When we got the e-mail that Lauf wanted to bring us to Iceland to ride some ice and experience the countryside, we couldn’t say yes fast enough. Typically, we have a mental checklist that we run through before every excursion so that we are well-prepared when we reach our destination. When getting ready for Iceland, however, our normal preparation was thrown into chaos. After all, not many people get to go to Iceland, let alone ride there. Naturally, we reached out to our contacts at Lauf and asked them what to pack and what type of weather to expect during our trip. Their reply was simple—“Everything.” With a puffy jacket in hand and more wool socks than we knew what to do with, we made our way across the Atlantic.
Our flight from Seattle landed at 7 a.m., but our bodies were telling us it was 1 a.m. Undaunted, we grabbed a cup of joe in the Iceland airport and caught our ride into Reykjavik with a couple other Americans who were in town to explore the countryside on their LaMere fat bikes. The drive from the airport into Reykjavik revealed just how desolate Iceland is. The flat valleys made up of volcanic rock stretched for miles in every direction and along the southern coastline. Prior to our trip, a lot of people asked us what we were expecting. The truth was, we didn’t know what to expect.
Taking a ride: The chopper ride up to the top of Langjokull glacier gave us some amazing views of the Icelandic countryside. Pilots who live and fly in Greenland will do seasonal flying in Iceland.
We rolled into downtown Reykjavik where the Lauf headquarters are located and made our way up a couple flights of stairs to an office that looked like it was inhabited by a bunch of bike engineers. After the 30-minute drive, it was time for more wonderful coffee as we got a grand tour of the small yet packed workspace that Lauf has used to build its unique and innovative company. The space was small, yet cozy and well lit, with a handful of windows opening right into downtown where all the tourists were making their way along the streets. A small kitchen provided a small break space where we indulged in our third cup of coffee for the morning. On one small wall was a collage of photos of local racers riding their Lauf forks and, of course, the original Lauf fork.
Up and away: If you are ever in Iceland, we highly recommend taking a flight up to a glacier. Sure there are more practical ways to do it, but none will be nearly as exciting.
After spending most of the day in Reykjavik, we were loaded into the burliest Mercedes vans that any of us had ever seen, making us wonder where exactly we were going and what kind of excursion we had signed up for. Thorsmork, named for the legendary Norse god Thor, is the most popular mountain range in Iceland and is home to what’s left of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano that erupted in 2010 and shut down most of Europe for several days. The mountains split off and create a vast black- sand valley with rolling foothills that are perfect for fat bikes. After driving for what felt like an eternity on black-sand roads that didn’t seem to have any real destination but simply turned and curved when appropriate, we came upon our lodgings for the first night.
Beefy roots: The current Lauf forks have a sleek look that stand out, but that wasn’t always the case. The first prototype was this beast that weighed a ton but proved that the design could work.
Lauf is known for its radical fork design that has slowly made its way into cross-country racing and become an eccentric alternative to conventional suspension. Once we saw the types of trails that are most common in Iceland, we immediately understood why Lauf does what it does. The black-sand valley of Thorsmork was a perfect place for us to ride Lauf’s creation and see just what all the fuss has been about. Our ride through Thorsmork was scenic but flat as we pushed through the thick, black, coarse sand, occasionally crossing a glacier river on mobile metal bridges. There were never any obstacles technical enough to require much suspension, but the Lauf forks made the ride a little smoother and, of course, comfortable. The thick sand was loose yet gripped our tires better than the sands of Southern California that we are accustomed to.
After spending most of the day in Thorsmork with nearly perfect weather, the winds started to pick up, and it was time for us to make our way out of the valley to our next destination, which would be the highlight of the trip. We drove for over an hour out of Thorsmork into a plain that stretched for miles in every direction. Three helicopters awaited our arrival to fly us up to the Langjokull glacier. Langjokull is the second largest glacier in Iceland and is no disappointment by way of views. It was awe-inspiring and, of course, cold. There is something about standing atop a giant block of ice, especially for the first time, that inspires a sense of wonder and makes one feel incalculably small. Considering that we were coming from the dusty, drought stricken hills of California, this massive ice cube was a completely new thrill.
Through the ice: The Langjokull glacier has a network of tunnels cut into it to allow visitors to go inside and see the inner workings of the glacier. We recommend wool socks and a thick jacket if you ever make it inside.
Networks of tunnels have been carved into the glacier to allow travelers and visitors the opportunity to go inside and explore. Lauf was sure to bring along fat bikes up into the tunnels to host a one-of-a-kind glacier race. How did we place, you ask? First in coldness and last in fastness. After spending some time up on Langjokull, we loaded into some incredible vehicles that are used to crawl up and down the face of the glacier and made our way off the ice.
You need one: These vans trekked us around the rural parts of Iceland during our time in Thorsmork. The massive tires rolled through glacial rivers and deep sand with ease and just look sick.
It’s easy to miss: The entrance to the tunnels is just a small opening with wood framing. It was easy to miss when we initially flew over it. Stretched along the top of the glacier are air pipes providing ventilation to the inside of the tunnels.
The next day we piled into a bus that took us to Heidmork National Park, located about six miles outside of Reykjavik and home to more than 7900 acres of dense forest and singletrack. The damp climate made for tacky dirt and green vegetation, giving us a scenic backdrop for the cross-country riding we would be doing. The trails in Heidmork were fast and flowing, carving between groves of spruce trees along the trail.
The afternoon in Heidmork was going well, but the more we rode the trails, the greater our desire grew to do more exploring. So, instead of taking the standard left turn on the route laid out for us, we went straight and kept going. Eventually, we began making left turn after left turn, thinking that we would end up near where we began. How very wrong we were. What started out as a plan to aim for a slightly longer ride turned into a three-hour epic through the Icelandic countryside, with no cell reception and a worrisome sense of being truly lost.
An epic landscape: The vast, changing valley of Thorsmork provided us with some views that will not be easily forgotten. Between the mountainous, snow-tipped backdrop outlining the black sand valley, we couldn’t imagine a more epic place to ride.
Of course there were maps at every major turn or trail head, but Icelandic is a tough language to understand—even more so when there is an element of panic creeping in. Every turn that we thought would lead us back to the original trail instead led us farther and farther out into the countryside. Finally, we were able to get the attention of a car passing by and, after our frantic questions were answered in broken English, we found out that we were no longer in the Heidmork National Park but instead very far outside it. We turned back on the dirt road that we had been riding on, and after backtracking for about 30 minutes, we ran into a few fellow mountain bikers. They were able to give us directions that were clear and simple and, just like that, the ordeal was over. During this 30-mile detour, we gained a very healthy understanding of why Lauf does what it does.
Back to the water: Heidmork is a national park just outside Reykjavik that sits along the water. Here we experienced the trails that have inspired the Lauf design. Thanks to getting lost for a little while, we got an extensive experience of these groomed trails.
All of the trails we rode were smooth and relatively flat, so a traditional suspension fork really wouldn’t make sense; but, the longer rides did require some sort of comfort factor. The Lauf Trail Racer that we spent most of our time on was perfect for the type of riding that is most common in Iceland (and what we experience when cross-country riding in California). Thanks to being ignorant and lost, we got a much better feel for the Lauf fork than we would have otherwise.
As we sat in the airport waiting for our departing flight, we pondered how best to describe our experience in Iceland. Iceland is near the top when it comes to destinations that will provide a unique experience that will not be forgotten any time soon. From the oceanside to the indescribable glaciers, Iceland will leave you with memories that will inspire and leave you wanting more.
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