Eftirfarandi er umfjöllun MBR um heimsókn blaðamanns MBR til Íslands og heimsókn hans til ÍFHK:


And you think we have it cold. mbr made a flying visit to Reykjavik, home of Magnus Magnusson, Brennivin and the Vikings - not the big beardy blokes with horny helmets but the Icelandic Mountain Bike Club




Is it the way I'm walking? Do I smell? For some reason I'm surrounded by brave and hardy Icelandic mountain bikers, all of whom suddenly have something else to do on Saturday, the day I'm arranging to go out for a ride with their leader, Magnus.

"Maybe 90 kilometres, or maybe more," Magnus mumbles vaguely as he scans a largescale map of this beautifully dressed (ice)land. Sixty miles, maybe more, I think. It's winter and the temperature's frostily stuck well below zero outside.

As the rest of the club members evaporate from the scene, I sort of wonder if I could do something else on Saturday too, but bravado, of course, responds on my behalf. "Yeah, sure, whatever you like," I find myself saying none too convincingly. The whole idea of making an early wintertime trip to the world´s northernmost capital, to go mountain biking just below the rim of the Arctic Circle, seemed insane, and it probably was. But I'd been itching to spend a weekend in Reykjavik for months; after all, it's supposed to be the party capital of the planet, and how many Icelandic Miss Worlds have there been? How bad could a few hours in the saddle be anyway, if it's got me to this Valhalla?



I arrived in Reykjavik on Thursday afternoon, with the Icelandic mountain bike club due to gather that night for their weekly meeting at their wooden HQ, next to the harbour. As Iceland has a population of just 250,000 - about the size of your average large town - and is bigger than England, I thought only a couple of guys and a clunker would turn up. That theory is blown out of the window as soon as I enter the room. About 20 of the club's 500 members are at the meeting, ranging in age from 15 to 50 and all fully equipped with good, sensible bikes and practical kit, which was a breath of fresh air compared to the poseurs-on-the-car-park syndrome we seem to have in the UK - a phenomenon they simply would not believe when I told them about it. "They only ride the bike in car park? Why?"

Most club members have arrived by bike and are busy either working in the workshop on said machines or drinking massive amounts of strong, black coffee and watching Tv. These guys are genuine hardcore mountain bikers, who live and breathe fat rubber. The club house has its own Tv, video and a massive collection of magazines and books from all around the world. I feel like an ancient explorer, bearing copies of mbr for the natives, who duly drool over the latest issue of our much-coveted publication.

Their thirst for knowledge of the rest of the fattyred world is amazing. Question after question follows from the gathering crowd of friendly Vikings "Do you ride the fork of Pace?" For these guys, mountainbiking is all about travel and adventure, much like it was for their ancient forefathers, though rape and pillage isn't quite so high up the list of priorities these days. The club coffee table serves as the HQ's focal point, the place where many stories are told, most of them tales of unwary foreign visitors to their fabled land, or of their own 'Thor' - my guide-to-be, Magnus.

As the night draws on, the witching hour comes and goes, and still, bizarrely, club members continue to arrive in dribs and drabs. Stories of Magnus and his legendary escapades grow taller and taller, much to his modest embarrassment: "Over 3,000 kilometres in August, he's been places that no other person has ever been."

Saturday looks set to be a sacrificial day for going to be eaten alive by Magnus and not a single club member is going to join us for the fun. "No one rides with Magnus, he's too strong and far too fast for us"' is the oft-repeated verdict on Magnus the Magnificent. Then, of all things, another Englishman enters the fray. Darren, a Londoner who teaches music on the island, foolishly offers to uphold the prevailing sense of British insanity: "Ok, I'll come. I've never ridden with Magnus."



"Today is being the day I am being born," Magnus explains as we make our way over to his place. It's his birthday. He'd come to pick me up at my hotel by bike - "No one will ever start a car for me!" - and takes me back to his flat for cold, fresh-cream-filled pancakes and Brennivin, the Icelandic version of schnapps. "So, do you know Bjork?" I have to ask as we pogo around Magnus's living-room to the sound of early '80s Icelandic punk, some of it from a teenage Bjork herself. "Aghh, no, no, no. Well, sort of, she shared a flat with my friend."

Iceland is so small that everybody knows everybody else, and knowing Bjork evidendy ain't something to brag about here. You could be excused for thinking that everyone from Iceland, except Bjork, is called Magnus. "I was going to England once, everyone they ask me if I know Magnus Magnusson, but I had never heard of him," recalls Magnus. Being called Magnus is just like being called John in England. The surname side of things is a bit confusing, however, as Darren explains: "You take your father's name, add 'son' to it for a boy, 'dottir' if it's a girl. So Magnus's son would have the surname Magnusson and his daughter Magnusdottir. It gets confusing when there's a divorce, though."

'Oh well', I figure, 'down a few more pancakes and Brennivin, pogo it around for a bit and it'll all make sense'.



"I will fit lights to your bike, they only last for three hours, so we have to be careful when they run out," beams Magnus as I roll up at his place for our ride. The thing is: in early winter it doesn't get dark until early evening and, totting things up that means we're going to be out a long time. "Tell him no, you don't have to go, he goes too far," warns Gudrun, Mrs Magnus.

The day is unusually sunny and bright, with a light, crisp sugar coating of snow. "Maybe 120 kilometres?" grins the devil on the Cannondale. We take the cyde path out of town and make our way towards the distant mountains. It is strangely calm, there's no sign of those infamously draining Icelandic winds. Long, straight roads and trails draw us up and away from Reykjavik.

I have an unnerving hunch that myself and Darren are not going to survive the day, but the lure of the challenges ahead keeps us going. It's cold, real cold, but Magnus looks happy with the conditions. "I like it when it's cold. I was once riding through France in summer, it was too hot for me. The water was so expensive, I was drinking red wine instead, I was being drunken all of the time. I had to ride all of the way to the highest point in Norway before I was happy and cool enough." I have to agree that the clear cold, northern air is something special, and almost worth the effort.

After about three hours Darren and I are beginning to suffer, and as we start to climb an icy mountain pass Magnus suggests we take a snow-covered track off to the left. It brings us out high above Lake Thingvalla, one of the biggest lakes in the country and absolutely spectacular. "Once I was here and the weather was so bad that I could not do anything, I had to sleep outside in the snow until I could move. I was almost dead, but my flask saved my life," the bespectacled Viking matter-of-factly mentions.

We are near the halfway point now, and hopefully a food stop at a nearby hydroelectric plant. We climb over the top of another mountain pass and descend through a mass of steaming, sulphuryscented hot pots and on down towards the 'hydro cafe', where it's burger and chips and a tinkling of the cafe's ivories all round.



There had been a phone call to the cafe to inform us that Erwin (the Terrible) was on his way to meet us for the return leg of the ride. We wait for an age, but with no sign of our new party member, we drag ourselves back out in to the cold and head along the lakeside dirt track on the long road home. Just as the low and lasting orange Arctic sun starts to set we're joined by Erwin, riding out of the sunset like a Viking cowboy.

Part two of the ride turns out to be the tough bit. Reykjavik is some 30-odd miles away, it's getting dark and cold. Erwin wants to go fast. Magnus, of course, responds, Darren dies and I cling on for dear life as we spin the 11-toother out of sight towards the oh so distant lights of the capital. We're flat out, in pain, but I can't ease up, I may never find my way back. The pressure is on, two hours on the rivet.

The lights grow closer and closer, I begin to mentally rejoice until I see the '24km to Reykjavik' sign, which is about where gravity deals a cruel blow and the road turns upwards. By now we are all pretty smashed and Erwin doesn't want to go so fast any more - he eventually turns off. I feel like a frozen elastic band, just waiting to snap. With 10km to go, Magnus draws to a halt, gesturing madly. "I am having very low sugar."

At last the legend has cracked. Ideal cover to down my Mars bar and to offer a friendly nibble to Magnus. Pulling out a packet of Fisherman's Friend, he incredibly downs two whole sweets, ending my euphoria. "Now I am Ok." But I wasn't. Ten minutes later we had to stop and pig out again before crawling home with 80 miles and nine freezingly blissful and painful hours worth of pedalling in our legs.



Saturday night, two hours after returning from our epic ride, myself, Magnus, Gudrun, and Halli - another club member, who is proud of once having been called 'International Dick' - hit town with a vengeance. Reykjavik is the party capital of party capitals, stomping ground of Blur and the trendy set. But if you want to do the town with the Icelandic Mountain Bike club, there's only one way to do it - by bike!

Not only do we hit town by bike, Magnus and Halli are fully decked out in tights, SPD shoes and Gore-Tex jackets. It's so weird; the trendiest of trendy bars, and there we are, Gore-Tex and all. Yet our appearance hardly draws a second glance. Beer in Iceland is around a fiver a pint, so Icelanders tend to get totally tanked up before they go out. Drinking is big in Iceland - really big, which isn't exactly surprising since [beer] prohibition only ended a few years ago. There are people stumbling and falling down all over the place. A night in Reykjavik is a real experience; there are bars of every description, from transvestite to Latin American. Hacks, president's daughter, you name them, they're all out and no one thinks anything of it.

As for the Icelandic women, they tend to come in two varieties: extremely beautiful or Viking. The ones to look out for are the Vikings. The big, butch and very determined Vikings, and if one takes a fancy to you, you could be in serious mither - especially if she's heftier than you. Bear in mind too that everything closes at 3am, so at 2.45 all hell lets loose as the final chance to pull approaches. Men, women and all those in between rampage the bars and streets, desperately hitting on anything and everything in sight. But not us. No way - the sight of us lycra-clad mtbers sleeping soundly in a corner proved off-putting enough, thank ye gods. mbr



The club was established by Magnus Bergsson eight years ago when he acquired the first mountain bike on the island. "A tourist came here with one, I had never seen one before. So I went to his campsite and bought it off him when he went home. That is how it all started."

The club has almost 500 members, although many of them are not active, but simply members for political reasons. The club lobbies heavily on green issues which touch on cycling, such as cycle path construction, etc. Their aim is to bring like-minded people together and to go out and ride their bikes around the island. They hold weekly Thursday meetings and through the summer have a large programme of island trips and rides both for members and visitors, who are most welcome. The club also has it´s own web site, where it provides everything you ever wanted to know about cycling in Iceland: routes, where to stay, what to take, etc. Racing is very small scale in Iceland and the club itself hardly does anything in that direction. The last race they organised only attracted seven riders. Icelandic Mountain Bike Club, PO Box 5193, 125 Reykjavik, Iceland. E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. tel/fax: +354 562 0099 [you have already found the website]



Roads and trails can be extremely rough so good, solid and reliable kit is essential. On the clothing front front, you must be prepared for every eventuality. "If you don´t like the weather, just wait five minutes, it´ll get worse" goes the Icelandic saying. Being warm and windproof are the most important things to remember. Probably the most popular garment for riding in Iceland is the Karrimor Kalahari jacket, which, with its windproof front and good ventilation has become the garment to be seen in. The web-site will tell you even more about the kit you´ll need in Iceland.



Iceland is not cheap. Picking up few bottles in the duty free is a good altenative to the £5-a-time pints of beer [at an expensive bar]. Brennivin is a traditional Icelandic schnapps very widely drunk and rather bitter to the taste. Food is also expensive. Hungry bikers should certainly consider spending the £15-25 which will allow them to pig out on a buffet at a decent hotel instead of heading for a restaurant and a skimpy meal. ln the shopping centres you can eat decent, fast scran for about a fiver. Sheep's heads and rotten shark are traditional Icelandic delicades. Seafood and chips are also popular. The Icelandic language is basically ancient Norwegian, which means they don't have words for everything - like 'fax' for example. When they need a new word, a committee meets and thinks one up! But fear not, English is widely and embarrassingly - well-spoken. All around the island you'll find small refuges. These are modern huts for emergencies only. They have food and clothing, but use them for anything other than emergencies and you're nicked, my son.


Obviously winter is not the best time to go mountainbiking in lceland. During December it hardly gets light at all. May until September are good months for cycling because daylight hours are long, and even permanent during June.


Reykjavik is just a short flight away. Icelandair has daily flights from Heathrow and a regular service from Glasgow

Costs vary dependent on the season. Standard economy return costs around £350, but you can fly to New York and stop over in Reykjavik on the way for around £256. The other wise option is to take an lcelandair inclusive break. A two-night B&B package will only cost you around £300. Accommodation isn't exactly cheap but Icelandair again offer well-priced inclusive packages if you base yourself in Reykjavik. Prices for B&B in one of their high-end hotels are around £37 per night. Contacts Icelandair on 0171 388 5599 [England]. For details on other accommodation call the Iceland TIC 0171 388 5346. Guide books: more than likely the best guide book to Iceland is Lonely Planet's guide to Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

This article was published in the February issue of the British magazine mbr (MOUNTAIN BIKE RIDER) after a visit to Iceland in the fall of 1997. Comments in [] are by me and I have also corrected two names that got mixed up
Páll Guðjónsson.