Bike touring in Iceland

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of March 6-13, 1996
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Bike touring in Iceland

Bike touring in Iceland
Q: I once saw an article on biking in Iceland. When is the best time to go and how do I find out about great bike routes? I don't want to go with a group; I want to plan my own trip. By the way, does Outside have an index where travel adventurers can cross-reference countries and activities to see if Outside has had relevant articles in past issues?

Caroline Paul
San Francisco, CA
[email protected]

A: The article you're thinking of is "Beyond Reykjavik" in the Destinations section of our August 1994 issue. And yes, all issues from the past year or so--plus selected earlier articles--are indexed, searchable, and available online right now. Go to the Outside magazine section of this service, click on the "search" icon, enter the key words you want, and voilà. We're adding constantly to this online library, but luckily for you--unluckily for me--we field so many reader queries that even way-old articles are now burned on my brain forever.

In any case, the story in question has lots of info that should come in handy when planning a two-wheel tour of Europe's lunar outback. Here's a quick recap. The number one thing to know before you go is this: While light breezes are nice when biking, howling winds are not kind to cyclists, especially those trying to go uphill. Sitting smack dab in the middle of the Gulf and Arctic Streams (read, temperamental weather), Iceland can be a meteorologist's headache and a biker's ultimate nightmare. Brace yourself for eye-tearing, flag-shredding winds and the occasional cold snap even in summer. The good news is that if the gales keep you off the road during the day, there's always the midnight sun to bike by.

The route to take is a four-day, 146-mile spin that begins south of Reykjavik on Iceland's Ring Road. Survive the capital's gnarly traffic jams--just kidding, this is Iceland--and you'll find yourself riding through wild heaths, farmland, and long stretches of just plain emptiness. From the town of Hveragerdi, heave-ho your way over a mountain pass to Selfoss, the dairy center of southern Iceland and continue 30 miles to a left turn onto Route 30. Head north along the Pjorsa River through Olafsveillir and Tunguefelland and on to Strokkur, home to a fairly reliable geyser that spouts hot water up to 100 feet every eight minutes. Once you get to Laugvarvatn, 30 hilly miles down the road, do an about-face and retrace your route to Reykjavik. BSI Travel rents year-old mountain bikes for about $18 a day and can provide you with detailed route maps and additional information; call 011-354-1-22-300. Plan on staying in family-run bed-and-breakfasts or on working farms; they'll run you a reasonable $30-$40 per night. If that sounds a little too plush for you, call the Icelandic Tourist Board at 212-949-2333 for a copy of their camping guide. And one more thing: Iceland's miles of unpaved and unkempt roads can be cruel to two-wheelers, so go armed with plenty of spare inner tubes.

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