Icelandic Motorcycle Culture

I’m sitting in England thinking about our 9 days in Iceland.  We covered over two thousand kilometres in the land of fire and ice, alas, none of it on two wheels, but I was always on the lookout for motorcycle culture and there is no shortage of it on Iceland.  In a future post I’m going to hammer out all the advice I’ve garnered from our Icelandic reconnaissance.

You see a lot of BMW GSes on Iceland.  Viking Biking rents them out of Reykjavik and a ferry delivers them from mainland Europe on the east coast.  The adventure bike is the perfect motorcycle genre for Iceland as the roads vary from smooth tarmac to potholed hard dirt, and everything in between.





On our second day I discovered another side of Icelandic motorcycling culture.  The big-twin cruiser rider can also be found here, albeit in much reduced numbers.  The Norse Riders Iceland Chapter are a mashup of your North American patch club with viking imagery.  Like every other biker I’ve talked to, they look rough but are the nicest people when you chat with them.

Later that day we were making tracks back to Keflavik Airport to return the rental car when we came across some massive lava fields in the south west of the island.  We’d been driving 20 minutes at a time without seeing traffic either way, and this was during the height of tourist season when a number of people had asked me if we should be going there then.  If you like empty roads, you’ll love Iceland.  Through the lava fields eventually came two GSes making time on the empty, winding roads.  I can only imagine the smiles on those riders’ faces.

Even in the capital of Reykjavik you’re looking at something the size of a small North American town.  Traffic moves all the time and there are seldom any backups.  Out in the country you’re making tracks all the time with sporadic traffic at worst.

You’re driving on the right, so you’ve got none of the headaches involved in riding in the UK or Australia/NZ, and the drivers themselves are polite and efficient.  If you pull up behind a slower moving vehicle they’ll turn on their right indicator when it’s safe for you to pass.  We made good time in a hatchback and then a mini-van with six people and luggage; on a bike it’d be heaven.

This left me wondering what I’d most enjoy riding in Iceland.  The Tiger I’ve got sitting in a garage back home would be the ideal weapon – able to make good use of tarmac but able to manage gravel and packed dirt/potholes.  Iceland is adventure bike nirvana.

A couple of days later we were out near Lake Myvatn and came across a couple of Germans on KTMs.  With their light weight soft panniers and nimble bikes capable of handing any rough stuff, these enduros would be another good choice for riding Iceland.

Those KTMs slice down the valley of the Krefla Geo-thermal power plant (Iceland’s main source of electricity and heating is green/geo-thermal energy).  

On our first day with two families, 3 kids and a minivan, we did what all Canadians do and covered a lot of miles, all while repeatedly ignoring the satnav.


The vast majority of this drive was on tarmac, but the satnav kept telling us to turn back on the north shore of the peninsula and we soon found out why.  There were over 100kms of gravel roads that soon devolved into hard parked pot-holed earth roads.  While battling those roads you’re also wrapping around fjords and experiencing blind corners at fifteen degree inclines.  It’s beautiful, but it’s a tough road, especially if you’re still hundreds of kilometres from where you’re going to lay your head that night.  We saw a number of campers just pull up in a fjiord for the night to enjoy the quiet and the view.

It’d be a challenging ride on an adventure bike, but you’d never forget the scenery.  Based on how exhausting the car ride was, I’d suggest 2 full riding days to do this on a bike, and be ready for some technically challenging roads on day two.

Snaesfellsyokel: a stratovolcano in a land of rift built shield volcanoes.  There is a road across the back of it, if you dare. Rental cars are restricted from using F roads, and considering how rough some of the ‘main’ roads where, F roads must be quite technical.

Your typical busy Icelandic summer road – if you like the view you’ll get a new one like this every ten minutes.

Lava fields

1st day in Iceland: driving Canadian style (huge distances, various road surfaces)…

Taken five minutes past midnight – that’s pretty much as dark as it gets – dusky.

Riding in Iceland isn’t an oddity.  You’ll meet people from all across Europe exploring the continent’s last real frontier.  Whether you’re a cruiser, a sport or an adventure rider, you’ll find your people here on two wheels enjoying some Jurassic Park quality landscapes and empty, sinuous roads.


If you’re into exploration of any kind, Iceland delivers.

A 4×4 off-road ready camper van?  Yep, saw that (parked on black lava sand at the base of a cinder volcano!)

 

This couple were pros.  Their packing was exceptionally organized and the next morning they were up in a light rain in full waterproofs and gone before 8am.








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