Some info about touring in Iceland (F26)

Cycle-touring, Expeditions, Adventures, Major cycle routes NOT LeJoG (see other special board)
Matt25
Posts: 22
Joined: 9 Aug 2012, 2:06pm

Some info about touring in Iceland (F26)

Postby Matt25 » 10 Feb 2019, 9:59pm

I meant to post this a while ago, but didn't get round to it!

I got some useful information about Iceland on this forum and elsewhere, before my trip last August, but found some information hard to come by, especially with regard to cycling in the interior or 'highlands' as opposed to the coastal route. So I thought I'd write down a few of the things I learnt, in case anyone is thinking of heading over there this year.

To give you an idea of our level of fitness/experience, I went with a friend of mine, who is an occasional cyclist but keen hillwalker, and quite fit. I'm quite a keen cyclist, but far from super-fit. I ride about 50 commuting miles a week, ride MTB about twice a month in the warmer months and do the occasional road ride of circa 80 miles. We're both 46. We've both done a lot of wilderness camping throughout the year, which set us in good stead for Iceland.

BASIC TRIP INFO:
Route: Reykjavik to Akureyri on the "Sprengisandur" or, more mundanely, the F26. Bus return journey.
Time: 6 days on main route. 7 if you include the ride from Keflavik Airport to Reykjavik the day we arrived. Another day for the bus trip back to Reykjavik.
Distance: About 450 km altogether.

GETTING THERE: We flew Easyjet from Edinburgh. A direct flight. Cost around £250 return including baggage and bikes. There is a small shed outside the terminal building equipped with bike stands and tools for assembling your bike! We used cardboard shop bike boxes on the way in, polythene CTC bike bags on the way out. The road into Reykjavic isn't as bad as we'd been led to believe. There is a comfortable hard shoulder most of the way, which keeps you separated from the traffic.

ROADS AND CYCLING CONDITIONS: Iceland is VERY hilly and VERY windy. The tarmac roads, what we saw of them, were good. The unsealed roads vary from pretty good to exhausting. Roughly translated, "Sprengisandur" means (so I'm told) "to ride your horse to death in the sand". It's well named. There were a couple of days in the highlands that were the toughest cycling I've ever done. Large corrugations, sand and hill after hill after hill! It's not easy - but it does feel like a proper adventure! Our days varied in length, the longest being about 70km. Some days were easy, some were brutal due to the road conditions.

PUNCTURES: I read a lot about punctures before we went but neither of us had one. I was using Schwalbe Marathon MTB tyres, which are very puncture resistant, but my friend was using pretty standard Continental crossover tyres.

WEATHER ETC: We went in the last week in August, when it is quiet, but still reasonably 'warm' (it's all relative). I regretted taking only shorts to cycle in though, tights would have been a much better option. We had light snow on one day in the highlands. Fleeces, warm gloves and a woolly hat are all a good idea. I used a 500 g (fill weight) down sleeping bag rated to 0 celsius. I was warm enough, but I do sleep quite warm. If you sleep cold, or are just less well insulated than me, you might want something warmer! Your tent had better be bloody good. Freestanding is a good option (although not essential). The ground is very sandy and loose and grassy patches are few and far between. We camped next to the huts most nights as this was often the only place with a bit of grass to pitch on. On one night the wind was so fierce I had to pack up my tent and retreat to the hut, as it was being blown flat and I honestly thought it might tear apart in the wind (and it's a good tent). Once I lay down in the hut (a very sturdy cabin) I could feel whole building moving several inches from side to side in the gusts. Iceland has serious winds!

FUEL: We were told you can get gas canisters for camping stoves in petrol stations, but the two we visited didn't have any. You can get it in Reykjavik in outdoor shops, though. Also worth checking in the communal areas of budget hotels and hostels, as tourists often leave unused canisters for others, as they can't take them on the plane. We left a couple ourselves.

COSTS: Actually not as bad as we thought. Accommodation is, admittedly, VERY expensive, but if you are camping most of the time this shouldn't be too much of an issue. Eating out is about 30% - 50% more than the UK at a rough guess. Beer can be had for about £5 - £6 or so in the right bars in Reykjavik, which is about the same as Edinburgh city center! Supermarkets are odd - some stuff is okay, some stuff very pricey. We took a lot of our own food, dehydrated expedition stuff, chocolate, meusli etc. You can only import (apparently) 3.5 kg of food per person. However, we didn't realise this at the time and successfully smuggled in about 1.5 kg of illegal snacks in each!

BIKES: I rode my Surly LHT with flat bars (I was glad I'd swapped out my drops), Schwalbe Marathon Plus MTB 2.1" tyres, tortec rack, Ortlieb City Roller panniers, Ortlieb 15 litre bar bag, Alpkit frame bag. I hesitate to say this was the perfect set-up, but it was pretty close. Suspension might have been nice on those damn corrugations! My mate rode a turn of the century Specialized Rockhopper with Ortlieb Classic panniers on Conti cross tyres. Also a perfectly good bike for the job.

THE BUS BACK FROM AKUREYRI: Very convenient. Has a bike rack. But be aware, it can't be booked and bike spaces (about 3 or 4) are on a first come first served basis.

That's all I can think of right now, if I think of anything else, I'll add it. Will try and post some pictures too!

I can thoroughly recommend Iceland as a touring destination. We were there and back within ten days, having had what felt like a proper adventure!

Matt

1982john
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Joined: 3 Nov 2012, 9:29pm
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Re: Some info about touring in Iceland (F26)

Postby 1982john » 10 Feb 2019, 10:11pm

thanks for the info matt. Why was it quiet at that time of year? Did you have any problems with biting insects while camping? Did you carry the CTC bag with you?
cheers

Matt25
Posts: 22
Joined: 9 Aug 2012, 2:06pm

Re: Some info about touring in Iceland (F26)

Postby Matt25 » 10 Feb 2019, 10:13pm

Some photos!
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foxyrider
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Re: Some info about touring in Iceland (F26)

Postby foxyrider » 10 Feb 2019, 10:14pm

Thanks, very useful :D
Convention? what's that then?
Airnimal Chameleon touring, Orbit Pro hack, Orbit Photon audax, Focus Mares AX tour, Peugeot Carbon sportive, Owen Blower vintage race - all running Tulio's finest!

Matt25
Posts: 22
Joined: 9 Aug 2012, 2:06pm

Re: Some info about touring in Iceland (F26)

Postby Matt25 » 10 Feb 2019, 10:16pm

1982john wrote:thanks for the info matt. Why was it quiet at that time of year? Did you have any problems with biting insects while camping? Did you carry the CTC bag with you?
cheers


Hi John,

It's after the Icelandic holidays, I think. A few people about but the high roads and campsites are pretty quiet. No insects at all. It's already a bit cold for them, I reckon. Yes, that's why we used them. They are light enough to carry with you. Although a soft bike bag could be left at the left luggage office not far from the terminal. Possibly a proper bike box, even.

Matt

1982john
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Joined: 3 Nov 2012, 9:29pm
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Re: Some info about touring in Iceland (F26)

Postby 1982john » 10 Feb 2019, 10:45pm

Matt25 wrote:
1982john wrote:thanks for the info matt. Why was it quiet at that time of year? Did you have any problems with biting insects while camping? Did you carry the CTC bag with you?
cheers


Hi John,

It's after the Icelandic holidays, I think. A few people about but the high roads and campsites are pretty quiet. No insects at all. It's already a bit cold for them, I reckon. Yes, that's why we used them. They are light enough to carry with you. Although a soft bike bag could be left at the left luggage office not far from the terminal. Possibly a proper bike box, even.

Matt


Cheers. What do you do with all the cycling / camping gear if you're taking the bike in a bag?

Matt25
Posts: 22
Joined: 9 Aug 2012, 2:06pm

Re: Some info about touring in Iceland (F26)

Postby Matt25 » 11 Feb 2019, 10:21am

1982john wrote:
Matt25 wrote:
1982john wrote:thanks for the info matt. Why was it quiet at that time of year? Did you have any problems with biting insects while camping? Did you carry the CTC bag with you?
cheers


Hi John,

It's after the Icelandic holidays, I think. A few people about but the high roads and campsites are pretty quiet. No insects at all. It's already a bit cold for them, I reckon. Yes, that's why we used them. They are light enough to carry with you. Although a soft bike bag could be left at the left luggage office not far from the terminal. Possibly a proper bike box, even.

Matt


Cheers. What do you do with all the cycling / camping gear if you're taking the bike in a bag?


I put all my panniers/bags in one large lightweight nylon bag (a rucksack flight bag) and checked that as luggage. My friend put his in a large holdall. We left these bags at left luggage with a few other bits and pieces.

mattsccm
Posts: 2569
Joined: 28 Nov 2009, 9:44pm

Re: Some info about touring in Iceland (F26)

Postby mattsccm » 11 Feb 2019, 9:32pm

A couple of years ago we went with Icelandic air. Great. East mids airport asked us to put our big but not huge hold alls through the oversize check in. No queue so on the way back we went straight there. Even less of a queue. Us. Very friendly country. English spoken better than many Brits. Expensive but tolerable. Bet London would be worse if you were careful.