Note: This post is here rather than in the Iceland posts  because it pertains directly to cycling. Sorry for the confusion.

I’ve been in Reykjavik a couple of days now, and have been watching the bikes here. It’s a cool city with lots happening. Even the bikes are fun.

Reading the tourist brochures, they seem to indicate that cycling is just now becoming more popular. If the number of bikes on the road is any indication, I’d have to agree. There are very few around, but if you go to different parts of town you do see people on bicycles here. There appears to be little infrastructure so most people ride on the sidewalks. The first day I arrived, I noticed No Cycling signs on the tourist shopping streets, directly beneath the No Dogs signs. Funny that these would be considered associated, but maybe I get it to some degree. The denser shopping district is all very narrow single lane and slow, while the double-lane districts are very fast (80 KM). Cyclists are almost invariably on the sidewalks, despite the signs. Ive noticed a few good places to mountain bike, but not many. Most people do not wear helmets, except for children. I’ve also not spotted more than two abandoned bikes, and even these may be ridden regularly despite the rust. People as a rule do not seem to maintain bikes here to the extent we do in Canada. That may also have something to do with the wet weather, thus far.

So, what have I seen. Well, within ten minutes of being on the street I found a spectacular franken bike. Sadly, I did not have my camera with me, and when I went back the bike was gone. It was a great fixie with a single brake and really neat handlebars. In excellent shape. Too bad I cant show you. Im watching for it still though.

Mostly what I see are commuter bikes (Treks, mostly) a Gary Fisher, a Bianchi, and everything is colourful and simply designed. Icelanders seem to appreciate these aesthetics. The city is quite hilly so I see a lot of people pushing bikes up hills. There are absolutely no road bikes or trick bikes here, that I can find. I see the occasional mountain bike, but not many. Those I do see are always cycling uphill. Its awesome. Hardly anyone wears technical gear, but Ive seen a bit of it. I think Ive counted three fixies. The flavour is very European, with more splashes of colour.

On my way to dinner tonight I crossed paths with a most interesting contraption. There were three wheels (single in front), three seats abreast, 1 set of handlebars in the middle. Since only two men were cycling, they both steered from the centre. The boys grinned mischievously as they rode past. It was being used as an advert for some event in town because across the back was draped a white cloth with Icelandic text. I couldnt get the camera out quickly enough and it was raining, but th bike was pretty darned cool nonetheless. Not particularly solid, but fun to watch. Hope I see it again.

Ive also spotted two bike businesses here already (out of 120,000 and considering Im in the tourist district, thats pretty awesome). The one is a bike rental shop with lots of helmets and gear stuff in the window. Its across from my Goth tattoo parlour and beside a shop obviously frequented by hard core motorcyclists. There is also a bike tours program, identified only by a sign on a lockup by the waterfront. I found it because of a brochure at my hotel. I have booked a tour for Sunday morning, just before I leave town. Reykjavik has lots of green spaces, including a large pond and harbour on two sides, many museums and statues, and interesting and unusual architecture (including a church that my friend Daniela describes as “the space shuttle”) Mount Esja oversees all. Its quite breath-taking. I expect the bike tour will be fun. I think I saw one stop out front of my restaurant tonight, in the rain. The cyclists were all looking engaged and happy despite the weather (most of us seem to be enjoying the city regardless)

This afternoon, I decided to hike across town to “the Pearl”, where you can climb the tower and get a pretty fantastic view of the city for free. As I was climbing the grassy slope to the building, a lone cyclist puffed up behind me and stopped. I had pulled out the camera to get a shot of the unusually healthy pine trees at the side of the path, and he was offering to get a shot of me with the pines. He told me in broken English that he rides everywhere and that he was from Latvia. He was very charming, so I gave him the URL to this site. If you are reading this Alexander, Hello from a happy Canuck and thank you for the nice conversation!

So far, here is what I have discovered you can do on a bike in Reykjavik:

  • Commute
  • Double a friend to a coffee shop (they have awesome coffee shops here)
  • Ride hills
  • Go to work
  • Go to school
  • Meet friends
  • Visit museums (there was a big pile of bikes out front of the Pearl)
  • Get a tattoo
  • Flirt
  • Collect bottles (at night, people suddenly appear with bags to collect the beer bottles)
  • Transport skola (school aged children)

I highly recommend this town to anyone with an adventurous heart and a bohemian soul.