OPERATION BUCKET LIST: ICELAND
Leaving town for a cycling-focused trip can be daunting. There are so many things to plan for & so much to bring. Leaving the country for a cycling trip is an entirely bigger undertaking. So, how (& why) the heck did four “aging riders” from Bentonville decide to go to Iceland? Follow along with Dana Wise, David Neal, Randy Johnson & Brad Nielsen as we tell the story of our “bucket list” trip to experience the trails & culture of Iceland!
SELLING THE PLAN:
The story began in mid-July. Dana began planning the trip with a couple of his high school buddies. He came to Mojo & asked me (Dave) if I’d like to be the 4th man. I’ve been to a lot of places around the world, but it takes a certain amount of inertia to get me moving from home. Truth-be-told, I went home & floated the idea past Becci . . . hoping she’d nix it. I should know better. She was stoked! “You’ve really not taken but one or two vacations since you opened the shop around 12yrs ago.” Well, damn. There goes that excuse.
I got online & searched photos of Iceland. Oddly, like Dana, I’ve been fascinated with the island nation since I first learned about it in grade school. “Hey, Vikings were there.” I investigated the country’s geology, geography, culture & business. Wow. What drives this country’s economy & GDP? Effectively, they import all of their food. City streets are heated with natural steam, negating the need for snow plows. There are less than half a million citizens. There’s a world-famous company in Reykjavik that builds mega 4X4s for extreme off-road on Tundra & ice flows. Excitement started to build. I told Dana “I’m in!”
A blow to our plans hit when both of Dana’s buddies bailed-out. He visited Mojo to deliver the bad news. Was the venture over before it began? Just then, two Mojo regulars -- Brad & Randy -- showed up. We threw the trip idea out to them. Each was intrigued. By that night both riders sent me a text noting: “Count me in.” Dana created a text group, so that we could begin planning. It turned out to be much more work than we had imagined. First, to avoid any other group members from bailing out, we met & purchased our flight tickets. This locked each of us in.
PLANNING & LOGISTICS:
Dana had been researching places to stay. We wanted a location in Reykjavik that was close to the city’s center. We wanted to explore the city on foot when we were not riding. We met again & plotted where each location was & what advantages it provided. We settled on a house, located just blocks from the city center. Each of us continued to research Reykjavik to locate places that we’d like to visit. The list continues to expand. Dana also located a reasonably-priced rental car for us. We wanted to rent one of the insanely-modified 4x4s, so we could ‘crawl the tundra with it. Unfortunately, all of them were already committed. Damn. We opted for a small, nondescript, uncool, economy car. Likely, that’s the smart choice. Dana also found that gas is over four dollars per gallon.
Meanwhile, we needed advice regarding what to do about bikes & locating local trails. We really didn’t want to take our own bikes up there . . . the price, potential for damage & other logistics seemed prohibitive. I reached out to international trials rider, & cycle adventure guru, Hans Rey.
He’s spent time with the Mojo crew & I knew that he’d recently done a cycling adventure in Iceland, so I knew he’d have some great advice. His reply was classic: “Dave, go say hi to the elves, seriously. Then hit up Icebike Adventures for the best tour & rides.” A quick Google search confirmed Icebike’s contact info. These guys have been hard to catch. They’re constantly out on the trails with riders. Randy has taken-over the process. After over a week of calls & numerous e-mails, we locked-down four e-bikes & riding dates. Follow-up has been equally difficult.
We found tons of activities to do in Reykjavik when we are not riding. There’s a Jazz Festival scheduled for the week that we are visiting. I’ll admit that I’m not a huge fan of listening to jazz on a daily basis. But, watching it performed live is another matter. There are numerous cool architectural gems that are worth visiting. Hiking to a live volcano is a prime activity. There’s just something about seeing lava in-person. There are innumerable waterfalls to hike to. Hot tub anyone? Jumping into one of the natural hot pots, where volcanic activity pushes hot bubbling to the surface, is an activity that I could do daily! Iceland is also known for its own special hot/cold massage. The local cuisine is also something to try. They eat a lot of seafood in Iceland. Several in the group are excited for fresh-caught cold water fish. Randy has mentioned that he’d like to sample a locally brewed beer. There are several specialty chocolatiers that are not to be missed. There are innumerable tattoo shops in Reykjavik . . . Also, the International Phallological Museum is at the top of our to-do list. Wow. Is there enough time for all of this?
The 100lb gorilla in the room has been Covid. We’re seeking to travel internationally during a potentially lethal world-wide viral outbreak. Beyond the danger to our health, the other difficulty has been navigating the health protocols of both the USA & Iceland. Each of us had to be vaccinated. Then, seventy-two hours prior to flying out, each of us must pass a Covid test. Another Covid test must be passed upon arrival at Reykjavik International Airport. Finally, we have to pass another test before boarding a plane home. Wow. That’s a lot of testing. The real fear is this: what happens if one of us fails a test in Iceland, before coming home? Being sequestered for two weeks --alone -- in Iceland, could become expensive. Brad searched for ways to mitigate such a disaster & found international traveling insurance. This is critical. Travel insurance covers the costs of being stuck, while waiting to pass a test. It’ll also cover hospital costs if one of us takes a header over a ledge while riding.
What do we need to take? This time of year, Iceland’s temperatures range from the mid-forties to mid-sixties. It rains off & on regularly. Riding in this might be a challenge. The key was getting gear that would keep us warm & dry . . . but not be too heavy. I created a list for each of the guys. It rapidly became daunting. Just getting some of the gear that we needed might kill our budgets before we even left NWA. We needed some help. I reached out to some of the companies that I know best.
Of course, Mojo Cycling is a key sponsor. The shop has provided special jerseys. Each rider received a Mojo team jersey with their name & the Iceland Trip 2021 logo emblazoned across the shoulders. The crew at Big Frog was a great partner for us. They quickly designed & applied the logos for each rider’s jersey. Mojo also provided mini fleece towels for each rider to use on rides where there is a chance to jump into a hot pot. A mini towel offers the chance to dry off or wipe your feet before putting them back into your socks. (Again, Big Frog worked with us. They designed & applied the logos on the towels for our group.) All riders have purchased a few pairs of our great Mojo Cycling wool socks!
We contacted Ride Concepts first. We need substantial shoes that take abuse. Being wet, cold & grimy can destroy lesser shoes. I asked the Ride Concepts team if they had a shoe that was designed for this environment. They pointed us towards their “Powerline” model. This shoe is designed to be lightweight & tough, while it’s also built with a soft durometer rubber that will grip pedals in any situation. They have a ¾ top on the inside of both shoes, to protect the rider’s ankle from contact with the bike’s chainstay or crank. Each of us will be using the “Powerline” shoe on our trip.
Each rider must bring their own pedals when renting a bike. We agreed that we need killer pedals for riding on the Icelandic tundra. The consensus was 100%; we needed to contact Deity. I got on the phone. Mojo has worked with Deity for over 10yrs. We believed in their products back when they were just a small purveyor of gear for hard-core old-school freeriders. Now, Deity is recognized as the industry standard. They advised that we use their “Deftrap” pedals. Nylon pedals have now become an industry standard. They take huge abuse, still look good after being dragg