
 Yeah the Trek 1120 would have been sick for that type of adventure.
  • 3 0
 There is no way an experienced remote tourer / bikepacker would have ridden that route on standard 29er tires on XC race bikes.

With plus or fat tires they could have saved a ton of walking / pushing through the sand. Even the guys on the Trek 1120s appear to be running Schwalbe for some reason and they dont make any 29+ tires....strange choices on rolling stock all the way around.

Very cool trip though and amazing luck with the weather.
  • 1 0
 Having been to Iceland and hiked some stretch of desert that was my first thought too.
  • 7 4
 Because good riders don't need gimmicks.
  • 1 0
 Maybe speed over comfort, having owned and sold my fat bike and plus bike wheels I would also happily take a light weight 29er and accept a few meters extra might need pushing. The benafit is you go a few kph faster the rest of the time.
  • 4 0
 @Riggbeck: Whats the hurry?
If I am going on a once in a lifetime bike trip, I will gladly take the set up that allows me to actually ride the whole thing. Its not supposed to be a once in a life time hike-a-bike trip after all.
  • 2 0
 @thedirtyburritto: I personally always found the window of use where a fat bike was better than a 29er was so rare the fat bike just took the fun out of riding.

I would rather finish each day feeling like I'd travelled with minimal effort and not fought the weight of some tyres I probably didn't need 99% of the trip.

Each to their own.
  • 2 0
 @thedirtyburritto: Those Nobby Nic tires are only 2.35". It would have made a huge difference with 29+ 3" tires.
I have two 29+ bikes.
  • 2 0
 @rofo: Agreed. 29+ is worlds better on this type of terrain.
  • 3 0
 If my recollection is correct, Chris said in an instagram Q&A that the overall bike weight would have been so much heavier that it wouldn't have been worth it as there were some massive climbs in the route and it was mostly hard pack.
  • 1 0
 @LeoTProductions: pretty sure two of them are riding 1120s with Emily on her race bike.

I'm surprised Trek even let the three of them ride with somebody on a specialized.
  • 2 0
 Great video and experience, but how can this be "self-supported" if there is a film crew following them by car?
Camera: Daði “Deth” Jonsson, Elli Thor Magnusson
Drone: Steve Lewis
  • 5 0
 I think in one of the podcasts he did, Chris Burkard states that while the Camera crew was following in a car they never exchanged food, tools or anything of the likes to make sure it was self supported.
  • 1 0
 @El-Mustachio: Exactly. I followed them all live on IG and the only thing they supported the riders with are jokes and laughs at stops. Plus a local legend flew over them around day 6-7 and dropped a massive bag of gummies because Chris loves them, but that's it.
  • 1 0
 @El-Mustachio: kind of like walking a tight rope with a safety net
  • 1 0
 Self supported with a way to solid plan b when things turn to shit.
  • 1 0
 But necessary to be able to share it with the rest of us. Thanks!
  • 1 0
 Having done the ring road and West Fjords last fall, the thought of pedaling across is already making my legs cramp up, especially in the unforgiving topography of the West Fjords where they finished. I do envy them seeing the sights without the hoards of tourists I encountered, though their route through the highlands looks pretty off the the beaten path. Hopefully they still managed to scarf down a few gas station pilsurs though. Those Icelandic hot dogs are crazy addictive.
  • 2 0
 If anybody wants an extra Iceland MTB tour fix I can recommend this movie from 4 years ago.

vimeo.com/202657651

An amazing county I hope to visit myself one day.
  • 1 0
 *Edited the age.
  • 1 2
 they ( Iceland air ) cancelled my flights in sept Frown to iceland, due to the COVID. my planned adventure was not as RAD as yours, but it would have been good. this trip looks amazing, guess i will have to revamp my plans for next year... nice work.
  • 1 0
 Absolutely blown away! That was the exact right thing to do. Some of my best memories with my wife are derived from similar experiences. Cheers
  • 1 0
 That was awesome, but we need a feature length edit! There seems like so much more story to be told from what Chris describes as the best trip of his life.
  • 1 0
 My wif and I had our honeymoon on Iceland. Stunning place. This film really does it justice. Well done to all for the adventure and the filming.
  • 2 0
 Ms Batty is even more badass than I thought she was.
  • 4 10
flag garneau565 (Nov 12, 2020 at 20:38) (Below Threshold)
 *Mrs.
  • 14 12
 Emily should have a mascara sponsor.
  • 4 2
 Hahahahaha!
  • 4 0
 She’s got Batty Davis eyes

It’s just jokes people.
  • 2 3
 @taprider: you know you are far too obsessed with your appearance when you bring makeup on a trip like this.
  • 1 0
 Not gonna lie, I found myself checking whether her makeup was on in every shot. Kinda distracting. There’s a weird pressure on badass female athletes to look glamorous at all times. That will only change when commenters focus on the athletic achievement rather than the ‘what a hottie’ stuff.
  • 1 0
 Emily's Brakes look like they are straight down?!? It must be the photo angle?
  • 1 0
 So you brought Chris Burkard on this trip and used none of his photography in the article?
  • 1 0
 Awesome trip report! Emily - bring that gold back home to Canada (where it belongs!) in 2021!!!
  • 1 0
 I've heard that Emily fits right in amongst the young women of Iceland, which improves the scenery/climate trade-off.
  • 1 0
 Next level adventure and exploration. Awesome documentary.
  • 1 0
 Very cool! Watched the updates on the gram!
  • 1 0
 Really well done and so badass. Start drawing lines
  • 1 0
 Weirdest looking Florida condo I've ever seen
  • 1 2
 This is like going from Santa Cruz to Pismo Beach via CA HWY 1! Wouldn’t it be a better adventure crossing Greenland?!
  • 1 2
 I don't get it... it looks dead, depressing, cold and desolate while being devoid of anything green
  • 3 0
 The clue is in the name. Unlike Greenland Smile
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