Welcome to our first Wiggle Adventure feature. In this series of Wiggle blog posts, we'll bring you great insights into fantastic places that you could travel to; with your bike, running shoes, or camping kit.
For our first blog post, we're heading to the remote Faroe Islands with Danish brand GripGrab. Steep cliffs, isolated settlements, stunning sunrises and sunsets; this is the kind of place you want to take your bike, and explore…
Finding new trails
The crew is still warm from the day's expedition.
Anna Maria is preparing a well anticipated dinner in the kitchen. Helgi, her son, is still in his cycling bibs; he's leaning over a map spread out on the table, planning his next adventure; or maybe just in awe over the one he has just completed.
Helgi's index finger hovering over the map, like it was hesitantly fluttering over his brake levers going into a corner "where should we go next?"…
The green contour lines indicate the Faroe's tell-tale signature scenery. The inviting soft grassy romantic hills, turning dramatically in lethal hundred metre vertical drops; plummeting into the ocean.
This is a Nordic landscape. There are no thousand metre peaks to climb, but the land is laden with enough adventurous climbs to keep even the most audacious and outdoor-minded satisfied.
Helgi's finger stops. "This spot is so beautiful - We went there in full sunlight and blue skies - we could see for miles". He puts his finger down on a mountain top near the sea. He grabs his phone "I'll show you a photo! I want a trail to pass this point".
The land of sleeping beauty
The Faroe Islands are situated roughly halfway between Scotland and Iceland. They are a cluster of 18 islands, covering nearly 1,400 square kilometres of raw, untouched and awesome terrain in the North Atlantic Ocean.
The islands are all connected via bridges and tunnels, with some islands only accessible by boat or helicopter.
This is the land of steep rocks, grassy hills, waterfalls, fog, and a heck of a lot of sheep - which is actually how the islands got their name... Faroe is an ancient word for sheep, and the animals have a huge part in the Faroe Islands' traditions.
With less than 50,000 people living across the 18 islands, and with most of the population concentrated in the bigger towns (which, in no way should be misconceived as big), the sheep rule the mighty terrain and share it only with the occasional bird watcher or hiker.
Helgi, our host, is a native Faroese now living in Denmark. He is a dedicated mountain biker, and has his eyes and wheels set on exploring the sleeping beauty that is The Faroe Islands.
"The landscape is stunning, and only a few people are using it for leisure purposes. It´s truly the great outdoors, with a very rough and Nordic feel to it! It's a completely unique experience to ride your mountain bike up here" says Helgi, as his face turns into a broad smile; one that clearly evolved straight from his Viking genes.
Faroe MTB Club
Helgi was born and raised in the Faroe Islands, and now lives in Denmark; just north of busy Copenhagen, in a small village next to the forest.
His new home is perfect for him, as he's less than five minutes away from the mountain bike trails. As a dedicated rider, he tries to balance his ambitions between achieving good results in races, and still maintaining his love for the sport by enjoying it and having fun on the bike.
Besides being a part of the Danish cross country scene, he competes in stage races such as The Andalucía Bike Race and the Swiss Epic. He lives and breathes for mountain biking, and is always looking for his next adventure.
Whenever it arises, Helgi seizes the opportunity to travel back to the islands; giving him the chance to visit his family and to explore the heart-stopping terrain of the 18 North Atlantic islands.
Together with his fellow mountain bike riders back home, he took steps to start the Faroe Islands Mountain Bike Club. The purpose of the club is to create a community of riders on the Faroe Islands that share a passion for mountain biking.
With the development of a new trail area in Torshavn, the club hopes to attract more members and to help grow the mountain biking culture in the future.
Two riders and a photographer
It is late afternoon by the time we park the little van near the lake Leitisvatn and start to get ready.
Helgi and his friend Lisette sort out their bikes, and Martin the photographer takes a few obligatory shots of them preparing. Then, like a dog catching the scent of a wild animal in the woods, he is gone… off to the lake shore to capture some shots of the old, weatherworn stone boathouses.
Martin Paldan, is an award-winning action sports photographer from Copenhagen, Denmark, and is regarded in the Danish mountain bike community as the guy who is responsible for creating a visual boost for the sport.
Martin's high-quality, perfectly captured action photos have given him the well-earned status as the leading action sports photographer in Denmark; though he would never admit this himself.
Martin says he loves what he does, and that he is still merely a beginner. He is humble, modest, and fuelled by a strong passion for photography, and a dedicated urge to tell visual stories.
As the chief photographer for the Danish cycling accessory brand GripGrab, Martin was excited to be given the opportunity to follow Helgi's mountain bike expedition to the Faroe Islands.
"I didn't know what to expect, and I'm completely overwhelmed by the scenery! I have been on many photo adventures around the world, but it´s been a while since I've felt how I feel on this expedition! The views and the light are amazing – The fact that the ocean is visible from almost all locations gives the light an extraordinary ocean/sky quality that I haven't seen before. I hope the photos speak for themselves, it's difficult to describe in words".
Ready to ride
Helgi and Lisette are ready with their bikes.
The air has a northerly crisp to it, and tones of yellow and green fill the landscape with raw melancholy and desolation. Darkness is closing in.
Even though we're only a few kilometres away from the airport, the terrain is vast. There's not a single soul within sight.
The only sign that human life was ever present here is the old, moss covered stone boat houses, which have been left to be weathered away by the elements. You can only imagine that they are from the times back when swords and wizardry played a part in these ancient lands.
Our destination is just on the horizon - the point where the lake joins the ocean in a mighty waterfall.
There's no obvious trail, but Helgi and Lisette quickly find themselves navigating through different lines; crossing small streams, over huge beds of flat rock; cruising through sand and water at the lake shore, and fighting their way through boggier sections in the higher terrain.
The pair explore the natural challenges presented to them, and slowly make their way towards the horizon.
Helgi is working with the Faroese tourist board - Visit Faroe Islands, and has presented them with the potential to create marked trails for mountain bikers - something that would be of great benefit to the islands.
Helgi has defined two kinds of trails on the Faroe Island. First on the list are the currently non-existing cross country trails for training and racing. The plan is to work with the Faroe MTB Club (MTB.fo), creating a series of trails with berms, rock gardens, flow sections and more. This will be the “home ground” of the Faroe MTB Club.
The second type will be the trails that Helgi sees as "adventure trails". These trails that will bring the rider closer to the elements, experiencing the stunning scenery. The network or single-track and gravel roads will provide an amazing grid of trails to attract even the most adventurous rider.
A one hundred metre vertical drop
The sun starts to set. Helgi and Lisette have found a trail off the lake shore - one that leads towards the ocean.
The trail is hard to ride; the soggy ground and gradient forcing them to shift down gears, lean forward and push hard on the pedals. Driven by their curiosity, and their urge to explore new places.
Helgi can't imagine that anyone has ever been here by bike before. Hikers yes, but mountain bikers, most likely not.
Lissette arrives at the cliff edge. Standing where the landscape ends and plummets into the ocean. One hundred metres below her feet, the roaring Atlantic Ocean is bashing against the edge of the cliff; rocks that rise up straight from the ocean, reaching for the sky.
After their moment of reflection, Helgi and Lisette are soon cruising the hills along the edge of the cliff; embracing the last light of the day. Big smiles, and a firm grip on their bars. This is what makes The Faroe Islands something so special; it's the flow, the moment; it's feeling alive.
Back at Helgi´s parent's house, the only talk at the dinner table was about mountain biking.
"Who's winning the races? Where to find the best mountain bike photos online, and which magazines have the best gear reviews?"
A home baked cake is brought out to the table, and together with some fresh coffee, the smell is magical.
By the time we made our way back from the cliffs to the lake shore it was already dark, even with the use of our head torches. Everyone's soul is left saturated with satisfaction and fascination from the days riding though. This is the feeling Helgi wants other riders to experience, from coming to The Faroe Islands.
What are the next steps for the project? Helgi would like to get inspiration and practical knowledge from other locations that have gone through a similar development. From bike parks, to bigger trail systems with markings, gradings, and maintenance plans; inspiration from these places will help him define his vision for mountain biking on the Faroe Islands.
Helgi hopes to start with a downloadable map indicating the top 5 existing trails; along with the top 5 scenery spots that can be reached by mountain bike. From there it could evolve with markings along selected routes, info boards at the trail heads, and hopefully being able to motivate local business to contribute and get involved.
“The first step is now taken. Let's see where this goes. It is the beginning of an adventure - Not just for me, but for every rider and adventurer that decides to come here and explore” says Helgi.
Kit for the Faroe Islands
The weather in the Faroe Islands can be unpredictable. Be sure to bring gloves, shoe covers and rain and windproof gear, even in summer time.
Here's Helgi's list of preferred gear:
- For gloves I highly praise the GripGrab Vertical Full Finger for summer rides. They have outstanding grip, thanks to the new InsideGrip technology, and will protect your hands in case you crash.
- If you plan to go in spring or autumn, I suggest bringing an insulated glove like the GripGrab Windster.
- For shoe covers I recommend the GripGrab RaceAqua X for an all-round, all weather cover. If it gets cold, then the insulated GripGrab Race Thermo will keep your feet warm and dry.
- As the countryside is remote with few people, and the weather can change in a heartbeat, always bring a backpack with plenty of energy food, a good windbreaker jacket, spare tube, tools and a comfortable cap that will protect your ears. It's of course mandatory to bring a GPS device and a smartphone, and always let somebody know about your planned ride.