Helge Pedersen: World Tourer Heads for Iceland

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Helge Pedersen

Heading for the Planet Iceland

Once you've been around the world a few times on a motorcycle, where else is their left to go?  How about Iceland?

For Helge Pedersen it will be his first adventure to the distant country. As a seasoned motorcyclist/tourer, Helge has traveled around the world through hundreds of countries on motorcycle, but never to the area so near and dear to his native Norway.

A Little Background

Some local long riders are familiar with Pedersen, but if you've never heard of him, the short version goes like this. 

A motorcycle trek that started from Norway in 1983 ended in Seattle in 1993. Pedersen spent ten years traveling the five major continents riding, journaling and photographing his experiences throughout. Supported by various sponsors along the way and funded otherwise by having his photos and writings commissioned, Pedersen made a full time living out of riding his motorcycle. Who could ask for anything more? The entire trip is well documented in a beautiful coffee table book he eventually published entitled Ten Years on Two Wheels .

Along the way Pedersen stopped into the Northwest where he met his bride to be Karen.  Two up she rode with him into South America, they fell in love, got married and he finished his long expedition making his home in Seattle, where he and Karen live today.

Since 1993, Pedersen has continued to ride and has led a series of tours through countries such as Japan, China and into Europe. He keeps his prose fresh by contributing stories to various motorcycle publications.

The Iceland Cometh

Advances in technology now provide Pedersen with the needed ingredients for a trip into Iceland that screams of the new millennium. 

For this trip, Pedersen will be using an advanced Garmin IIIplus GPS system as the primary way to find his way around. Downloads from the internet allow him to carry specific information and maps about regions to which he has never been.  "With a GPS system like this I can get lost without getting lost," notes Pedersen.

The ride is scheduled for all of August 2001 and half of September. "Late August is when the rivers are lowest," comments Pedersen from his Seattle home this past May. 

This time around Pedersen will leave his much beloved BMW 1150GS rig behind in favor of a BMW F650GS Dakar which he has customized himself for the trip. "It's a much lighter bike and will be better suited for the terrain, such as lava flows" says Pedersen. The bike will feature a gas tank conversion that will allow him to carry 10.2 gallons of fuel, about double the standard.

In addition to the tank, Pedersen made many other modifications including an engine crash bar, aluminum panniers, heated grips, larger footpegs, smaller/stronger shifter and brake pedals and a custom made camera bag on rear of saddle.

Two other riding partners will accompany Pedersen, Sterling Noren and Chris Poland, who will each sport their own F650GS configurations. 

The riders and their bikes will fly from Seattle to London the first week of August. They will then ride to Ireland and ferry their way over to Iceland. Initial route plans call for the use of paved and unpaved roads that encircle the outer perimeter of Iceland. "Then from there we will take side trips into the inland areas," adds Pedersen. The trio has been gearing up for the trip and testing gear with shorts trips out of Puget Sound, most recently down to Nevada.

As he has done in the past, Pedersen has contracted with BMW to provide photos and editorial of the trip as it is in progress. Enthusiasts will be able to follow the trip by logging onto the web at and click on the Helge Pedersen link. 

Through the Internet, Pedersen has been able to have dialogue with a number of other riders who have ridden various parts of the itinerary. In the past, letter writing was the only way to accomplish the same type of communication. Today he can get the information he needs in hours instead of days.

It's obvious that this trip is far different technologically than any of his past expeditions. Whereas, the past cargo included pen, paper, a 35-millimeter camera and tons of film, Pedersen will be packing digital camera and video gear, a laptop for processing and a cell phone for sending the images and text into BMW in real time. 

It's more like a space walk than a motorcycle expedition. But that's fitting after all, since traveling to Iceland is more like visiting another planet anyway.

TM/Summer 01

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