Just days after she successfully competed in (and won) the 350 mile Iditarod Trail Invitational, mountain biking’s bravest adventure rider Rebecca Rusch is off to ride her bike across Iceland. Iceland in the winter, yeah, and just as you’d expect, and just as Rebecca reminds us, it’s considered “some of the most remote, beautiful and difficult terrain the country has to offer.” Of course, because if it wasn’t difficult, why would Rebecca make the attempt?!
Although she rode her carbon FatBack snow bike in Alaska, for the Iceland trip she will be rolling along on a new adventure bike from Giant. The Giant Yukon uses an aluminum frame and fits the massive 5″ tires necessary to roll on snow. Rebecca relies on 27.5″ Maxxis Colossus tires filled with Orange Seal sub-zero sealant and at 3-4psi. mounted on Enve wheels. Added accessories include Revelate bags and Crank Brothers Mallet pedals. Thanks to all the necessary gear that includes a sleeping ag and stove, the 25 pound bike baloons up to 55-pounds -basically an e-bike weight but without any motor!
Similar to her nearly six-day trek in Alaska where she rode unsupported, sleeping and eating in the frozen conditions (with just 14 hours of sleep), Rebecca’s jaunt across Iceland will be little different, but she will be joined by two teammates for the planned week(ish) long trek.
When asked how it is that she chooses to undertake such grueling adventures, in her typical “can do” attitude, Rebecca related that “Before you get to the how, you have to have a reason for the “why”. None of this is easy and you gotta do the work, If people don’t understand the “why” they will never understand the “why”. I do it because I want to, but more importantly, to show others that they can.”
From all of her racing pursuits to the Rebecca’s Private Idaho gravel race and her Giddy-Up Challenge she created, inspiring others to take on challenge and improve their lives has always been a fundamental aspect of Rebecca’s motivations. She is as much an inspiration as she is a life coach to people she will never even meet.
As to the rigors of her winter cycling, she said that for her Iditarod ride she needed to consume 4000 calories a day, mcu which was made up of Gu Energy products that were easy to both access and digest. “It’s hard to eat in that cold environment,” she said. “You have to stop, get undressed to find the food…each bite is hard because it’s so cold.”
To really underscore the level of difficulty that some might take for granted, Rebecca offered this, “The sheer logistics of putting food in your mouth is really complicated and takes a lot of disciplne.” One saving grace for her Iditarod effort? Bacon. “I cooked up a lot bacon to carry with me because it’s light and full of calories!”
In terms of the degree of isolation en route, Rusch added a daunting reality, “Everyone has a tracking device, but there is no cell phones so once you’re out there you’re really your own first responder – there is no rescue service! Every 50-75 miles there are some commercial lodges, but you have to know the map to find them and how to get there.”
As to the physical and mental hardships that come with the cold weather challenge, “One important thing to take care of is keeping your skin covered. In addition to all my layers of clothing, I used a Cold Avenger face mask and frost tape. I rely on Velocio cycling gear with a wool base layer. Sweat is the death of you in cold weather so moisture management is crucial. You actually don’t want to get too warm or too cold.”
“To get through it all I access a different place in my mind than I ever would for a race like Leadville. While I’m out there I’m in a physical and mental dream state – just inbetween being awake and asleep. And when I finish something that difficult I have to say that it’s a deep, deep level of pride and satisfaction. Honestly, the post-race euphoria can be better than what I experience in the race itself. And when it’s all over, it’s time to stuff myself on some pizza!”
To learn more about Rebecca’s digital Base Camp and Giddy-Up Challenge.
To learn follow along Rebecca’s jaunt across Iceland: Rebecca’s Winter Expeditions