Shared Territory Iceland (film)

Shared Territory: Iceland documents the re-discovery of ‘Sprengisandur’, a pre-Medieval Trans-Icelandic route that traverses the entire island, north to south. Watch the full film and explore the route map here. Plus, see more photos and learn about the project…

The highly anticipated film, Shared Territory Iceland, follows Ian Matteson, Justin Balog, and Remi McManus on a bikepacking trip across Iceland following a pre-medieval route called “Sprengisandur,” which loosely translates to “the sandy trail of exploded horses.” With very little information available to them, the group set out to connect with this landscape through human-powered exploration. Watch the full film below, read our interview with Remi about the project, and find what we all want to hear more about—the route.

Shared Territory clearly focuses on more than just bikepacking. What was the motivation for taking this trip?

Yes, Shared Territory is much more than a cycling adventure, or a travel documentary. The idea, the narrative, is one of exploration that connects people with their lands and promotes an understanding of a shared territory. Our goal is not to conquer the landscape, or speed over the roads and through the countryside. We aim to offer the viewers an insight as to what happens while we travel through an unknown or far off land. Sharing the stories that are told, Befriending the people we meet along the way, and documenting the experiences we have while exploring the world by bicycle… human powered exploration.

Justin and I are fortunate enough to travel to some of the most amazing places you could ride a bicycle with our Sportful Squadra Avventura, and in doing so we hatched a plan to dive deeper. What happens when you challenge the human spirit, what are we made of, what is the outcome when you immerse yourself in a culture, and in doing so what comes of it?

Shared Territory Iceland Film
  • Shared Territory Iceland Film
  • Shared Territory Iceland Film
  • Shared Territory Iceland Film

Tell us a bit more about the route.

Our route lead from the northern most point, the Hraunhafnartangi Lighthouse, down through the highlands, over a medieval trail called “Sprengisandur” AKA “the trail of exploding horses” and all the way to the the most southern point of the island to the Dyrhólaey Lighthouse. The route was incredible, and I could walk you through it day by day, but you will have to watch the film to really understand.

Here is the full GPX map of the route. Also, check out The Iceland Divide, which shares a similar corridor to this route.

Within the last few years Iceland has become a bucket list destination for many travellers. Is it everything it’s cracked up to be?

Iceland is an amazing place! I do think it is everything it is cracked up to be. Although, I feel you should be a little more adventurous than the typical “Golden Circle” and Blue Lagoon tourist. I fell in love with Reykjavik while we were there, the city has a great vibe, it is clean and vibrant, public art fills the streets, the architecture is a mix of modern and industrial, and traditional Scandinavian design. The Icelandic people were incredibly friendly. With that in mind, the real draw is when you leave the city behind. The landscape is absolutely stunning. During our trip we coasted over black sand roads, through lush mossy covered mountains while gazing upon waterfalls. We spent days on end lost in a black desert comprised of deep sand, fields of lava rock, and round black pebbles, crossing hundreds of rivers and glacial streams along the way. We skirted glaciers, active volcanos, and steaming geothermal fissures . The landscape is one of shock and awe, that is for sure.

  • Shared Territory Iceland Film
  • Shared Territory Iceland Film

Did your group have any unexpected discoveries during the trip?

Yes, we had many… too many to tell.

I guess the most unexpected discovery we had was how long one kilometer could take to ride in Iceland! We basically decided one km in Iceland is three miles in the US. All joking aside, Iceland is an incredibly vast and expansive landscape, the terrain is unforgiving, and truly raw. The images you see on the internet and the Instagram do not do it justice. Understand that exploring the backcountry of Iceland is not to be taken lightly.

Was filming difficult considering Icelands rugged terrain and harsh weather?

Yes and no, We had help the first few days of our journey, and the final day. We also were able to get quite a bit of B Roll while we traveled. Although during the time we spent completely alone through the highlands there were times survival became priority number one. Weather certainly played a big part… when the weather turned it was difficult to convince ourselves that setting up cameras or stopping for 20 to 30 minutes was a good idea.

Shared Territory Iceland, film
  • Shared Territory Iceland Film
  • Shard Territory Iceland Film

Give us a rundown of the gear you used.

We had an incredible set up…

  • Moots Baxter Frames equipped with Shimano Di2
  • ENVE G Series G27 27.5 wheelset / bar/ fork / stem / seatpost.
  • Ortlieb Waterproof Bikepacking Bags (complete set.)
  • Big Agnes Sleep System bag / pad / & Three Wire Bivy.
  • Sportful cycling clothing & Giara Kits
  • Karpos Clothing & Rain Gear
  • Maxxis Ikon 2.35 Tires
  • Clif products
  • 12 cameras or so…
  • Garmin InReach Explorer
  • Shared Territory Iceland Film
  • Shared Territory Iceland Film

More Q&A From Shared Territory

Shared Territory has been screened in over 20 theaters this summer. Following each screening, Justin and Remi host a live Q & A. They’ve compiled a list of the most interesting and common questions from these events. Questions like, “Did you see ghosts?”, “Is the President of Iceland a trail runner?” and “What’s with the name Shared Territory?” Check out a Q&A with the filmmaker and more here.

Lastly, what’s next on the agenda?

We are working on Peru. We don’t want to share too many details yet, but it looks exciting!

We’re expecting to see more from the Shared Territory team, and looking forward to it. Until then, you can follow the project at @SharedTerritory, Justin @JustinBalog, and Remi @r_adventurist. Also, make sure to head over for behind the scenes videos, more information on the project, and a newsletter signup to stay in the loop on future projects.



Bikepacking Videos


Please keep the conversation civil, constructive, and inclusive, or your comment will be removed.