Getting in and out of Iceland with a bicycle

Being in Iceland with a bicycle is an excellent recipe for adventure. But actually getting there with said bicycle can be a little more challenging. Disassembling, flying with, putting back together, and escaping the airport with a bicycle is rarely fun, so here are a few tips to make that part of the journey a little less painful.

Flying the bike to Iceland

Iceland has become a burgeoning travel destination in recent years due, in no small part, to the super-cheap fares offered by WOW Air. Like many budget airlines, base fares are low and everything costs extra: in-flight food, in-flight water, checked bags and heavy carry-ons and bikes, too. What's great about WOW Air, though (disclosure: as always, this isn't a sponsored post), is that checking a bike box doesn't cost all that much more than checking a plain old bag—$54USD versus $49USD, as of October 2016. Plus, the bike box allowance is a generous 27 kilograms, while checked bags are limited to only 20 before per-kilogram surcharges kick in. In short, and in contrast to almost every other airline out there, it's cheaper to fly a bike than to fly a bag.

Also keep in mind that most bikes don't weigh anywhere close to 27 kilograms. With careful packing, we were able to cram almost all our gear into the bike boxes, giving the bikes a little extra padding and saving on the cost of checking another bag of panniers. A carry-on of no more than 10 kilograms is included in the base fare (up since we last flew), so we each slung a single pannier over our shoulder and threw on several layers of clothing to come in under the cap. (Oh, and I suppose it's worth mentioning that while our bikes and carry-ons were weighed upon our departure from Baltimore, neither was put on a scale when leaving Keflavik.) Total cost of flying a bike (one-way) to Iceland? Just a hair over fifty bucks.

Of course, fares will differ based on region of origin; the above is for a non-stop trip from the eastern United States to Keflavik Airport. And, of course, there are other planes headed to Iceland beyond those serviced by WOW Air. We met cyclists who'd flown Icelandair and, though paying a little more, had good things to say.

As for actually transporting the bikes, WOW Air kept them all in one piece. Lauren's cardboard bike box did end up with a hole punched in the side of it upon arrival, but fortunately the bike itself was just fine. 

Putting the bike together at the airport

Keflavik is a small airport, and bikes are sure to come out last with the rest of the oversized luggage. After throwing our bulky bike boxes on a handcart, we asked around for a quiet corner in which to assemble them, and were momentarily disheartened when an airport employee told us we absolutely couldn't put our bikes together in the airport proper, that, instead, there was a spot outside in the parking lot to do so.

Expecting a gravelly patch of tar out in the cold winds of Iceland, we were positively elated to exit the terminal and find, not more than fifty meters away, an enclosed room about the size of a shipping container, with floor-to-ceiling windows and The Bike Pit emblazoned across them. Inside the Bike Pit (brand new as of 2016, I think) are two workstands, two foot pumps, loads of hex wrenches and screwdrivers, a big box of Cycling Iceland maps, and a cute smattering of tips for biking Iceland painted on the wall. It's a really hassle-free place to put a bike together—click here for a not-terribly-exciting timelapse of us doing so.

The Bike Pit, right outside the main doors of Keflavik Airport. There's ample space inside to work on a few bikes, and two workstands that offer tools and pumps.

The Bike Pit, right outside the main doors of Keflavik Airport. There's ample space inside to work on a few bikes, and two workstands that offer tools and pumps.

If you're headed directly into Reykjavik with your disassembled bike, there are allegedly frequent buses that can take you and your bike box there. We haven't used them and know nothing about 'em (but other folks we met didn't seem to have any problems).

Storing a bike box

Once the bike is together, you're probably going to want to store your bike box. The main bus terminal in Reykjavik is more affordable than the left luggage option(s) at Keflavik, but if you don't want to lug a box to the capital—or if you're headed counter-clockwise like us and skipping Reykjavik altogether at the outset—you're stuck with whatever the businesses surrounding the airport are deciding to charge. There's no official left luggage managed by the airport, and it seems that the folks willing to store baggage change frequently; we thought we had it figured out before arriving, but got sent from hotel to car rental place to hotel winding further and further from the main terminal. Eventually, we made it with boxes in tow to Geysir Car Rental, a few hundred meters out the back doors of the terminal, and they were, as of July 2016, amenable to storing those boxes for a fee: 10 euros per day for the first week and 5 euros per day after that (per bike box, but my bike bag fit inside of Lauren's bike box and so we were only charged once). If you're taking your time around the island, that fee can really start to add up, especially for a skinny piece of cardboard. Depending on your time and budget, you may want to consider alternatives: just tossing the box and looking for another on your return from Reykjavik, or buying a cheap bike bag from WOW AIr (under $15USD) and risking it on the flight home.

Getting away from the Keflavik airport

As if the Bike Pit weren't lovely enough, there's a bike path leaving right from its door that'll split off from the airport access roads and take you into the town of Keflavik. From there, the 41 eastbound is a noisy highway with a wide shoulder. You could certainly take it all the way to Reykjavik (we biked Reykjavik to Keflavik on our way out of Iceland), hopping onto the not-too-well-signed bike trails picking up south of the city. The scenery is pretty, though the traffic is anything but.

Or, if you're setting off counter-clockwise, you can turn south onto the 43 just a few kilometers down the 41, pedaling along to Grindavik and east from there via the 427. This is a really lovely route outside the hustle-and-bustle of the Reykjanes peninsula. You can pick up the Ring Road over at Hveragerdi or Selfoss and continue toward Vik.

And that's about it

From there, just keep on pedaling. Click here to read a few more things worth knowing before cycling Iceland, or if you still have questions about the logistics of bikes and airports, drop us a line in the comments below!

A free campsite along Route 427, less than a day's ride from Keflavik Airport.

A free campsite along Route 427, less than a day's ride from Keflavik Airport.