The Rift (2023)

Anyone planning to do “The Rift” this year? I and three of my friends are signed up. It is the first time for all of us. I have a lot of questions about the race course and logistics, but for now I will just start with a basic travel question.

What is the best way to get from the airport in Reykjavik to Hvolsvollur? Since there are 4 of there will be four big bags and four sets of luggage. Is there a car service that can handle that many people and that much luggage? I looked at renting a van for the time we are there, but it is any where from $1,300.00 to $2,500.00.

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Did it in 2021 and loved every minute of it…

As you have found out, car rentals are VERY expensive in Iceland. We ended up renting a cargo van for 4 of us and even then it was a tight fit. With all three rows in place we had to play Tetris in order to get the bike cases, luggage and us all in!!

Dunno if there are any car services available.

The course is awesome with every kind of gravel imaginable…from fine, packed gravel to baby-head boulders. Most of the climbing is in the first 80km. There are some washboard sections on the backside that can be brutal…literally ground us to almost a complete stop a few times.

Make sure you have a complete kit change at the bag drop, especially shoes and socks. The weather in 2021 was crap and I wish I could have put on dry shoes at the bag drop.

Feel free to hit me up with any questions…you’ll love the whole experience. Can’t say enough good things about the race and the country as a whole!


@Power13, thank you for all of the information you have shared about the race. I just read all of your posts from the previous years and it has been very helpful.

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I was there last year, it was a very expensive trip with my family but worth it. I am afraid that rental car is the only good option for transport. The course is rough, have your bottles securely mounted and train those steep rough downhill with your bike so you will do well in the event. If you have any questions regarding the bike setup and preparation just ask me. I did the course sub 8 hours which was my goal.


How big are the drop bags? How much can you put in them?

I did it in 2021 and met @Power13 there, If I recall the bags were large enough for shoes, kit, tubes and food. Pickup is right after a river crossing, and you don’t have another river crossing until a few km’s before the finish.

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Yeah, like @Harrisoncj13 said, it was a good size bag and you can get a lot of stuff in there. Definitely bring an extra pair of shoes if you have them.

Better to stuff as much exra stuff in the bag as you can and not need it….the org does a good job of bringing the bags back to everyone.

I am also a planning on attending this year for the 1st time. Can I add a couple other questions for you guys who did it, 1) hotels look booked so I rented a small vehicle that you can sleep in. I pick it up near the airport which is helpful. did you guys see many people using this as an option for lodging at the actual event (i.e. in the parking lot), 2) do you see any issues with this option? I think I may be challenged to fit the bike travel bag and the bike in the van. thank you

Definitely saw people doing it…in fact, Sarah Sturm did it the year I was there. Don’t know where people parked overnight though….but I’m sure the race organizers can help you out there.

Temps should be conducive to sleeping like that…you certainly won’t have to worry about being too warm.

The biggest issue I could see is being able to get it dark enough in the van…it never gets very dark in Iceland at that time of year. You’ll need to find a way to darken the interior in order to get good sleep, I think.

This is exactly what I did for lodging. My wife and I rented a small campervan for the entire week to sleep and explore in.

In 2021 The Rift actually included free camping for the weekend at the local campground in Hvolsvollur. I’d say dozens of people used this option. It was a short ride or walk to the race start and all the festivities.

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We had 6 people and 4 bikes last year. Managed to get everything in two Hyundai i30s. Helped having 3 of the bikes packed into Orucase bags. I brought along my Seasucker (that can fit 2 bikes) in case we needed it. Didn’t feel like putting the bikes together at the airport to load them up on it but did use it later in the trip after they were assembled.

Check AirBNB for places if you don’t. We found a pretty solid place just about 10k up the road from the start point of the race.

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I am heading to Iceland for The Rift this July.

Planning on using my Maxxis Rambler Silk Shield 700 x 40c tires for the race. I’ll be riding a Specialized Diverge and can go wider if necessary.

Could anyone who has done the course comment on tire choice and width? Thanks.

I did it in 2021 on Goodyear Connector Ultimates in 700x40. A similar tread pattern, IMO….it was a great tire choice.

I don’t think you would be handicapped if you wanted to go bigger, though.

Thanks for the reply!

Also- my wife and I are going to be spending time in Iceland the week before the race. I plan to do a ride on Monday the 17th and then we are going to do some sight-seeing. Does anyone know if there is a place were I might be able to store my bike rather than bringing it around in the car for the rest of the week?

Are 700x42 Scwalbe G-ONE R endurance not hardcore enough tires? These are the ones I currently have on my gravel bike. They were fine at the Dirty Reiver.

That’s the important bit IMO! (I’ve also done Reiver but not The Rift and want to know whether to use the same tyres or different and why. Would also be happy to use Duke’s Weekender, Raiders, or several other Scotland/N. England events as comparison points.)

I think we (gravel) should get in the habit of making comparative tyre recommendations for events rather than absolutes. We all want slightly different things out of our tyres even for the same event on the same day depending on rider size, riding style, expected speed, etc. so we should really use the rider as the control and the event as the variable.

What I’d love to know isn’t so much what tyres people used, but whether they would choose the same tyres as (for example) the Dirty Reiver or if they’d change, and if they’d change then why?

For those who have ridden The Rift AND another popular event, would you choose the same tyres for both if you were going back again?

If not, then at The Rift would you require more or less of each of the following:

  • Puncture protection (sharp stuff)
  • Grip (knobs)
  • Volume (comfort/pinch flats)

Additional detail welcome of course, but that seems like the basics. Maybe there are different/additional things that others would want to know? That’s just an initial suggestion for format/criteria, but I’d love to see some forum threads that build a wee database of these kind of comparisons.

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In 2021 I ran 42mm Spec pathfinder pros, and I would use them again. I do not typically use these tires in the gravel events I do back in the states, but I liked them for this event. It’s probably the widest tire I can fit on my bike. However, if I could run wider I would still choose a 40-42mm tire.

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The gravel at The Rift is not consistent….it cover the entire spectrum of gravel. From very fine, hard packed gravel to super-chunky, babyhead stuff.

I thought the Goodyears were a great tire for the event…never had any traction issues and they handled the varied gravel well. One buddy ran Pathfinder Pros, another 2 ran Maxxis Ramblers. Nobody flatted in our group all day.


Puncture protection is a tough call. It didn’t seem like any of the surface was particularly dangerous (in terms of punctures) but there were plenty of people fixing flats. Maybe that’s just a result of 1000 people in the race?

If the weather is nice you don’t need tons of grip/knobs. There are a few volcanic ash (sandy) sections but they were very short and not worth planning over. But some people do it on cross bikes that can barely fit 38s so you’ll probably be fine with whatever. I used S-works Pathfinder 42s and was glad they are mostly filed.

Volume is your friend. There are some pretty rough sections that the comfort helps more than anything.

My 42s felt too small - There was lots of sand, and frequent wheel dig-ins, slide. No puncture issues either (and there seemed to be way less than say dirty reiver)

I felt that a fast dual suspension MTB would have been a much better choice for me (I just wouldn’t do this course/conditions again on a gravel bike). Vibration was so tough. Legs etc are fine today, but I got a mini tendinitis on both forearms, and neck is not in a good shape.

10:53 for me. Not many stops except at the end (before last river crossing), where my neck muscles seemed to slowly stop working (head started to drop and I felt I couldn’t pick it up, as if were going to faint).

Socks: I don’t see what’s the interest of the sock station. It’s before the last river crossings, and wet socks / shoes were the least of my worries (and not even a small issue, except mild discomfort immediately after certain foot crossings, where there would have a lot of sand in it).