Norfolk adventure biker Helen Lloyd’s Iceland travels

PUBLISHED: 16:55 16 June 2020 | UPDATED: 13:00 18 June 2020

Helen Lloyd axle-deep on her Yamaha in Iceland. Photo: Helen Lloyd

Helen Lloyd axle-deep on her Yamaha in Iceland. Photo: Helen Lloyd

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Norfolk adventure biker Helen Lloyd writes new book about her epic ride around Iceland

Long road ahead for biker Helen Lloyd in Iceland. Photo: Helen LloydLong road ahead for biker Helen Lloyd in Iceland. Photo: Helen Lloyd

When most of us plan a summer holiday it might mean a fortnight in the sun, or perhaps a week in a nice little cottage somewhere. For Norfolk motorbike adventurer Helen Lloyd, her most recent break – pre-Covid of course – meant three months under canvas in Iceland.

“I’d been stuck in the UK for a bit, working, and a few friends mentioned having gone to Iceland and it sparked my interest,” says Helen. “The idea that Iceland is one of the least-populated countries in Europe held a lot of appeal.”

So June came along and off she went. “It was fantastic – I loved it. The weather was pretty terrible. They had their wettest summer in 100 years... in the UK it was the heatwave of the century!”

She spent quite a lot of time drying out her wet gear. Despite the weather she camped out most nights as hotels are expensive in Iceland. Kindly local bikers gave her a roof over her head for a few nights.

A well-earned brew under canvas. Photo: Helen LloydA well-earned brew under canvas. Photo: Helen Lloyd

“The people were wonderful. I find it’s the same wherever I go in the world, people genuinely are kind and helpful; it was fantastic,” she says

As she rode around she learned to look out for the local sheep – “They always run out in front of you on the road!”

Adventure biking, heading off into the wilds on a motorbike, has exploded in popularity since Ewan MacGregor and Charlie Boorman took their huge BMWs off on the hit TV show The Long Way Round a few years ago. Bikes are huge – 1200cc and bigger – but Helen chose a tiny 28-year-old 225cc Yamaha as she wanted to go off road and needed a light, simple, cheap bike that was easy to pick up and to look after.

Is she a good mechanic? “I’ve got a lot better over the years! Basic maintenance and repairs are fine, it’s when you have to start stripping down the engine it’s a bit more daunting.”

Helen had to spend a lot of time drying kit! Photo: Helen LloydHelen had to spend a lot of time drying kit! Photo: Helen Lloyd

Riding off road requires some skills – if you go to YouTube and search for ‘Helen Lloyd motorcycle’ you can see what she was dealing with. “I used to do quite a lot of mountain biking so I’m used to throwing myself down rocky trails,” she says. “If you’re comfortable on a mountain bike then trail riding on a motorbike comes fairly easy.

“In some ways it’s a lot easier on the motorbike because it has good suspension and does a lot of the work for you.”

I ask Helen if being a lone woman traveller is particularly risky. “I don’t think so. Yes, there are risks, but most of the risks would be the same whether you are a man or a woman and I’ve found actually that with a lot of the travelling I’ve done it is beneficial to be a woman because most people in the world are good and they see you as being vulnerable because you are a woman and they want to put an arm round you and make sure that you are safe and OK.

“Male travellers don’t get that support – they’re just left to get on with it!”

Making some notes with the stunning Icelandic scenery as a backdrop. Photo: Helen LloydMaking some notes with the stunning Icelandic scenery as a backdrop. Photo: Helen Lloyd

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Helen is no stranger to risk, having cycled the notorious Road of Bones through a Siberian winter with temperatures dipping as low as -40C.

What drives her to take these trips is her desire to see new places and get a better understanding of the world.

“I enjoy the physical challenge and the endurance aspect of it and the adventure. It’s nice to meet people. Everybody has a fascinating story to tell. You just have to sit and listen.”

In fact her biggest frustration is with languages, which she finds difficult to master. “I tried to learn some but it doesn’t get beyond the basics and simple conversations.”

She mostly travels alone, though she did a trip through Africa with her partner at the time. “I have done some travelling with other people but I much prefer it by myself.

“It’s nice to travel with other people if you meet them en route and you want to do the same thing for a while.”

Helen has been back at her home near Diss writing a book of her adventures in Iceland, endorsed by the doyen of adventure bikers, Ted Simon of Jupiter’s Travels fame.

But the itch to travel is taking her off again. When she is able to, she will ride to Morocco and later she plans to head east across Europe, perhaps as far as the Caucasus, with the ultimate goal being Australia.

She works as an engineer for aircraft ejection seat maker Martin Baker and has short-term contracts which give her the flexibility to travel and to earn the cash to pay for it.

Her advice for would-be adventurers? “Just go and do it. The hardest part is always getting started and getting out of the front door. I still find that every time, but as soon as I set off down the road, life becomes very simple...

Iceland Serow Saga – big adventures on a small bike is published now; find out more at helenstakeon.com

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