The first summer of Fjord Bikes
The summers in Borgarfjörður eystri are short. With spring the puffins arrive. They can be seen on and around the Puffin Marina by mid April. By then the frost is mostly gone, although the nights can be very cold. Summer is usually heralded by the newborn lambs coming into the world, around mid May. But even then the snow can sometimes reach the streets of the village and the wind blows cool air from the Arctic. By June the sun doesn’t set at all. The snow starts to melt in the mountains, and the streams and rivers swell, boosting the size of waterfalls and bringing fresh meltwater into the sea. However, the fog and lingering clouds can give the mountains and valleys a mystical feel. July can bring good weather, although occasional rains and cool breezes are a possibility, if not a certainty. When August arrives the nights start coming back to the fjord. The Puffins leave, and the area starts to quiet down. The days grow shorter. The valleys clear of snow, and the ground starts to dry out.
The brevity of the summers is what makes them so precious. Even though it very rarely gets super warm, the increase in daytime hours and milder weather has everyone in a better mood. The townspeople interact differently, spend more time outside talking to friends and family, and more people are present in the village. During the summer we also see a number of guests, most coming to see puffins and a few coming for outdoor recreation in the Borgarfjörður Eystri Recreation Area. Most are hikers, but there is a growing number of mountain bikers using the space. Our top attraction in the B.E.R.A. is undoubtedly Stórurð, an incredible valley on the west side of Mt. Dyrfjöll which is covered in apartment-block-sized boulders that frame a turquoise lake.
Our goal with the Fjord Bikes project is to bring a new kind of recreational tourism, in the form of mountain biking, to the small village of Borgarfjörður eystri. This includes running a small mountain bike rental, but it really is a much bigger project than that. Really our focus is on improving the infrastructure in the area to be able to accommodate this type of recreation, as well as form relationships with landowners and the municipality which are beneficial to the area.
We are now heading into October, which gives us time to reflect on how our first summer of operation went. It’s safe to say that we learned a few things, from how to file VAT to what different things different people like to have present on their bikes and the different experiences our guests are looking for. Mostly I think we’ve learned about the importance of visibility. We were incredibly new to advertising and the task of showing what and who we are to the world seemed daunting. Our lack of experience and indecisiveness led to a low turnout in sales, which was a blessing in disguise really, as we probably wouldn’t have been able to keep up with a high sales volume. We also had a tour of the village and puffins that really didn’t do well. We think this is partly because people just aren’t as interested in the village itself as we thought, and partly because it is much easier to just drive to the Puffin Marina and see the puffins that way. Which raises questions that birdwatchers and mountain bikers maybe don’t intersect that much. This is actually good news for the destination as a whole, because the different activities can draw very different groups. For this reason we’ll focus more on activity-based tours with more actual mountain biking in the future and focus less on general image-based based tourism like we tried to do with the village ride and puffin watch.
Overall it was a good summer, with a variety of trails incorporated into the mountain bike trail map of the area. Instead of doing tours our efforts this summer were really about testing out the different trails that are already here and exploring the potential for new trails to be built and incorporated. There is good infrastructure to build on here, with a variety of mountain roads leading up the valleys and high mountain passes and an abundance of sheep trails dug out over the years. We’re still filling in the blanks, and choosing new trails to build has required a mix of fantasy and strategy. Of course we would like to start with a long-form wilderness style trail that goes straight to the IMBA Epics list but starting small is probably best. And then there is the question of getting permits from landowners and the municipality. Everything now is in the beginning phases and nothing is quite certain. But the seeds have been sown for the future, and a mountain biking paradise has hopefully been born.