Brynja Kristjánsdóttir

Brynja Kristjánsdóttir is a motorcyclist from Iceland who rides a cruiser – a Kawasaki Mean Streak 1600. She is part of an all-woman motorcycle club from Reykjavík called Skutlur Kvenhjólaklúbbur, who do rides together every Tuesday in the summertime. Check out her interview and take a peek into the life of a motorcyclist in Iceland!

Rashmi Tambe
Editor, Global Women Who Ride

Brynja_Me on my old bike

Name: Brynja Kristjánsdóttir
Age: 47
Country: Iceland
Languages: Icelandic
Years Riding: 10
Height: 1,65 m
Inseam: 81 cm
Current motorcycles: Kawasaki Mean Streak 1600
Past motorcycles: Honda Nighthawk, Yamaha V-Star 650, Yamaha Dragstar 1100
Riding Gear: Nolan helmet, Rocha jacket and pants, Rukka gloves and HD boots
Km Per Year: 8-12000

Please introduce yourself.
I was born in Garðabær, a small town outside of Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland. I lived there for the first ten years of my life and I still have strong bonds to the town and the people there. I have also lived in Kópavogur, another small town outside of Reykjavík, and in Gothenburg, Sweden, but for the past ten years I have lived in Reykjavík. Reykjavík and the surrounding towns are the only places I could live in in Iceland because all the other places are too isolated for my taste.

I got a business degree at the University of Iceland and I work as an accounting manager for a mobile operator. I love my work ,which is a blessing. I love traveling and after I began traveling on my motorcycle, that’s almost the only way I travel.  I have managed to merge my two passions – riding and traveling. I have a son who will be turning 24 this November. He is my heart and soul and a very good friend. He doesn’t ride but supports me in my passion. Occasionally he is worried about me and asks me to be careful when I’m going riding. 

Please describe your path into motorcycling.
In high school I had a boyfriend who rode a Honda MT50. I loved riding with him but I was always a passenger. In 1985, I turned 18 and could get a license. I started to practice but none of my friends were riding so I dropped the idea. Many years later when my then husband told me he wanted to get a license, I decided to join him. He was surprised. He didn’t even know that I wanted to ride. It just never came up in our conversations. After getting our licenses we bought a Honda Nighthawk together, but as I’m not a tall woman it was not a good fit for me as a beginners bike.  When we got divorced he got the bike and I got the cat. The passion remained and after four years of watching others ride I decided that enough was enough and bought a bike. At that time I didn’t have many friends who rode so I applied for a membership in Skutlur, which is an all-female motorcycle club here in Reykjavík.  That way I had company to ride with and it turned out to be one of the best decisions that I have made and brought me to the place I’m in today.  

Brynja_My old bike and landscape, West of Iceland

My old bike in the west of Iceland

Describe your current motorcycle.
Today I ride a Kawasaki Mean Streak 1600. It’s a bit rough but it is a good ride and the power in it will not disappoint anyone. And of course I love its looks.

Kawasaki Mean Streak 1600

Kawasaki Mean Streak 1600

Do you have a motorcycling achievement that you take pride in?
My main achievement and the one I take most pride in, is riding in Iceland. The weather here isn’t easy and we have often gone through rough weather on our trips. Heavy winds and heavy rain is a regular fixture on our trips.  I have experienced hail, snow and often ridden in below 40 Fahrenheit weather . I take pride in that I don’t let the weather stop me and just hope for better weather the next time. 

Brynja_Me and Glacierlake in Iceland

Brynja next to a glacier lake

What’s your favorite motorcycling story to tell others?
My motorcycle club and I decided to go to the West Fjords last summer. We took a ferry over to a part of the West Fjords that we hadn’t been to on our bikes before. We knew there would be gravel roads but a friend had been there and taken pictures and the roads looked fine. When we arrived it had been raining heavily for several days and the previously reported fine road was just mud.  There we were on our beautiful street fitted bikes, chrome shining and everything. The bikes  started to dance all over the road and three of us took a fall and the rest of us  were just lucky because there was nothing you could do to control the bikes except just keep going with your feet down and in low gear. This muddy road wasn’t even a mile long but three of us went down and one os us fell and broke a few ribs. The rest of us were lucky and there was almost no damage to the bikes except for getting dirty.

My friend who had two broken ribs could not ride any more and got a ride back with someone to Reykjavík and went straight to the emergency room. The road workers helped us a lot. They brought a trailer for her bike and brought it over to their shed.

We couldn’t turn around as we had arrived on a ferry and we didn’t have a ride back on it. Also, we knew that the road was going to be better as soon as we got off the mud, so as always we just kept on going and ended up having a great trip. One bike broke down later on in the trip. Another one had no tire tread left. A few days after the trip one of my friends and her husband went with a big trailer to pick up the three bikes that we left all over the West Fjords. ;)

This trip will probably go down as the most adventurous one of my life. We laugh about it now but I still get the chills when I see muddy roads. 

Brynja_Mud road and me

The muddy road

Have you done any long distance road trips?
My favorite part about motorcycling is traveling on very little. I just pack the bare necessities in my saddlebags and off I go! I have done many long distance road trips over the years. Each summer I take at least four long distance trips here in Iceland of about 4-500 miles each. I ride between 4-5000 miles every summer just here in Iceland. This summer we went on a two day trip. We were very lucky with the weather. There was a bit of wind on Saturday but Sunday was great. We rode on the south coast to Vík í Mýrdal which is about 115 miles from Reykjavík. We took in all the tourist attractions on our way and had a great dinner in an old farmhouse on Saturday night. The next day we continued our tourist attraction ride and went further inland and ended the ride at a hot springs spa.

I have also gone on a trip to the States every year for the past four years and those trips have been around 2500 miles each. My favorite trip is always the last trip I made. I just returned from the United States where I flew to Denver and rode through four states on a rented bike – Colorado, Utah, Nevada and Arizona. We saw Trail Ridge, Bryce Canyon, Zion Canyon, Hoover Dam, Oatman, Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Dead Horse Point, Arches Park and many other beautiful places. We also rode parts of Route 66. We had to change our route twice because of weather, once because of flooding after some big thunderstorms and another time because of snow up in the mountains. We also had several really hot 100+ F days but we had a blast. I went with two of my friends from my motorcycle club and their husbands.  I woke up every day on the trip and said that I loved my life. This was a fantastic trip with fantastic people. 

Brynja_Me on bike in Arches National Park, US

At Arches National Park in the United States

Have you made any close female friendships due to motorcycling?
Yes, the biggest thing was making friends with all the girls in my motorcycle club Skutlur Kvenhjólaklúbbur, and of course female riders have more fun! Þuríður – my best friend of over 20 years –  joined the club just a couple of months after me. We had met in Sweden in 1991 and have been best of friends since

Can you tell us more about your motorcycle club?
I had seen the Skutlur members around in Reykjavík and had also heard about them. Iceland is so very small! I contacted them through their website. Our club has 22 members of all ages and all kinds of professions. What we all have in common is that we love riding.We meet every Tuesday in the summer to ride and if there is good weather we go riding on other days also. We take 2-5 day trips on our bikes around Iceland 2-3 times during the summer. We have strict riding rules. There is no passing within the group on our rides and we always have our own spot in the line, so you always know where you should be. This minimizes the risk of riding accidents within the group.

In the winter we still meet on Tuesdays but we do something else – play cards, go bowling, to the movies or just have coffee at our club house or whatever we like to do at that moment.

Brynja_Skutlur in a coffeeshop Iceland

Having coffee with the ladies of Skutlur

It sounds like you prefer to ride with your club rather than solo? It’s great that you found a group that you clicked with!
I love riding with people, especially my club as we know each other so well. But I also have a male friend with whom I have ridden a lot, both day trips and longer trips. It doesn‘t matter whom I ride with. At least once every year I ride alone about 480 miles round trip to Akureyri in the north of Iceland to visit my friends there. It is a bit lonely sometimes to ride alone. You have no one to talk to during breaks. :)

Do you do maintenance and repairs on your bike?
I wish so much that I could do maintenance and repair myself, but I seem to have some sort of phobia when it comes to that. I’m lucky to have good friends who help me. I mostly just do oil changes and leave the rest to the mechanics. 

Do you have any motorcycling heroes?
My good friends in Skutlur are my idols and what we have endured in our motorcycle trips around Iceland. They never stop or give up. They just keep on going with a smile and of course I follow them. We have a big laugh about it later and plan our next trip. They are definitely my heroes. 

Brynja_Motorcycle meeting 1st of May Skutlur (2)

Skutlur at a motorcycle meet

Do you have any advice for people who want to get into motorcycling?
Just go for it, get the license and start practicing, don‘t expect that you will be an excellent rider the day you get your license. It will take time to be confident rider. Practice makes perfect. The only thing in the way of you being a good rider is you. 


Brynja_Bikes and old fishingtown in southeast of Iceland

An old fishing town in the southeast of Iceland

If I were to visit you and we went riding for one short morning ride, where would you take me? :)
The morning ride would be to Thingvellir where the Parliament or Alþingi was established in 930. We would walk and of course ride around there and enjoy the beautiful landscape. From there we would go to Laugarvatn and have a dip in Fontana Geothermal Baths. After we are fresh and clean we would ride to Selfoss and have a very good lunch there before the ride back to Reykjavík. This ride is about 110 beautiful miles. [Link to Route] 


What’s the best part about riding in Iceland?
Due to the lack of trees the view is relatively unobstructed. There are beautiful mountains, glaciers, farmlands and of course in the land of “fire and ice” we have lava all over.

What kind of food can riders expect to stop for on the way that is typical to your region?
When you have had a cold ride it’s best to find a place that serves Icelandic meat soup which consists of lamb, potatoes, onions, swede (rutabaga) and other vegetables. When I travel I try to avoid fast-food places ,but you have to plan and think ahead otherwise you end up eating in gas stations.

If a motorcyclist from another country visited your country, what are the top rides you would recommend?
Around Iceland would be the top ride. Iceland is so small that can do that trip in four days and still have time to enjoy it. It is about 850 miles to go around Iceland on Highway 1.

My favorite is the Suðurstrandavegur and Hvalfjörður. These are short rides that you can do in an evening. For a more tourist-y ride the day trips I would recommend are the “Golden Circle” and Snæfellsnes.

Route to Suðurstrandavegur
Route to Hvalfjörður
Route for Golden Circle
Route to Snæfellsnes 

Brynja_Skutlur in the Mountains, east of Iceland

In the mountains to the east of Iceland

Brynja_Skutlur and Sk+¦garfoss

At the Skógafoss waterfall

How does the topography of the place you live affect the kind of motorcycling you choose to do?
Well actually my kind of motorcycling isn’t the best for Icelandic topography as there is little riding from October through Mars and often only for three months a year. Many Icelandic bikers have enduro bikes which gets them through the winters. 

What is the traffic like and how does it affect motorcycle riding?
There aren’t many roads heavy with traffic. There is some in Reykjavík during rush hour, otherwise there is no traffic compared to what I have seen abroad. I seldom ride in the city, except to get out of Reykjavík or go home. It’s no fun riding in traffic and drivers in Iceland aren’t very used to motorcycles. 

Brynja_Bikes in the highland of Iceland

In the highlands of Iceland

What are the best months for riding?
June, July and August are the best some years. May and September are also fine. I’d rather it was easier to go out riding in the cold in May than in September because by May I have been waiting all winter and am dying to ride. 

Brynja_Me and beautiful landscape east of Iceland

The beautiful landscape in east Iceland

Is it safe to ride at night where you live?
Yes probably as safe as it can get. In towns and cities every street is lit up at night and in the summer here in Iceland we have daylight almost 24 hours a day! 

Is motorcycle theft a problem?
This is a small island so it is difficult to steal motorcycle here and use it unchanged. Most of the theft here is to try to transport it out of the country or to take it apart and use the parts. Bikers here stick together and condemn all thefts and would not buy stolen items for their bikes, at least not the bikers I know . 

Are there any motorcycle specific laws?
We have a helmet law which is no problem here as we need the helmet to keep warm. ;) They have been trying to pass a law about other protective gear needing to be CE marked and that would mean that we could only purchase protection gear from Europe, hence making our market for purchasing motorcycle gear very small. 

Are there any motorcycling related political issues that affect your ability to riding?
No, but there is strict law that forbids riding off-road to protect the nature and most riders respect that.  

How do the police treat motorcyclists?
I‘m a law-abiding citizen so I don‘t have any problem with the police. Of course they are trying to keep the speed down and often they just give us a sign to slow down

I have had some strange drivers trying to stop me from passing them by turning in front of me, some people are just dedicated to babysitting other drivers and motorcyclists from driving too fast or breaking any traffic laws.

Can you describe the motorcycle license test?   
If you already have a driving license you have to take a course and then you can take the test. The test is both practical test and theoretical. In the theoretical test, you have to ride on the streets and there is a car following you and you get very nervous. :)

Do you have access to high quality motorcycling gear in your part of the world?
We don’t have any Iceland-made gear that I know of but we have high quality motorcycle gear which is imported and very expensive. Most of us try to buy it when we are abroad and then there are sites like eBay and Amazon which ship gear worldwide.  

Is there a local motorcycling event that you try and attend regularly?
I attend most of the motorcycle events that are happening in Iceland and the motorcycle clubs here are very active in having all kinds of events. Day riding trips, charity rides, swap meets and of course good parties. My favorites are two of the biggest ones which I always attend. One is the Landsmót Mótorhjólamanna which translates to “National meeting of motorcyclists”. The event is out in the country from Thursday to Sunday and you pack up your tent, food and of course some good beer, and off you go. There are games during the day and bands playing each night – a lot of fun.

Then there is Hjóladagar which translates to “Bikedays”. It is held in Akureyri, a town in the north of Iceland. The difference between those two are that one is held out in nature and the other is held in a town where you have restaurants and hotels but they have a similar concept.

Brynja_Motorcycle meeting 1st of May Skutlur

Skutlur riding in to the motorcycle meet on the 1st of May

Brynja_Motorcycle meeting 1st of May (2)

Motorcycle meet on the 1st of May

Brynja_Motorcycle rally, games

Games at the motorcycle rally

Brynja_Motorcycle rally, costume day

Costume day at the motorcycle rally

Are any motorcycle related sports popular where you live and do women actively participate in them?
Motorcycle related sports are very popular among bikers but not that much outside of that. There are a few women participants but sadly too few. Hopefully there will be more. Also there is an almost total lack of safe places to practice motorcycle sports here. 

How are women motorcycle riders treated by most people and by male motorcyclists?
Most people are surprised when you tell them you ride and then immediately they are ashamed to think like that. Everybody treats us well and many admire us. They tell us that they have always dreamed about riding but never done anything about it or do not have the courage to do it. Male motorcyclists here in Iceland also treat us very well and respect us. They better.  

Do female and male motorcyclists have the same amount of freedom to pursue motorcycling activities?
Yes, they do. The only thing stopping women from riding is themselves. Women have to start to believe and trust in themselves and their ability to do everything they want to do. That of course includes riding a motorcycle and clearly it doesn’t matter if you are a male or woman. You have the same chance of being a good rider and experiencing the freedom of riding.

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