Riding in Iceland is a unique experience,
both challenging and rewarding.
MTB riding in Iceland: a rough terrain for a one-of-a kind experience
Riding in Iceland is a unique experience, both challenging and rewarding.
The otherworldly volcanic landscapes flourish with sandy soil, sharp-edged rocks and loose descents. Dormant volcanoes and glaciers shaped some of the best trails planet earth has to offer. Chances are high you have never experienced such an epic and challenging playground.
Fifteen seasons operating MTB tours showed that our trails surprise most riders. Quite often, their Icelandic mountain biking experience is somehow humbling. We have heard things like: “I was not expecting such challenging terrain”. Other common statements are: “This has nothing to do with what I ride at home” or “it feels like I have to learn how to ride a mountain bike again”.
So, what makes those trails so challenging?
American riders are struck by the fact that there are little to no man-made features. Indeed, the vast majority of the all-mountain trails are ancient postman or hiking trails. They remain raw and untouched. Our trail center also includes“sheep trails”. We selected and widened marks left by the animals so that mountain bikers can use them. Hence trails are natural and technical, like what you can find on an all-mountain mission in the Alps. Flow trails are less common in Iceland, but the land of fire and Ice offer a lot of unique features. We guarantee you will ride in landscapes you will not find anywhere else!
Another common feature with the alpine summits is the need to hike-a-bike up some sections. Some climbs are indeed too steep and technical to be ridden up. And we are talking about proper hike-a-bike, with the bike on your shoulders. Pushing your bike up is sometimes not enough to earn your turns (and your views) in Iceland. The good news is that shredding down those trails is incredibly rewarding!
Icelandic terrain is very mineral: forget about slippery roots and loamy dirt, as there are only a few forests in Iceland. This kind of terrain represents only 10% of what you are going to ride with us – on the forest’s warm-up laps. There are still a few vegetal dirt trails featuring some roots around Thor’s Garden (Þórsmörk). This place is known by the local riders as a “true mountain biking paradise”. The ones choosing to join us on a “RAVEN” – our flagship highlands traverse 7 days tour – will experience its marvels.
In the highlands, you will have to overcome technical rocky sectionsas well as volcanic ash. The latter can be tricky as it can change from packed to soft sand in a matter of meters. The rock sections exist in two forms. Rock gardens with fixed rocks on the trails that create “trial style” segments. They often have step-downs and drops. On the other end of the spectrum are the loose rocks sections. Rocks sizes on the Icelandic trails vary fromthe size of a golf ball up to a soccer ball. Loose segments are often steep and exposed. They are quite common on the ridgelines. The abilities to control your speed, braking without drifting and cornering are critical to stay safe on such trails!
Volcanic rocks are very sharp: ride them carefully to avoid tearing your tires apart. “Snakebite” induced punctures are likely if you approach those segments too fast. Falling on them can result in cuts, that is why we recommend the use of knee and elbow pads.
On top of the Hengill volcano for example – an area that we ride on all our multi-day tours – you will encounter some ancient lava formations . These particular minerals are like slick rocks. They offer a vast selection of fun lines. The only limit is your imagination and your technique. Tiny sharp mineral inclusions on their surface make them extremely grippy but unforgiving. A surprising fact is that their grips tend to last, slick rocks being dry or wet.
Finally, two other factors have to be taken into account: the rainy weather and the remoteness of some of the trails we ride. If you usually bike in a desert area, wet conditions might be tricky for you and this is a serious challenge. It is always better to be honest with yourself when assessing your riding skills. Good communication enables us to create a tour suitable for you. This is also a matter of safety. We strive to get you to ride the most breathtaking trails of Iceland and they are quite remote. Some of them are up to 4 hours of off-road driving from the first town which makes your ability to ride technical terrain safely a must.
I get it, so what can I do to get ready to shred those gnarly trails?
At Icebike adventures, we believe that mountain biking should always be fun. This belief comes with a simple training motto: get out and ride your bike!
This simple attitude will improve your fitness level and your technical skills. Riding more also provides a better knowledge of your bike’s responses in various types of terrains. This is valuable and will later enable you to elect the best lines anywhere.
You got it, we recommend that you train for technical terrains and long days. Take a few laps at the local rock garden. Improve your confidence when riding the steep sections of your local playground. Get used to soft soils (both sandy and rocky). Try to do a couple of short rides every week and a longer one during the weekend (4 hours is a good goal). If you need extra motivation to go riding on rainy days, here it comes. It’s no secret that Icelandic weather can be extreme. Hence, those extra hours riding your local laps in the rain will be a game changer on a day of “true icelandic weather”!
Keep in mind that the expeditions with Icebike are not about racing. The trips we design are all about finding the best balance between flow and riding the most remote singletracks of Iceland. We like to keep a reasonablepace so that everyone has fun. On top of that, we take some time to let the vistas sink in and admire the scenic landscapes. They will not fail to take your breath away!
In other words, getting ready to ride with locals in Iceland is not about preparing for a race. The name of the game is to be able to ride technical terrains in a safe manner and with confidence, over the days!
We wish you a great training on your home singletracks and are stoked to welcome you soon on our beloved trails!