The Cyclist's Menu was born in 2015 by two passionate souls; Zander Ault, a renowned farm direct chef, and Heidi Rentz, a retired professional mountain bike racer turned endurance cycling coach. Together, and alongside an advanced team of professional athletes, bike guides & mechanics; The Cyclist's Menu hosts the most unique endurance gravel cycling camps in the world. Zander shares his experiences cycling through Iceland.
An overnight flight from Boston’s Logan International Airport dropped us into Reykjavik at 4:30 in the morning. Feeling tired and a bit out-of-body, Heidi and I managed to get ourselves through the baggage claim at the Keflavik airport and into the smallest rental car we’ve ever seen. Our luggage and bike bags were stuffed in the back like a burrito on the streets of Tucson.
“What should we name this car?” Heidi asked. Then, before I could answer, she blurted out, “Ernie!”
We laughed, wiped the sleepy crust from the corners of our eyes and began our 2-week journey into the land of fire and ice. (Ernie proved to be a trusty vehicle.)
We had no expectations for what we’d encounter. The only thing people had told us was that we’d love Iceland, so we left it up to the Norse gods, figuring adventure would come our way. And it did. What ensued was some of the most incredible scenery, gravel road cycling and food we’ve encountered. It was a perfect place to scout for a Gravel Camp in 2019.
Our first stop was Icebike Adventures in Reykjavik. Icebike Adventures has been Iceland’s premier mountain bike outfit for multi day tours and helicopter mountain bike trips for the past 10 years. Magne Kvam, the founder, knows the Icelandic backcountry better than most. After all, he has driven, ridden or flown over it in a helicopter time and time again. They’ve been watching gravel cycling grow and when we reached out about a partnership in Iceland, our relationship began.
Magne and Asta of Icebike Adventures immediately put us at ease. 75% of the country is covered in dirt roads and Magne had a few ideas of places to go explore. What he wasn’t sure of was which areas would prove best. Icebike has focused solely on mountain biking. It was up to us to help open the doors for longer distance gravel adventures.
1.5 hours from Reykjavik, Heidi and I took a right hand turn and entered into the highland region. Glaciers, calderas and lava fields surrounded us.
One of the coolest parts of this country is that you feel as if you’re at 14,000 feet in the Rockies of Colorado or Canada. There are no trees, just swooping horizons and jagged ridgelines. It’s moonlike in a sense; feels like a science experiment went wrong and all ingredients exploded violently across the landscape. Perhaps that’s exactly what a volcanic eruption is.
The landscape in Iceland is unique in that it allows riders of all abilities to find their adventure. It’s challenging, we don’t want to mislead anyone, but you can choose if you want to do a shorter hut-to-hut trip or a longer excursion.
Be prepared! Bring rain gear, gloves and a hat — you’ll use it.
The ability to learn to read maps is essential in Iceland. There are main routes that cyclists will use to tour, but the good stuff is off-road and going in a direction that might look daunting.
With Icebike as our lead guides, we knew our 2019 Gravel Camp routes would be special, hard to find and filled with lots of climbing to breathtaking views.
The region we explored most was stretched out between two areas known as ‘Landmannalaugar’ and ‘Fjallabak.’ Both of these large swaths of land are intricately woven together by an incredible amount of water that flows straight out of the ground. All Icelandic water is pure and begins at the source of a glacier. It’s seriously cold to swim in, but tastes incredible!
As tourism increases immensely in Iceland, time is of the essence to see this place. It’s worth every penny, as the country isn’t inexpensive. However, your mind, body and soul will thank you for it.
We’d never experienced anything like Iceland. As we rode out of the mountains on our final scout day, I looked at Heidi and asked, “Could this day get any better?”
We were both smiling ear-to-ear.
Then we rounded another bend and just like the last one, we were off our saddles, whooping and hollering at the beauty. It was a moment in the mountains we’ll never forget.
The Cyclist’s Menu is based out of Tucson, Arizona. In 2019, they'll focus on winter gravel camps in Patagonia, Arizona during February and March. The cycling/chef duo will then branch out to Vermont in July and Iceland (again) during August. For specific dates and more information, roll over to ridebikeseatfood.com.
All photos: Icebike Adventures