We sat pretty much on the road. This narrow strip of single track tarmac was as close as I’ve come to riding to the edge of the world. It hung there above the ocean, nothing to the north for hundreds of miles, but immediately next to us, rock spires pierce the waves; impossibly thin needles and brutish cliff faces combine. In less benign weather this place would feel unwelcoming, but under biro blue skies and the gentlest of breezes the view was simply awe inspiring.
Even pedalling at a leisurely pace wasn’t slow enough to take everything in. We’d only been on the Faroe Islands for a few hours and had run out of superlatives to describe everything that we’d seen. Sitting cross-legged, we fired up the stove, the sound of burning gas sounding quite out of place in the surroundings, but so familiar and comforting nonetheless. We opened a pack of biscuits while waiting for the water to boil, and for the first time in a while, fell silent. There was so much to talk about, but for the time being, we didn’t need words to share this experience.
I’ve not done a huge amount of touring before. I’ve done long multi-day rides, but was always attracted to the speed, efficiency and the physical challenge of travelling light and fast. Bikepacking, grabbing an hour or two’s sleep in a ditch, always moving. I enjoyed (and still do) the sleep deprivation, passing through wild places when everyone else is in bed, miles away, and most importantly the unknown quantity of what I physically capable of.
This trip was intentionally different. We still wanted to see as much of these odd little islands in the middle of the North Atlantic as possible, but wanted to do it as a bunch of friends. We wanted to enjoy camping in wild places, with lazy evenings and mornings, we wanted to stop and take photos of the view. Yet, still we wanted to ride, to feel each subtle change in gradient, to feel the coastal breeze against our faces instead of the subtle blow of car air conditioning. We wanted to change plans, follow the enticing trail to its conclusion, get lost, lie down on the grass and rest weary legs after a long day pedalling.
What did this change of pace bring us? As well as more coffee stops, it brought us closer to the islands. We were not simply passing through the landscape, but enjoying and embracing being in it for a short while. The view stopped being a backdrop and was something to be discussed, understood, enjoyed. While I will still be drawn by to the desire to race, to push and test my body, this won’t be the last touring trip I do. Fundamentally, touring by bike gave us time. Something that is so precious, so measured, so hurried in our day to day lives stretched out before us. I’m lucky enough that I have more possessions than I will ever need, the gift of time was more valuable than any one of them.
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All photos thanks to Sam Needham