Review by Zoë Robert.
Iceland described as a fantastic cycling destination might sound like an oxymoron but artist and author Ómar Smári Kristinsson is set to prove the skeptics wrong with his series of books on biking in Iceland.
Ómar, or Smári as he’s known, discovered the joys of cycling two years ago and now promotes the activity as a great way to experience nature. “I realized that when you ride a bicycle, when you travel at that speed, you see the country in a different way—you see, smell and hear nature,” he explains in an article in the latest issue of the Iceland Review print edition.
Smári traveled the West Fjords, a remote and sparsely populated area of Iceland known for its stunning landscape, by bike to discover and map out possible cycling trips in the area.
The result is his guide on cycling in the West Fjords, detailing 14 day-trip cycle circuits—from the short and easy family trips which traverse lowland and winding coastal roads to the challenging up steep and rugged tracks—including information on possible detours as well as local knowledge and useful tips.
Recently named one of the world’s best-kept secrets by Time magazine, the West Fjords is set to become an increasingly popular destination in Iceland.
But, remember: this isn’t the Netherlands. Expect steep mountain roads, snowy mountain passes and even river crossings. Some of the routes listed in the West Fjords book are listed as unsuitable for bikes and the majority require something sturdier than a street bicycle to complete the entire circuit.
However, as Smári, a self described “forty-something man with a belly,” says, if he can do it so can you. As with other outdoor activities in Iceland, though, all routes require suitable clothing for all kinds of weather and naturally come with a warning of the unpredictability of the Icelandic weather.
It is of course difficult to fully review such a guide without having used it in the field but it is clear that one of the strong points of the book is that it is so well illustrated, with over 200 color photos as well as a map of each circuit.
The road gradients, conveniently color coded, are shown in the map and the distance of each gradient range listed at the beginning of each circuit description and in the Table of Difficulty for easy comparison. Information on drinking water availability is also included.
A second book in the series, covering West Iceland, has also been released in Icelandic and Smári says he hopes to be biking around the country for the next six years with another six books in the works: one on Southwest Iceland, two on South Iceland, one on East Iceland and two on North Iceland.
Up and onwards!
Zoë Robert – [email protected]