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Cycling in Iceland is no walk in the park

Cycling Iceland is no walk in the park. You will need to be fit as hell and tough as rocks. And then some… PIC -magical world-

A few hundred foreigners show up in Iceland each year determined to cycle in or around the island. Their courage is commendable for cycling anywhere in the island is far from an easy task.

The reasons this being hard are many. First you should know Iceland is far from flat and hills and highlands are a regular feature on the so-called Ring Road, also called Highway One, which runs in a circle around the country. The steepness factor differs wildly but one can come across high and forbidden moors once in awhile that take quite an effort to cross. Rough guess as to the grades on average would be between 4 and 8% on the Ring Road but far steeper in the highlands.

Icelandic drivers on the Ring road are not world famous for their consideration for bikers

Secondly, and something most never anticipate, is that there is almost constant winds blowing on the island. Whilst this can be beneficial should it blow from behind for some strange reasons you always feel it is blowing right against you. Riding up a steep hill is possible if difficult but riding the same hill with winds blowing your face will easily double the effort needed. And don´t think summertime is any better than other times of the year. Far from it.

Thirdly, apart from a few cycling paths in Reykjavik city, the surroundings of Reykjavik and Akureyri town, biking paths are non-existent. And Icelandic drivers on the Ring road are not world famous for their consideration for bikers.

Fourth problem arises from generally bad roads where dust and ash can cover you in a jiffy and your only thoughts for the next miles will be an immediate shower.

Need more? Should you venture out of the Ring road and perhaps decide to cycle the highlands you will need to deal with dust roads, water-crossings and mud and at the same time be far away from any help should you require it.

Lastly, you will need a sturdy bike and bring with you most spares as those can be hard to find or get here.

But there is an upside too and a big one. Biking allows you much better experience of the natural jewels found throughout and gets you close to many those driving could simply miss out on. Another factor is that there is a nice daily-distance between many towns and villages here. By simply aiming for the next village on your way you will get there without much effort if you so choose. Probably the only really tough part on the Ring Road is the trip between Egilsstadir and Myvatn. This route goes over the highland for quite a while and could take good bikers up to ten hours to complete.

Feel free to contact us for details about cycling in Iceland. Two members of team Total Iceland cycle the country regularly and know a thing or two you could use.


3 thoughts on “Cycling in Iceland is no walk in the park

  1. David Dimston

    So how bad are the roads off the ring road in northern iceland, I am thinking of bringing my bike as I like to ride, a lot. What kind of grades (hill) are we talking about 5%, 8% more?

  2. I am considering a visit to Iceland. I thought that possibly I could bike from Reykjavik to Eskifjordur. Very steep climbs are not what I am looking for, rolling hills are a challenge but doable. I can not do hours of climbing. I have traveled by bike and covered several hundred miles but altitude and long climbs are not possible. Can you give me the lay of the land, I get the weather and wind but elevations are of more concern, thanks k

    • Hi Kevin

      Taking the South route you will be happy to know you´ll be biking mostly on flat terrain. A handful of hills on the way of course but none too demanding for the average biker. Only areas with hills that might take the wind out of you for a few minutes are around village of Vik (5-10%), near town of Hofn (12%) and likely Hellisheidi moor between Reykjavik and Hveragerdi/Selfoss. Otherwise you´ll be fine.


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