Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
Ultra-endurance riders Lael Wilcox and Jenny Graham want to inspire more people to ride out of their comfort zones with their new documentary.
Called “The Rift: Riding Iceland’s Fault Line,” the 71-minute documentary follows Wilcox and Graham as they ride over 200km across the dramatic landscape of Iceland’s Continental Divide, the split between the North American from the Eurasian continental plates. It is the second of three documentaries on the GCN+ app that centers around riding in the country.
Graham and Wilcox are hugely experienced ultra-endurance riders — Graham became the fastest woman to cycle around the world unsupported in 2018 and Wilcox won the Trans Am Bike Race in 2016 — but they want to show it is for everyone.
- Q&A: Lael Wilcox on the joys of ultra-endurance racing
- Lael Wilcox to set fastest known time of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline
“We’ve all got a job to show as diverse a range of people as we can out on bikes, all shapes, sizes, colors, and genders,” Graham said in a recent media call about the documentary. “We really have to start looking at that and showing as many people as we can, because if not, how do people know that there’s a place for them? It’s simple, isn’t it?
“I feel like it’s a real privileged place to be able to do that and share your own story in the hopes that another young lassie from the highlands will be like maybe I should jump on my bike and go on an adventure.”
Iceland – an island of ice, and fire… So who would want to ride across it?
Join around the world cyclist @jennygrahamis and ultra-endurance racer Lael Wilcox as they travel 100km, ending at the base of a volcano!
— GlobalCyclingNetwork (@gcntweet) January 25, 2022
Wilcox also believes in the power of show over tell when it comes to encouraging more people, particularly women, to take on their own biking adventures and adds that you don’t need to circumnavigate the world or traverse Iceland to achieve great things.
“I’m always inviting Jenny to come to every bike packing challenge because she has such a great spirit and you know, and we just need more women, encouraging other women to get out there. It doesn’t have to be you don’t have to do everything for them just being there and kind of sharing your energy is huge,” Wilcox said.
“Even if they don’t go to Iceland, they will maybe go for their own rides, maybe be a bit more adventurous, and also realize that it can be fun. It doesn’t have to be so serious, or it doesn’t have to be a huge accomplishment all the time.”
Riding the rift
On the opening day of their three-day adventure, Wilcox and Graham rode with two of Iceland’s top off-road riders Þórdís Björk Georgsdóttir and Halla Jónsdóttir. The ride brought them along some sheep tracks and over an active volcano.
Though Wilcox and Graham are hoping to inspire others with their ride, they found themselves feeling inspired by their company.
“I really loved it meeting a couple of female enduro riders. They’re the top two in the country and not only are they performing on this level, but they’ve also started their own women’s riding group where they have 1,000 members,” Wilcox said.
“Iceland only has like 300,000 people in the whole country. But they are creating this strong culture, and the riding is really, really hard. It’s super rocky, it’s wet, I was walking a lot, and these women are just flying over this, but they’re also bringing other women along, too, and I thought that was so special.”
Despite their respective experiences in the world of ultra-endurance riding, it was the first time that Graham and Wilcox had ever ridden together. The pair had come close to doing it previously on a madcap adventure from Edinburgh to Copenhagen a few years ago, but it didn’t quite work out.
The pair has seen a lot in their various adventure rides across the world, but even they found themselves awed by the dramatic landscape that the rift ride had to offer.
“We’d got an internal flight into the very center of Iceland,” Graham said. “It was this really cool place that’s normally a river but because it was such a dry summer we managed to take the track in. So, it was like a really remote part. Magne [Kvam], the guide, reckoned that nobody had cycled there definitely not for years. Nobody had cycled there that year. And so there were no tire tracks or anything and then it was just Lael and I like that was our first few miles just riding in this really remote part of Iceland. It was quite surreal.”
Changeable weather, which is a common occurrence in Iceland, meant route plans constantly had to change, but there were plenty of beautiful sights for them to see along the way.
“We were riding through fresh lava fields, and it almost felt like, like riding a river of black volcano ash,” Wilcox explained. “It’s pretty cool to experience that with someone else, especially since neither of us had done anything like that and then if you were all alone you’d kind of feel like it wasn’t even real.
“We actually had no idea where we were going, because the plan had to change so many times that you’re just kind of go along for the ride. And you know, that’s a unique experience to have in a new place with a new person just going for it. So, it was tons of fun.”
As well as enjoying the ride, and the scenery, Wilcox and Graham meet a number of locals to see how they harness the huge natural resources to power the country sustainably. The three-day adventure concludes at Grindavik where the Fagradalsfjall volcano was in the midst of a record-breaking six-month eruption.
You can watch the documentary ‘The Rift: Riding Iceland’s Fault Line’ on GCN+. It is among nearly 100 exclusive documentaries on the platform.