The hostile terrain of Iceland wouldn't be everyone's first choice for a summer cycling holiday but one Yorkshireman fulfilled a lifelong ambition when he cycled round the country's shores and wrote a book about his travels. Lizzie Murphy spok

HIS bike broke down numerous times on the unforgiving steep gravel roads, but Andy Shackleton kept going.

Even though it was summer, he battled through wind and snow as he cycled round Iceland’s 1,200-mile circumference.

But no matter how bad conditions got, he says he never got off and pushed his bicycle anywhere: “I was determined to ride my bike and no matter how steep it got, I refused to give in.”

It was this strong will that enabled Mr Shackleton, who was born in Todmorden, to complete the gruelling four-week venture he set himself.

And although he had cycled long distances before, he admitted: “It was the most challenging cycling I have ever done in my whole life.”

The idea came about after going on cycling holidays with his son, Chris. After one trip through Norway, Mr Shackleton, 59, said he decided he would like to try cycling around Iceland.

But the journey, which also included travelling through Shetland and Orkney, proved to be one of the most challenging experiences of his life.

He said: “A lot of the roads in Iceland are closed in the winter because of snow and ice. Some are only open in July, August and September so when I went some had only just opened.

“Sometimes I’d be cycling for days without speaking to anyone and at times I thought ‘this is just loopy’.”

The former design technology teacher at Aireville School in Skipton said his DIY skills came in useful when his bike frequently broke down.

He said: “It happened almost daily. If you can’t fix things you’re stuffed on a trip like that.”

Mr Shackleton, who lives in Barnoldswick, Lancashire, with his wife, Pam, cycled between 40 and 90 miles a day, sometimes through the night, which stayed light.

He said: “It was incredibly windy all the time. I discovered it was calmer at night so sometimes I would rest in the day and cycle through the night. It was very surreal.”

Mr Shackleton camped out on mountains and by rivers, where he washed his clothes, hanging them out to dry on his bicycle.

“I would often have a pair of underpants dangling from the back of the bike,” he said.

Considering the tough conditions Mr Shackleton faced, it would make sense if he had spent months preparing for the trip. But he said although the journey was always an ambition, he booked his trip just a week before he went.

He said: “I’m one of these last-minute people and although I had looked into whether the trip I wanted to do would be possible, I only booked it a week in advance and had to get myself and my bike ready at short notice.

“I stay fit without having to do much, so I knew I could do it. It’s just mind over body.”

Although Mr Shackleton went on the trip in June and July of 2001 it took him two years to write the book and three years to find a publisher.

He said: “After I came back from Iceland, I thought ‘it wouldn’t surprise me if there is a book in here somewhere’ and so I started writing from a diary I had written while I was away.”

He added: “I must have approached 60 publishers, but I am one of those people who won’t take no for an answer.”

The book, Arctic Cycle, will be published on September 14 – Mr Shackleton’s 60th birthday.

For more information visit www.arcticcycle.co.uk

lizzie.murphy@ypn.co.uk