Iceland Biking with Reykjavik Bike ToursPosted: July 19, 2011
CYCLING THE ICELANDIC WAY
I’ve travelled a reasonable amount of the world and done my fair share of exciting stuff and now as I enter my mid 30s I’m comfortable enough in myself to accept that you can still be exciting at a leisurely pace. Leaving my co-writer ‘Thai’ in the UK, Hannah and I departed for pastures blue and in Iceland we found a place uniquely beautiful and diverse. We had travelled independently as we usually do but had prebooked a few bits such as whale watching and snorkelling. One thing that caught our eye though was the opportunity to go on a cycling tour of The Golden Circle, having heard of the way people can be shepherded through the key sites a bit too quickly we wanted to see things a little more closely and with the wind between our … Well you get the picture.
Iceland Bikes (www.icelandbike.com or search for them on Facebook) we found via the Lonely Planet guidebook and then a quick Google search, we contacted them several months in advance because we suspected that would get quite busy. Ursula, who was our contact, was great, she explained everything very simply, took a few details and arranged things for us, but also saying that the tour needed four to run round the Golden Circle. We sat back and crossed our fingers.
Anyway we arrived in Iceland the day before the volcano exploded this year and that threw all of our plans out of the window, we could now not go to Scaftafell and so we used Reykjavik as our base and travelled out from their on a daily basis this also meant we were more flexible with the biking.
To our good fortune we ran into the amazing Stefan at their harbour base (the guide, looking like a wonderful cross between a Viking and the honey monster). We explained who we were (he knew instantly) and he gave us as much information as he could to try and get the best day for our trip.
Setting out a few days later we arrived for our midday start and Stefan allocated a really nice, swift and sturdy ride. He measured us accurately and we labelled our bikes to make things a bit quicker once we unloaded them at the other end of the Golden Circle. Our group was five strong, six if you include Stefan and it was friendly and chatty. Stefan interjected to give us snippets of local knowledge and history and not only was his knowledge vast but delivered in a interesting way – we really couldn’t have asked anything more.
The journey to Guilfoss takes a couple of hours but the van was comfortable and we were able to ask Stefan pretty much anything we fancied and we got a little personal history as to why his English is so good (I shan’t ruin it as it’s his story). But upon stopping we got lots of time to wonder round the highlights of Guilfoss – something that you miss a little when you travel by coach. Our group was small enough that we could appreciate everything and not be rushed.
Even better was the fact that Stefan had prepared the bikes for us once we had finished photographing the waterfall and surrounds and we set off on our first fast 10km from Guilfoss down to Geysir and it was a fast 10km with good roads but fun terrain and lots of beautiful landscapes, this is one to try and get nicely warmed up on.
We stopped at Geysir to admire the thrusting hot water pools and despite the weather being a little against us we were all having a mightily good time. After about 45minutes at geysir we set off again for the next section of riding which Stefan promised would be a little more challenging but just as fun, beautiful and fast and he wasn’t wrong, stopping just outside þingvellir at the top of hill with stunning views across Iceland we prepared to set off again. The group split up a little so that the faster riders ran off into the distance and myself and my partner we stayed at the back taking it slightly more leisurely. For Stefan this was no worry he had waited at the halfway point so we didn’t make a wrong turn and then went off with the van to the finishing line.
Hannah and I safe in the knowledge we had good bikes simply rode on, taking a few photographs and enjoying our time on a route that was about 15km of undulating roads and vistas. I know we were both happy to see the end point as the last bit had been a steeper than we had been expecting but it was this nice variation that highlighted just how much work Stefan and Iceland Bikes had put into developing routes that were exciting and dynamic.
A final stop for the toilet/food/hot chocolate was had at þingvellir and then Stefan headed back on the hour or so journey to Reykjavik, with the others alseep I was able to chat to him and I found that I enjoyed his company very much and believe that anyone would.
In conclusion then, Ursula, Stefan and icelandbike.com / Reykjavik Bike Tours are a must see. If you take one of their city bike tours or as we did the The Golden Circle tour you will not suffer any disappointment, these guys understand tourism and people and how to balance the two. The biking is a bonus and it allows you a certain freedom that other tours won’t. If you are in Reykjavik then please do visit them (they are near the Sea Baron – great food and Elding Whale Watching), these guys whatever level of cycling you are have something for you!