Cycling to the Moon

I’m about to set off on a big, blow-out bike trip with my son. It’s a legacy thing; something I hope he’ll remember for the rest of his life. Family bike tours to the Netherlands no longer cut the mustard. At 14, I think he’s ready for a tough trip. We’re prepping for a trip to Iceland.

It’s pretty easy to pedal around the perimeter of Iceland. Too easy. I want Josh to be challenged. We leave on Sunday, pick up two Trek mountain bikes on Monday and, once equipped with racks, and a Bob trailer fitted to my bike, we’ll be venturing into the interior, cycling on a rippled dirt road, making for the hot springs at the Landmannalaugar mountain hut. We’ll pitch our all-weather Nemo tent next to the geothermal rock pools, and wonder that we ever made it at all.

The gravel road to Landmannalaugar is only open for three months of the year, in the Icelandic summer. We’ll be following a wind-blasted track into Europe’s only desert, a sub-Arctic volcanic-ash wilderness.

National Geographic Traveller Family Summer 2012 ICELAND

Sand and cycling don’t mix. It’s almost impossible to pedal through sand. For impossible read challenging.

I’ve done this journey before. 15 years ago. I brought my then girlfriend on her first ever bike tour. Rather a baptism of fire for her, but she survived. We married, and Josh is one of the three walking-talking results of our union. (The mag extract below is from MTB Pro, August 1996).


When I say survived, I mean it. The interior of Iceland is unforgiving, with raging glacial rivers to cross and weather that can be as fierce as it is volatile. Jude cried a lot. It’s very possibly a daft ask to expect a 14 year old to manage such a journey, but we won’t know until we’ve tried.

In the 1960s NASA shipped the astronaut corps to Iceland. Prior to the Apollo moon landings, NASA’s would-be spacemen simulated collecting rock samples here: it was the best place on earth to mimic the geography, and geology, of the lunar landscape

Iceland is also one of the best places on earth to witness the northern lights.

Desert sand. Buzz Aldrin. Hot springs. The shimmering aurora borealis. Me and my boy on bikes, in a tent, in horizontal rain. I can’t wait.


A version of this piece first appeared in National Geographic Traveller and a follow-up piece will be published later this year.


All this week I’ll add details of the kit we’ve chosen to take on this trip.

Shoes and socks


Travelling light we’ll have just one pair of shoes each (plus surf shoes for river crossings) so they’ve got to be a MTB and walking shoe hybrid. We’re taking Lake MX100’s. They’ve got walking boot style Vibram soles but with MTB features and SPD cleats. As it rains a lot in Iceland we’re packing SealSkinz socks (and gloves and hats).

Electronic protection


And as it rains so much it makes sense to protect electronic kit such as the iPhone, the iPad and the SLR camera. All will be kept dry with Aquapac bags.



This 250,000-scale map of the interior of Iceland is available from Ferdakort.

Stove and camp cuisine


No shops or cafes on the way to Landmannalaugar so we’ll be heating Travel Lunch freeze-dried food on a Primus OmniLite Ti stove, the latest and lightest expedition stove from the Swedish originators of gas-fired camp cooking.