Fifty Shades of Gravel in the Land of Fire & Ice


  • 495km / 310 miles
  • Superb gravel riding in the Land of Fire & Ice
  • Cross the famous Sprengisandur
  • Geothermal hot pools & glacial rivers
  • 8 Days / 7 Nights
  • An expedition style adventure
  • Stunning Landmannalaugar
  • Challenging, raw & spectacular
Number of Days: 8
Land Only Price From: £2,595
Grade: Spicy
Group Size: 6 – 14 (Smaller Groups by Arrangement)
View: Kit List


Sun 12 July – Sun 19 July 2020Ready To Roll

Trip Overview

Day 1 Arrivals Day

Arrive at Keflavik International Airport before 15:00 and transfer by public bus to Reykjavik.

Due to the wide range of possible arrival times at Keflavik Airport, transfers into Reykjavik are made by public bus service.  This is straightforward and the drivers are familiar with transferring boxed or bagged bikes.  A member of the RBC Crew will meet you at our Group Accommodation in Reykjavik.  Bikes will be built up today and given a post flight / pre trip check ride.

We’ll have a group meet & trip briefing around 18:30, leaving the evening free for you to explore Reykjavik.

Overnight in a Guest House.
N.B. Tonight’s dinner meal is not included in the trip price.

Day 2 South from Sauðárkrókur

It’s an early start today and we load up our bikes and kit onto our 4×4 Support Vehicle and transfer to Sauðárkrókur, our ride start point on Iceland’s north coast.

Our road transfer to Sauðárkrókur takes around four and a half hours and we’ll stop en-route for a break.  The transfer is as much a part of the adventure as the riding and the geology, scenery and history of the landscape is rich, captivating and fascinating.  Sauðárkrókur, the second largest town on the north coast, is a fishing and agricultural hub which is situated on Skagafjörður, a fjord that opens directly onto the Arctic Ocean.

We begin our ride with a spin down to the Black Beach for our traditional “wheel dip” trip start photos before we begin our journey south towards Iceland’s remote and wild interior.  The first 27kms are on tarmac before we get onto our first Icelandic gravel road and ride into the Austurdalur valley and tonight’s Guest House accommodation.  There’s a geothermal hot pool a short ride (or walk) away so what better way to chill post ride.

43km / 27 miles (35% on gravel roads).  Overnight in a Guest House.  Meal/s included: B / L
N.B. Tonight’s dinner meal is not included in the trip price.

Day 3 Highlands & Hot Springs

It’s gentle roll out this morning along the Austurdalur valley floor to start the day.  The first few kilometres are sealed but before long we hit the gravel. 

Riding up the valley alongside the glacier fed Austari-Jökulsá (East Jokulsa River, which is also known as ‘The Beast of the East’) we gain height fairly easily.  The gravel jeep road gets progressively rougher and the valley narrower until we reach the first test of our trip …. The Troll Wall.  The Wall is a steep, 400m switchback climb that transports us from the cultivated valley and up and onto the Iceland Highland plateau proper.

From here the track is markedly rougher and we’ll make a number of river crossings en-route to tonight’s Mountain Hut accommodation.  The scenery is simply jaw dropping and the second half of today’s ride is a chance to savour a raw adventure in a raw landscape.  Our hut tonight is in a stunning location and has a geothermal hot spring pool next to it.  What better way to ease the muscles after a tough day’s riding.

85km / 53 miles (80% on gravel roads).  Overnight in a Mountain Hut.  Meal/s included: B / L / D

Day 4 Sprengisandsleið Day I

Today is a cracking ride that is set against a backdrop of stark, remote beauty that is uniquely Icelandic. 

A climb starts the day and we initially ride east before joining the famous Sprengisandsleið gravel road (translation – Exhausting Sands Way) and turning south across the Sprengisandur desert region between the Vatnajökull and Hofsjökull glaciers, the largest and third largest glaciers in Iceland respectively.  

This region is know to Icelanders as the Heiði – the real Highlands – and as we cross the Highland plateau we have two significant glacial river crossings to make before arriving at our Mountain Hut accommodation which is located almost right in the centre of Iceland.

60km / 37.5 miles (100% on gravel roads).  Overnight in a Mountain Hut.  Meal/s included: B / L / D

Day 5 Sprengisandsleið Day II

If you haven’t already encountered Fifty Shades of Gravel on the journey so far then you will have by the time we get to the end of today’s ride.  There seems to be an almost endless range of types and sub types of gravel surface in Iceland – from hard packed & smooth to rough, corrugated & dusty.

Wide open vistas dominate the riding today and as we start to descend off of the Highland plateau we pass Iceland’s largest lake, the strikingly coloured glacier fed Þórisvatn.  A dozen or so kilometres of welcome tarmac afford us the opportunity to spin rhythmically along to our Hotel.

Although the trend is downhill today there’s plenty of small climbs along the way which aggregate into over 1,000m of ascent and, being Iceland, the wind can be a significant factor too.  

110km / 69 miles (88% on gravel roads).  Overnight in a Hotel.  Meal/s included: B / L
N.B. Tonight’s dinner meal is not included in the trip price.

Day 6 A la Landmannalaugar

We roll out on smooth tarmac for the first 12kms and then we’re back onto the gravel and corrugation alley, where your wheels feel like they are 50 pence piece shaped.  Turning east off of the flat plain our route winds it way into the Southern Highlands through a volcanic landscape and into the Fjallabak Nature Reserve.

The scenery today is very different from what we’ve experienced on our adventure so far.  We’re in the heart of the mountains and the gravel road takes improbable twists and turns as it makes it’s way through this fascinating, challenging and highly photogenic landscape.

Our accommodation tonight is in a Mountain Hut at Landmannalaugar, a bustling trekking hub popular for it’s stunning location, it’s geology and it’s geothermal hot spring pools.

74km / 46 miles (84% on gravel).  Overnight in a Mountain Hut.  Meal/s included: B / L / D

Day 7 Green & Black’s

Today is the longest day of the trip and the one which offers the most diverse range of riding, geology and scenery, so it’s an early start as we’ve a fantastic day ahead.  The early part of today’s ride again winds it way through canyons and over the lower ridges of mountains on rough gravel jeep tracks all the while with a backdrop of simply sublime scenery … and multiple river crossings.

As we head towards the coast we drop out of the black volcanic Highlands and back into a greener, lusher farmed landscape – quite an adjustment for the eyes and brain to make after being in such starkly, and beautifully, barren terrain for the past few days.  The last 45kms of our ride to Vik, Iceland’s most southerly town, are on tarmac and are predominantly flat but the wind can be very strong and gusting here and Vik makes a very pleasant sight when we roll into town.  Vik marks the end of our cycling adventure and our journey ends on Vik’s famous black sand beach.  After a quick change – and a hot tub & shower – we  transfer back to Reykjavik in our support vehicle. 

After returning to the Capital we’ll first stop off at our agent’s office and repack our bikes into their travel boxes and bags.  Bikes sorted we then transfer to our accommodation close to Reykjavik City Centre.

122km /  76 miles (64% on gravel).  Overnight in a Guest House.  Meal/s included: B / L / D
N.B. As it takes around three hours to transfer back to Reykjavik we’ll stop en-route for our end of trip celebratory meal.

Day 8 Departure Day

Due to the wide range of possible departure times from Keflavik Airport, transfers to the airport are made by public bus service.  This is straightforward and the drivers are familiar with transferring boxed or bagged bikes.  Should anyone wish to extend their stay in Iceland we can book additional night’s accommodation as/if required.

Meal/s included: B

What’s Included

  • 3 nights in Guest House accommodation*, 1 night in a Hotel* & 3 nights in Mountain Hut accommodation**
  • All meals as detailed in the trip overview:
    Meal Key: B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner.  Please Note: All lunches are picnic style and designed to suit cyclists appetites.  All Mountain Hut Dinners are ‘Summit to Eat’ freeze dried main meals & deserts (2 courses) as we have found this to be the most efficient way to feed everyone quickly in busy huts
  • Transfers from Reykjavik to Sauðárkrókur and from Vik to Reykjavik
  • 4×4 Support Vehicle
  • Baggage transfers throughout the trip
  • The services of a Rather Be Cycling Trip Leader
  • The services of an Icelandic vehicle driver / trip assistant
  • A daily provision of Clif Bar nutritional products
  • Access to commonly required tools, mechanical advice & assistance

* All Guest House & Hotel accommodation is allocated and priced on a twin occupancy basis.  Please contact us for Single Occupancy Rates
** Mountain Huts have communal sleeping areas

What’s Not Included

  • International and / or Domestic Flight/s to and from the start and end points of the trip
  • All airport transfers to and from Reykjavik – for riders, bikes & baggage
  • Travel Insurance – Compulsory
  • Visa/s, if necessary
  • All drinks e.g. bottled water, coffees, teas, alcohol, etc.
  • Entry fees e.g. to visitor attractions, etc.
  • Spare / replacement bicycle parts & accessories e.g. tyres, tubes, wheel/s, etc.
  • Other expenses e.g. souvenirs, additional food, laundry, etc.
  • Tips – at your discretion

Bike Spec

We recced this trip in the summer of 2019 using a variety of modern gravel/adventure bikes.  In our group we had two 29er gravel bikes (with 2.1 & 2.2 tyres), one 650B bike (with 2.1 tyres) and one 700c bike (with 38c tyres) and all were set up tubeless.  As it was a recce trip we were riding with bike packing kit (unlike this supported trip) and we had no punctures and no tyre problems. 

Higher volume tyres at moderate pressures are broadly accepted to be more comfortable than lower volume tyres running higher pressures on varied gravel terrain.

  • This is an Adventure Cross cycling holiday that is mainly on gravel roads, but also includes some tarmac sections
  • This trip is ideal for gravel, adventure & cyclocross bikes.  We haven’t tried mtb’s or Fat Bikes on this trip but see no reason why they wouldn’t work too
  • We would suggest that a Gravel Spec tyre with a width of at least 38-40c as being the narrowest tyre that’s suitable for this trip.  Much depends on rider weight, riding style and experience, so some folks will be fine on narrower tyres and other will benefit from more tyre volume
  • A wide range of gears is suggested for this trip as whilst the climbs are not especially high or long the wind in Iceland can be tremendously strong
  • Your bike should be fully serviced, and thoroughly tested, before your holiday

Person Spec

  • The Highlands of Iceland is remote, big sky country.  You can feel very small whilst riding through a very big landscape.  The terrain, whilst not technical, is attritional and the weather can be challenging.  All this adds up to make Icelandic cycling more suitable for some people and less so for others.  A positive attitude is everything on this trip 🙂