June 30, 2008

Big change, in more ways than one

Well, it's been so long since I've posted here that if I had any readership I would feel obliged to apologize for my laziness, but since I don't, I wont. In stead I'll just pretend that my last post was posted yesterday and I'll continue with that in mind. In my last post I mentioned a quantum leap in my cycling life. That leap is this one: The Trek Fuel EX-8. And yes I know the seat post is ridiculously long. My legs are as long as my wit is short, and Trek does not make a bigger bike than the 21 1/5" pictured. So far I love that bike, although I'm not sold on the forks and the quality of the paint is appalling. The paint basically chips if you sneeze at it which blows if you travel a lot, or are subject to colds. What happened soon after I got the bike, however, is that I left my cushy job at Rider's cycles in Victoria to go work at a community newspaper in my native Iceland. So in essence I left the lush forest riding of Vancouver Island for the stark riding that goes on around here, on the somewhat more northerly island of Iceland. Not many groomed bike trails around these parts, more like old horse paths and sheep trails. Those can be very good mind you, but our biggest enemy in Iceland is the wind. I find that nothing drains me as fast on a bike, as the wind. Except for maybe the wind, in your face, WHILE going uphill. Mountain bikes are not built to slice through the wind and it almost seems like the way you sit on a mountain bike, you're meant to catch the wind. Especially with those goofy super-wide bars that are all the rage these days. You kind of look like a sailboat on two wheels going backwards into the wind. It's pretty inefficient. And perhaps a pretty surreal mental picture for most. But in spite of the wind which has very few trees to slow it down, there is some good riding to be had in Iceland. The central highlands are basically an untapped source for incredible mountain touring, there are countless hiking trails leading up and down mountains, old postal routes (think horses), hydro line access roads etc. Lots and lots of all mountain riding to be had if you're willing to brave the somewhat temperamental elements. The interest in Freeriding and trail building in general is on the rise in Iceland as well, and hopefully I'll be able to ride a couple of the trails that are being built here this summer. I'll report on that on these pages. These trails are being built in forests, of which we have a few, even though approximatively three-quarters of the island are barren of vegetation. Yup, kind of hard to compare that to BC. The barren landscape holds some intrigue for trail builders though, and I'm currently trying to clean up a little line that's 6km downhill. Mind you it's 6 to get up there too, but can be done on a 4x4 access road that has a gentle slope to it-plus about 40 min of a punishing hike without a trail. To create a groomed trail that spans that distance would be impossible in the short time I have here (two months left). But what we're trying to do is to utilize trails that have been created by sheep throughout the ages. The good thing about those, is that sheep take the most efficient way from a to b, not the straightest. So you can get some pretty curvy and flowy trails by using the engineering skills of the half-wild marshmallow that are called Kind in Iceland. Belief me though they're not kind. Just stubborn and tough as nails. Occasionally you'll hear a newsflash on the radio. "Two Germans went missing in the vicinity of Landmannalaugar, their tent was torn and some sheep trails mixed with dragmarks and blood lead away from the tent. The Germans are presumed dead. The hunt for the killer sheep has not yet been successful."