Payson McElveen rides his bike during Red Bull Rio Grande Gravel at Lajitas Airport trails near Terlingua, TX; (photo/Sean Berry, Red Bull Content Pool)
(Photo/Sean Berry, Red Bull Content Pool)

New Iceland FKT: McElveen Crosses Entire Country in Under 20 Hours

On Sept. 12, MTB star Payson McElveen became the first person to bisect Iceland by fair means in a day. In doing so, he also set a new Iceland FKT of just 19 hours and 45 minutes.

Payson McElveen first grabbed the cycling world with his almost-freakish ability to break and create speed records under all sorts of conditions. The Red Bull athlete did it again earlier this month — covering the 257-mile stretch between Iceland’s northern and southern coastlines in under 20 hours.

It’s the first time anyone has traversed the nation by unsupported human power in fewer than 24 hours. And the feat sounds far from a pleasure cruise. Obnoxious, chilly conditions plagued the rider as he cut through remote backcountry.

McElveen said, “Ever since the success of the White Rim FKT in 2019, I’ve been thinking about other geographically focused routes to do a big effort on. To me, those are the challenges that inspire me most these days. Start at one landmark and ride as fast as you can until you literally run out of road or trail. In this case, that was hitting the ocean on the south side of the country.”

The trek featured Iceland’s least hospitable double-track terrain, most of it reserved for high-clearance automobiles. McElveen made the journey without the relief of pitstops where he could refuel, so he packed 7,000 calories, a few liters of water, and set out from the coastal city of Akureyri.

From there, he endured harsh terrain and gross weather, including 7 hours of cold rain, strong winds, and bottom temps around 31 degrees Fahrenheit. He rolled up to Vík‘s southern shoreline a day later.

 

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A post shared by Payson McElveen (@paysonmcelveen)

McElveen offered some post-op wisdom to future Iceland FKT cyclists: “Iceland’s weather is some of the most dynamic in the world, especially in September. I would strongly recommend riding in the warmer, drier months of the summer and take more clothing and food than you think you need.”

His close friend and adventure partner, photographer Chris Burkard, said, “Having personally ridden through it, around and across it, slogging thousands of miles of Icelandic gravel — I know a thing or two about Iceland’s terrain by bike, and this achievement can only be compared to a near-mythical achievement.

“Payson’s ride pays homage to thousands of years of overland travel through this wild country and in many ways is impossible to truly describe to anyone who hasn’t sunk their tires deep into its remote and endless gravel roads.”

Iceland FKT: McElveen prepares for a training ride in Durango, CO, (photo/Monika B. Leopold, Red Bull Content Pool)
Payson McElveen prepares for a training ride in Durango, Colo. (photo/Monika B. Leopold, Red Bull Content Pool)

Payson McElveen’s Iceland FKT Gear List

So, apart from being Payson McElveen, what did it take to realize his “near-mythical achievement”? In a recent video post, McElveen provides a rundown of his Iceland FKT gear list.

Hardware

Cycling Kit

Miscellaneous Gear & Fuel

  • Triangle, top-tube, and saddle packs
  • Emergency bivvy
  • Chain lube
  • Bike plugs
  • Spare CO2
  • Electrical tape
  • Spare batteries
  • Power banks
  • Wired headphones
  • Ibuprofen
  • Bike bottles for drink mixes
  • Mini pizzas, almond butter sandwiches, ham and cheese croissants, mini donuts, chia snacks, power bars, power waffles
  • Gels, drink mixes, power gummies, chia snacks

Check out @paysonmcelveen for shots from his Iceland expedition and to keep pace with his upcoming adventures.

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Jilli Cluff
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Jilli grew up in the rural southern Colorado mountains, later moving to Texas for college. After seven years in corporate consulting, she was introduced to sport climbing. In 2020, Jilli left her corporate position to pursue an outdoor-oriented life. She now works as a contributor, gear tester, and editor for GearJunkie and other outlets within the AllGear network. She is based out of Austin, Texas, where she takes up residence with her climbing gear and one-eared blue heeler, George Michael.