With the Zündapp KS 750 to Iceland                                                                                  H-P Hommes

 

 We have been planning a trip to the unspoilt vulcanic island in the North of Europe for years.

We collected and analysed all travel reports and it became more and more clear  that you should not travel Iceland with normal vehicles except on the ring road along the coast. But we planned to travel with special vehicles – with three Zündapp KS 750 - and not normal ones. Early in the morning the first off-road vehicles arrive – equipped with jerry cans, cable winches and more – at the up to this moment sleepy ferry harbour in the North of Denmark. From this point is the only possible connection to  ferry across to Iceland with your own vehicle.

Until the afternoon the small international group of bike drivers has been expanded 16 incl. our three heavy military bikes. between the overloading Enduro and cross motor bikes the Zündapp KS 750‘s look  as if we would make an adventure trip without any preparations. Convinced that our bikes in their original state were built for the expected strain we thought that a rope and a feldspar were the only things necessary. 

The usually so manoeuvrable Enduros had been altered with luggage racks, additional tanks to slow burden donkeys and most of the occupied with two persons. On the other hand Tadeusz from Lodz and Guido and myself from Viersen have easily stowed our equipment incl. catering for weeks in the sidecars and the saddle bags 

The ferry MS Norröna reaches the Faro Islands on the third day where we use a two days enforced stay to get to know the small group of islands with its jagged valleys and idyllic fisherman villages. In the North is an old village with a wonderful youth hostel and camping possibilities directly at the seaside. The ferry arrives back again to the Faro Islands from Bergen in Norway where it has picked up other Iceland travellers. We step on board and 36 hours later we view a fog overcastted country: Iceland.

 

Iceland is named after the huge glaciers, which cover approx. 13% of the island.

We answer the customs officer’s question if diesel or petrol engine a bit hurt with „petrol“. They stick a label with a stamp and the date on our sidecar and remind us to use only roads and not cruise around off-road.

Today we ask ourselves what he might have meant with „roads“. We can only remember grounds.

The question diesel or petrol is asked to everybody because diesel vehicles have to pay a tax on arrival already, approx. DM 90,00 per week for cars. Therefore diesel is less expensive than petrol.

An asphalt road is leading out of the ferry harbour Seydisfjördur. The bike mates with whom we had made friends on the ferry overtook us with their faster bikes waving a friendly farewell. But at the first pass the road becomes a track of shingle, dotted with potholes and pieces of rocks. A sign shows 18% gradient when we overtake our mates again. Some of them had been pulled of their saddles, because their bikes had lost their steering abilities due to too  heavy loading and because of the unfavourable centre of gravity their front wheel had lifted off at this degree of gradient. We met them several times. First the pillion riders. They „discovered the area on foot“ and on top of the hill the drivers with their bikes.  After 30 km we reached the ring road no. 1. The Iceland motorway winds along the coast all round the island. 200 km out of 1.420 km are made of asphalt, the rest is paved with a oil shingles and loose sand . At the ring road you have to face the question where to go first: to the mild and less rainy north or to the south? 

We decide to take the southern route through the rough and windy highland to Vatnajökull.

What we do not recognise at first is the total lack of trees and bushes, because the mountains are covered with moss and lichens in all colours. The heavy wind does not even weaken towards the evening and we are glad when our tents are set up in the sheltered zone of some rocks directly at the beach. Here we learn to love our wind proven tents and good sleeping bags because they are the most important components of good equipment for Iceland.  Even at the very best weather conditions you may never put up your tent at an impropriate place and without sufficient anchoring against the wind. Sometimes the weather changes within minutes. 

Enjoying a cup of tea we look back on our first day. We drove 250 km on the hilly ring road at dry but because of the wind quite cool weather. We used 5,8 liter/100 km and practically no oil. The bikes run well and we are happy. 

The fisherman’s village Höfn in the South East of Iceland is typical for many villages. a functional modern housing estate. The center consists of a church, a post office, a supermarket with petrol station.  Everything reminds you of a small American town.

Every day that we are driving we get more confidence in our Zündapps. Against our expectations we can drive approx. 60 km/h on the hard wash board tracks. You always need a certain speed for these track because when you drive to slow or to fast you get far more shaken. Focussing our target for the day – the big glacier – we chase our KS 750‘s the last 20 km through loose sand only to manage with verve in the deep lanes which alternate with stony cross country routes. May be because it is fun to shake off a Tenere who has such a hard time to cross the sand heavily loaded or only in the mood of high spirits because it is fun to jump and drift over the tracks in full speed. At the end of the route I hold my off-vibrated retroviseur in my hands. Guido’s comment: „This one had to come off, original Zündapps did not have one either.“ The broken off  golf ball of Tadeusz’s engine bolt made us recognise that there is a limit for the old material. 

This damage gives us some sort of idea of Iceland’s agriculture because we drive to a farm to weld the bolt. That‘s just by the way that we discover that the farmer is feeding 80 foxes with fish waste in a near by building. He keeps them because of the fur. His free-range sheep are rounded-up in autumn, the lambs are slaughtered except for 200 dams. He has only got enough hay for this number to bring them over the winter.

There is a lovely camping site with supermarket, restaurant and petrol station in the national Park Skaftafjell. A part of the Vatnajokull – one of the largest glacier areas – belongs to it. We never had a problem with petrol except in the highland. Quite often we find a petrol pump in the middle of nowhere. After ringing the bell „the petrol pump attendent“ arrives from a near by farm and gives us service.  

From the glacier further on over the ring road we drive for hours and hours through monotonous sander The sanders consist of black sand and shingles, which deposit during the thawing spring and reach up to 20 km into the sea. 

Until 1974 the sanders and the flowing off glaciers, which were moving a lot,  could only be crossed with horses. In this case the ring road was closed with several one lane bridges from west to east. This way they created an important connection with a lot of  energy. In 1996 a part of the bridges was washed away after a volcanic eruption under the glacier ice. 

After the sanders the landscape is changing abruptly into a bizarre greenly mossed lava area. Close to the small village with the inexpressible name Kirjubaejarklaustur we turn North into the highland.  

The highland routes are blocked until the late spring. After the thaw construction equipment drive along first and put them back into passable conditions for off-road vehicles. Sandy and during rain muddy tracks covered with gravel lead with 30% gradient from South to North. the forts of the rivers and brooks – all without bridges – may not be driven through without a previous control. to this end we have waist-high angler boots with us. before each passage we look for the lowest point in the ford. It is never the direct way. This one was already used by the heavy off-road trucks and it is to deep for us. Our critical death of water is 50 cm. It does not sound much but our Zündapps are only 95 cm high up to the upper edge of the tank lid and the centrifugal air cleaner is the part at risk.  

This French men did not controlled the water before.

As you cannot condense sucked in water – as everybody knows – a little sip is all you need to damage the engine. So quite often we curve from one sandbank to another through the up to 150 m wide rivers. In a small harmless ford Tadeusz touches a deep hole with his rear wheel  which completely disappears in it. A friendly Icelander pulls the KS out of the gravel river with his off-road car. 

The passages through water, which you find in the highlands every 10 to 15 km, are no problem for our Zündapps. Even in deepest water the ignition is not interrupted. However I got stuck in the middle of the river because I had forgotten to open the petrol cock. Although the cylinders are already under water the engine starts. The water in the exhaust pipe blows out with loud  bubbles. we stay several days in the volcanic area of the Eldgja and Hekla bathing in hot springs and rivers admiring the volcanic craters with diameters of several meters up to several kilometres. After a three days drive through the black sand dessert made of volcanic ash we reach the ring road again at Hella. 

The weather is dry and with 24° C warmer than we had hoped. The days have no nights so that the evening sunset from midnight on passes over seamlessly into the sunset. In these bright night we often drive until the early morning through an unreal beautiful crater landscape bathed in the warm golden light of the low sun. 

Going of the ring road down south along the coast we visit the Kirsu area where on many spots fizzing steam comes out of the earth. Some lake like holes filled with hot stinky bubbling and sulphurous mud  point at volcanic activities.  

The way that continues from here is a real imposition. we can only crawl and „enjoy“ for hours without end the up- and downhill drive through a never ending series of potholes. As a compensation we find a natural open air bath situated in a lava field. It is filled with salty water and has got the melodious name „Blue Lagoon“. We only visit Reykjavik, the capital, for one day. Passing the All-Men-Canyon we feel drawn zu the big Geysir which has given its name to all hot water springs.

The big Geysir only seldom expels a jet of water. His little brother Stroktur on the other hand, only a few meters away, expels scalding hot water up to 25 meters upwards at regular intervals. Passing the Gullfoss, a huge waterfall, we drive on the dusty highland track up North direction Akureyri.

Our drive on the highland tracks gives us a better understanding of some later changes at the KS 750. At the begining the rear silencer had a high-up outlet pipe. But this was soon transferred downwards. It is sensible because while driving through water the exhaust is getting full of water but the water could not get out again. So does the centrifugal air cleaner proves successful. Every night we take off the dust reservoir and empty a lot of dust.

It is only because of the sidecar drive that we do not get stuck in the loose sand and on the gravelly ground of the rivers. After driving through water the braking action is in spite of the hydraulics like zero and we descent the steep gradients in the first gear. Once the brakes are dry again the next river is in sight. The track we are driving along at the moment is supposed to be very beautiful but we cannot see a lot of it. We have been driving for days in the fog. The only things we can remember are temperatures around 0° C, always steamped up glasses, bad stretches an all of a sudden a lorry in full speed coming out of the fog which we can only escape going off-road. after 200 km of tough track driving we discover our damages. a saddle bag holder had been torn out of its sheet, Guido had lost his rear view mirror and the lower part of Tadeusz’s carburettor dangled from only one screw. After this strain we made a several days driving brake on a camping site next to a school. The schools are quite often used as youth hostels or camping sites during the summer months. Here we meet other bikers who went North first. The part we are still going to do. We are sitting in an open-air swimming pool which is heated by a hot river and compare our experiences about camping and shopping possibilities and this condition of tracks and fords.

Akureyri is the biggest town and the commercial center of North Iceland. We have still two passes to cross when Tadeusz’s engine of the KS 750 makes loud noises. We stop immediately and find out that we can only kick the engine to a certain point. Then it blocks. As both pistons are moving we conclude that it must be the typical crankshaft damage on the original engine. A needle cage of the connecting rod is broken, the needles are crossways and the tread is damaged. The engines of our two other KS 750‘s are running without a problem. We had  altered them with a stronger cog wheel oil pump modify connection rods on slipper bearing (like a car today). We put Guido’s KS in the front and we are able to pull the defect KS – having put it into the off road gear and after having blocked the rear wheel drive - over the pass in spite of the long gradient on loose ground. The last 300 km to the ferry harbour Tadeusz’s KS is sitting on an Icelandic truck and he himself rides the pillion with us.   

At the ferry we meet many well known faces and in many discussions we find out we are much better equipped with our old military bikes and some of them with their modern equipment. Several damaged off-road vehicles and some with engine damages, which have sucked in water in deep fords, are towed on the ferry. While MS ´Norröna´ is taking us home over the rough sea we sit in the bar and tell our adventures that has Iceland has offered us.  

Many of us would like to come back and all agree: 

     You can not only travel Iceland, Iceland wants to be conquered. 

                                             

With the Zündapp KS 750 to Iceland                                                                                  H-P Hommes

 We have been planning a trip to the unspoilt vulcanic island in the North of Europe for years.

We collected and analysed all travel reports and it became more and more clear  that you should not travel Iceland with normal vehicles except on the ring road along the coast. But we planned to travel with special vehicles – with three Zündapp KS 750 - and not normal ones. Early in the morning the first off-road vehicles arrive – equipped with jerry cans, cable winches and more – at the up to this moment sleepy ferry harbour in the North of Denmark. From this point is the only possible connection to  ferry across to Iceland with your own vehicle.

Until the afternoon the small international group of bike drivers has been expanded 16 incl. our three heavy military bikes. between the overloading Enduro and cross motor bikes the Zündapp KS 750‘s look  as if we would make an adventure trip without any preparations. Convinced that our bikes in their original state were built for the expected strain we thought that a rope and a feldspar were the only things necessary. 

The usually so manoeuvrable Enduros had been altered with luggage racks, additional tanks to slow burden donkeys and most of the occupied with two persons. On the other hand Tadeusz from Lodz and Guido and myself from Viersen have easily stowed our equipment incl. catering for weeks in the sidecars and the saddle bags 

The ferry MS Norröna reaches the Faro Islands on the third day where we use a two days enforced stay to get to know the small group of islands with its jagged valleys and idyllic fisherman villages. In the North is an old village with a wonderful youth hostel and camping possibilities directly at the seaside. The ferry arrives back again to the Faro Islands from Bergen in Norway where it has picked up other Iceland travellers. We step on board and 36 hours later we view a fog overcastted country: Iceland.

 

Iceland is named after the huge glaciers, which cover approx. 13% of the island.

We answer the customs officer’s question if diesel or petrol engine a bit hurt with „petrol“. They stick a label with a stamp and the date on our sidecar and remind us to use only roads and not cruise around off-road.

Today we ask ourselves what he might have meant with „roads“. We can only remember grounds.

The question diesel or petrol is asked to everybody because diesel vehicles have to pay a tax on arrival already, approx. DM 90,00 per week for cars. Therefore diesel is less expensive than petrol.

An asphalt road is leading out of the ferry harbour Seydisfjördur. The bike mates with whom we had made friends on the ferry overtook us with their faster bikes waving a friendly farewell. But at the first pass the road becomes a track of shingle, dotted with potholes and pieces of rocks. A sign shows 18% gradient when we overtake our mates again. Some of them had been pulled of their saddles, because their bikes had lost their steering abilities due to too  heavy loading and because of the unfavourable centre of gravity their front wheel had lifted off at this degree of gradient. We met them several times. First the pillion riders. They „discovered the area on foot“ and on top of the hill the drivers with their bikes.  After 30 km we reached the ring road no. 1. The Iceland motorway winds along the coast all round the island. 200 km out of 1.420 km are made of asphalt, the rest is paved with a oil shingles and loose sand . At the ring road you have to face the question where to go first: to the mild and less rainy north or to the south? 

We decide to take the southern route through the rough and windy highland to Vatnajökull.

What we do not recognise at first is the total lack of trees and bushes, because the mountains are covered with moss and lichens in all colours. The heavy wind does not even weaken towards the evening and we are glad when our tents are set up in the sheltered zone of some rocks directly at the beach. Here we learn to love our wind proven tents and good sleeping bags because they are the most important components of good equipment for Iceland.  Even at the very best weather conditions you may never put up your tent at an impropriate place and without sufficient anchoring against the wind. Sometimes the weather changes within minutes. 

Enjoying a cup of tea we look back on our first day. We drove 250 km on the hilly ring road at dry but because of the wind quite cool weather. We used 5,8 liter/100 km and practically no oil. The bikes run well and we are happy. 

The fisherman’s village Höfn in the South East of Iceland is typical for many villages. a functional modern housing estate. The center consists of a church, a post office, a supermarket with petrol station.  Everything reminds you of a small American town.

Every day that we are driving we get more confidence in our Zündapps. Against our expectations we can drive approx. 60 km/h on the hard wash board tracks. You always need a certain speed for these track because when you drive to slow or to fast you get far more shaken. Focussing our target for the day – the big glacier – we chase our KS 750‘s the last 20 km through loose sand only to manage with verve in the deep lanes which alternate with stony cross country routes. May be because it is fun to shake off a Tenere who has such a hard time to cross the sand heavily loaded or only in the mood of high spirits because it is fun to jump and drift over the tracks in full speed. At the end of the route I hold my off-vibrated retroviseur in my hands. Guido’s comment: „This one had to come off, original Zündapps did not have one either.“ The broken off  golf ball of Tadeusz’s engine bolt made us recognise that there is a limit for the old material. 

This damage gives us some sort of idea of Iceland’s agriculture because we drive to a farm to weld the bolt. That‘s just by the way that we discover that the farmer is feeding 80 foxes with fish waste in a near by building. He keeps them because of the fur. His free-range sheep are rounded-up in autumn, the lambs are slaughtered except for 200 dams. He has only got enough hay for this number to bring them over the winter.

There is a lovely camping site with supermarket, restaurant and petrol station in the national Park Skaftafjell. A part of the Vatnajokull – one of the largest glacier areas – belongs to it. We never had a problem with petrol except in the highland. Quite often we find a petrol pump in the middle of nowhere. After ringing the bell „the petrol pump attendent“ arrives from a near by farm and gives us service.  

From the glacier further on over the ring road we drive for hours and hours through monotonous sander The sanders consist of black sand and shingles, which deposit during the thawing spring and reach up to 20 km into the sea. 

Until 1974 the sanders and the flowing off glaciers, which were moving a lot,  could only be crossed with horses. In this case the ring road was closed with several one lane bridges from west to east. This way they created an important connection with a lot of  energy. In 1996 a part of the bridges was washed away after a volcanic eruption under the glacier ice. 

After the sanders the landscape is changing abruptly into a bizarre greenly mossed lava area. Close to the small village with the inexpressible name Kirjubaejarklaustur we turn North into the highland.  

The highland routes are blocked until the late spring. After the thaw construction equipment drive along first and put them back into passable conditions for off-road vehicles. Sandy and during rain muddy tracks covered with gravel lead with 30% gradient from South to North. the forts of the rivers and brooks – all without bridges – may not be driven through without a previous control. to this end we have waist-high angler boots with us. before each passage we look for the lowest point in the ford. It is never the direct way. This one was already used by the heavy off-road trucks and it is to deep for us. Our critical death of water is 50 cm. It does not sound much but our Zündapps are only 95 cm high up to the upper edge of the tank lid and the centrifugal air cleaner is the part at risk.  

This French men did not controlled the water before.

As you cannot condense sucked in water – as everybody knows – a little sip is all you need to damage the engine. So quite often we curve from one sandbank to another through the up to 150 m wide rivers. In a small harmless ford Tadeusz touches a deep hole with his rear wheel  which completely disappears in it. A friendly Icelander pulls the KS out of the gravel river with his off-road car. 

The passages through water, which you find in the highlands every 10 to 15 km, are no problem for our Zündapps. Even in deepest water the ignition is not interrupted. However I got stuck in the middle of the river because I had forgotten to open the petrol cock. Although the cylinders are already under water the engine starts. The water in the exhaust pipe blows out with loud  bubbles. we stay several days in the volcanic area of the Eldgja and Hekla bathing in hot springs and rivers admiring the volcanic craters with diameters of several meters up to several kilometres. After a three days drive through the black sand dessert made of volcanic ash we reach the ring road again at Hella. 

The weather is dry and with 24° C warmer than we had hoped. The days have no nights so that the evening sunset from midnight on passes over seamlessly into the sunset. In these bright night we often drive until the early morning through an unreal beautiful crater landscape bathed in the warm golden light of the low sun. 

Going of the ring road down south along the coast we visit the Kirsu area where on many spots fizzing steam comes out of the earth. Some lake like holes filled with hot stinky bubbling and sulphurous mud  point at volcanic activities.  

The way that continues from here is a real imposition. we can only crawl and „enjoy“ for hours without end the up- and downhill drive through a never ending series of potholes. As a compensation we find a natural open air bath situated in a lava field. It is filled with salty water and has got the melodious name „Blue Lagoon“. We only visit Reykjavik, the capital, for one day. Passing the All-Men-Canyon we feel drawn zu the big Geysir which has given its name to all hot water springs.

The big Geysir only seldom expels a jet of water. His little brother Stroktur on the other hand, only a few meters away, expels scalding hot water up to 25 meters upwards at regular intervals. Passing the Gullfoss, a huge waterfall, we drive on the dusty highland track up North direction Akureyri.

Our drive on the highland tracks gives us a better understanding of some later changes at the KS 750. At the begining the rear silencer had a high-up outlet pipe. But this was soon transferred downwards. It is sensible because while driving through water the exhaust is getting full of water but the water could not get out again. So does the centrifugal air cleaner proves successful. Every night we take off the dust reservoir and empty a lot of dust.

It is only because of the sidecar drive that we do not get stuck in the loose sand and on the gravelly ground of the rivers. After driving through water the braking action is in spite of the hydraulics like zero and we descent the steep gradients in the first gear. Once the brakes are dry again the next river is in sight. The track we are driving along at the moment is supposed to be very beautiful but we cannot see a lot of it. We have been driving for days in the fog. The only things we can remember are temperatures around 0° C, always steamped up glasses, bad stretches an all of a sudden a lorry in full speed coming out of the fog which we can only escape going off-road. after 200 km of tough track driving we discover our damages. a saddle bag holder had been torn out of its sheet, Guido had lost his rear view mirror and the lower part of Tadeusz’s carburettor dangled from only one screw. After this strain we made a several days driving brake on a camping site next to a school. The schools are quite often used as youth hostels or camping sites during the summer months. Here we meet other bikers who went North first. The part we are still going to do. We are sitting in an open-air swimming pool which is heated by a hot river and compare our experiences about camping and shopping possibilities and this condition of tracks and fords.

Akureyri is the biggest town and the commercial center of North Iceland. We have still two passes to cross when Tadeusz’s engine of the KS 750 makes loud noises. We stop immediately and find out that we can only kick the engine to a certain point. Then it blocks. As both pistons are moving we conclude that it must be the typical crankshaft damage on the original engine. A needle cage of the connecting rod is broken, the needles are crossways and the tread is damaged. The engines of our two other KS 750‘s are running without a problem. We had  altered them with a stronger cog wheel oil pump modify connection rods on slipper bearing (like a car today). We put Guido’s KS in the front and we are able to pull the defect KS – having put it into the off road gear and after having blocked the rear wheel drive - over the pass in spite of the long gradient on loose ground. The last 300 km to the ferry harbour Tadeusz’s KS is sitting on an Icelandic truck and he himself rides the pillion with us.   

At the ferry we meet many well known faces and in many discussions we find out we are much better equipped with our old military bikes and some of them with their modern equipment. Several damaged off-road vehicles and some with engine damages, which have sucked in water in deep fords, are towed on the ferry. While MS ´Norröna´ is taking us home over the rough sea we sit in the bar and tell our adventures that has Iceland has offered us.  

Many of us would like to come back and all agree: 

     You can not only travel Iceland, Iceland wants to be conquered. 

 

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