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Jul 31, 2015

World Record Attempt: Cycling Iceland

1000 miles. 10 days. 2 guys. 1 country.

7088 words (Approximately a 39 minute read)


  1. Preface
  2. Introduction
  3. Iceland by bike
  4. Kit List
  5. Tips


The world has changed. It is a place dominated by global superstars and celebrities, huge multinational corporations, and vast sums of money.

In the 21st Century, is it possible for one ordinary person (or in this case, two good buddies) to rise to the top?

A world record is a symbol of greatness. Of the ultimate in human endeavour. The level has been raised again and again, so much so that to break it seemingly requires ever more resources and the most finely skilled members of the race.

But this is not the case. It never has been.

Every record started with a first. Every record has humble beginnings. Every record should remain attainable by modern man.

This is a story of how two childhood friends, from common public backgrounds, growing up in an average environment, went on to achieve greatness. Not through money, or class, or networking; but through determination, will, guts, courage, and dedication.

We set the fastest ever time cycling unassisted around the country of Iceland1.

We have no professional training, no nutritional coaches, no assistants and no advantages. At the beginning, all we had was no clue. Just like you. But you can achieve greatness, just as we have; indeed we emplore you to.

We want you to break our record.

No matter who you are or where you come from or what you do. If you read through our advice, we can’t guarantee that you will beat our time, but we can guarantee that you will have an excellent shot at it.

You are special.


In late 2014 my good friend Dr. Steven Aston Dawson ( Sad, I know… ) invited me to accompany him on a sightseeing tour of Iceland, by bicycle. He explained he was going for about 3 weeks—since he is a lecturer he has the summer holidays off—which at the time I could not commit to due to my job.

A few months later and Daws’ plans had changed; due to his own holiday commitments he now only had about 11 days free to visit Iceland. An off-the-cuff remark about it being a world record attempt awoke the tiny gremlin that lies dormant in my ear, whose sole purpose is to alert me to potential life-changing experiences (it happened once before with surfing, that is now a constant pull on my attention span).

Having recently turned freelance, and made the decision to make 2015 a year to saying yes, I immediately agreed and we started looking into the viability of the expedition. An unassisted cycle around the country of Iceland via the fantastic ring road known as the R1 faster than any human ever? That sounded fantastic, and would surely tick off the hardest of all items on my wish list.2

Daws had some previous cycling experience having completed the John O’Groats to Land’s End cycle during the summer of 2014, but I hadn’t been on a bicycle since passing my driving test at the age of 17, 14 years earlier…

As per my normal approach, I spent hours and hours and hours researching all the best kit I could buy that wasn’t ridiculous money. In the back of my mind I kept thinking the same thing—if one thing breaks, it could ruin our chances. It just wasn’t worth saving money here and running the risk of wasting the entire effort. To this end, I have compiled a list of the best kit you can buy for a reasonable amount of money, which can be found at the end of the post (to avoid spoilers).

Iceland by bike

Phil & Dawson cycle nearly 1000 miles round Iceland in 10 days.

Measure twice, cut once

Planned route around Iceland
The infamous R1. (google maps link)

During my initial stages of planning I was trying to ensure the “big hill” wasn’t at the start or end of a day, in an attempt to maintain some semblence of morale for as long as possible. However, it quickly became clear that the sheer number of hills meant this wasn’t a viable planning method, so I swiftly moved onto plannings’ plan B—a multi-phase approach, breaking up the journey into day “stages”along with two staggered backup plans to minimise the risk. Luckily, the world record mindset was do or die, which kept things fairly simple.

We would have to average 88 miles a day in order to complete the journey in 10 days. The first day would only be a half day due to the travel and bike build, so the journey would be spread over 11 calendar days, starting with a half day afternoon ride and hopefully finishing with a half day morning ride. I front loaded the route, knowing we would tire as the days went by, but I had to be careful not to overwork us during those early days.

In the end there is only so much planning you can do, it’s your ability to react to your environment that will invariably determine your success, though there can be no harm form being over-prepared so I really went for it. I scoured the R1 for campsites and accomodation, trying to plot breakpoints 50 miles apart. This would ensure we would (hopefully) never be more than 2 hours from safety.

I settled on the following daily targets:

Day Target Distance Cumulative distance
1 Hvosvollur 66 miles 66 miles
2 Kirkjubæjarklaustur 95 miles 161 miles
3 Kálfafellsstadur 90 miles 251 miles
4 Djúpivogur 94 miles 345 miles
5 Skjoldolfsstadhahnukur 86 miles 431 miles
6 Laugar 91 miles 522 miles
7 Miklibær 93 miles 615 miles
8 Hvammstangi 72 miles 687 miles
9 Borgarnes 76 miles 763 miles
10 Blue Lagoon spa 45 miles 808 miles

An anti-clockwise direction was chosen in the end because it puts us on the outer circumference of the R1 meaning we are closer to the shore, giving us a better view. It’s the little things.

I spent considerable time mapping the elevation change throughout the entire route, to allow me to see where the huge hills were and how best to break down the stops. By studying these elevation graphs allowed us to understand our progress during the days, we knew when a big hill was approaching and when we could expect some nice flat sections. It even became something of a game to predict which hills were classed as “the big ones”.

Day 1—“I’m the navigator”

Map folding skills are essential
Map folding skills are essential

I met Dawson at Luton airport at silly’o’clock in the morning, and he ushered me into the queue for extra large baggage. 40 minutes later and it would seem our kit was too heavy, so we both took one pannier each as hand luggage on the plane. I struggled to get any sleep on the flight, despite only having a restless 3 hours the night before.

Once we arrived we fought with our bags, dragging them the long way round to SXT Car Hire where we knew we could leave our bike bags for just €6 per night (one stuffed inside the other, of course).

We began building our bikes in the reception area of SXT, when a very old ultra-marathon runner came over to chat to us. He had just finished running through Iceland—not around it, through it. His tales of blustery gales and snow almost threatened to dampen our spirits as we stood in the warm and cosy building, but we shrugged it off as stories from an old warrior and continued.

We left the airport at midday, immediately encountering some of the strongest winds and hail we could expect on our journey. Freakishly, this lasted for just the first 500 metres on the main road leading out of the airport, then cleared up nicely.

Not half an hour into our journey we made the first mistake—we turned right. This saw us hugging the coastline of the country, adding on approximately eighty miles, instead of us joining directly onto the R1. Unfortunately we didn’t realise this until it was too late to turn back.

I remember the first scenery we encountered; the sun was shining and I was actually getting too hot as we cycled through the barren landscape. It was rocky and alien to me, a lot like how I would expect the planet Mars to look. We were flying, the wind was behind us and we were wearing our shorts (for the first and only time) and our lightest wind jackets.

We turned a corner, which happened to be on the most westerly point of the island, and everything changed. The wind stopped us in our tracks, we saw a storm looming ever nearer that we could not get away from. It was absolutely freezing, and muggins here took the first fall of the journey, failing to unclip my cleats as we stopped for a snack and flopping sideways into some gravel. Dawson could not contain his laughter, looking back at least it did bring us some joy during our first difficult exposure to the environment.

We cycled for another twenty minutes and got our first experience of the lovely N1, the chain of service stations dotted around the ring road that were to feed us throughout our journey. It was hammering down outside and it looked like a little piece of heaven to us. For the following nine days I tried my utmost to hold on to that feeling every time we approached one…

Once inside we ordered burger and chips from the distinctly average, american menu. Sat down, we began conversation with a geordie man who had just landed from a two day ferry trip from Denmark. He explained that the ferry across the North Sea from Newcastle had been discontinued, so he had to drive down to Brighton, get the ferry across to France, then drive through Belgium and into Denmark in order to get a ferry to Iceland. Bananas.

Back to the N1 and one amazing thing that truly brought a smile to our faces every day, free refills on the coffee. This was especially useful during this first visit as my food failed to arrive, the staff quickly reheated it upon my appeals and we were on our way.

We missed our first target—Hvolsvollur—by some margin. We called it a day at Selfoss, but struggled round several fully booked B&B’s before eventually finding a campsite, then cycled into town to chow down at the local Dominos pizza. 11pm, and it was still broad daylight. Very surreal.

Dawson arriving at Selfoss, Iceland, at the end of the first day.
Dawson arriving at Selfoss, Iceland, at the end of the first day.
Day 1 Summary  
Date Monday 20th July 2015
Target Hvosvollur
Destination Selfoss
Time taken 11:00–17:00 (10hrs cycling)
Distance / Elevation 79.6m (5722ft)
Money spent kr100
Nutrition burger & chips, coffee × 3
Accommodation campsite

Day 2 – check out my gravel pit

A delightful start to the morning, waffles for breakfast at the campsite! I did manage to throw my full cup of tea all over the place though, the result of combining tiredness with a very clumsy person. There were some fantastic hand knitted woollen sweaters for sale for approximately £100, though sadly they were far too big to carry so we passed on the opportunity and began our cycle.

Today we encountered our first mountain pass—and it became blatently obvious to me that I had an unsuitable gear ratio for Iceland! We both had to walk up the steepest hill. It was freezing when we got to Vik, which seemed to be full of tourists. We arrived at the main service station and were eager to get inside and warm up, but a lovely couple from London got chatting to us outside the main entrance which stole another couple of degrees of body temperature before we could finally have a rest. It turns out that they now lived in Oz, which is a very warm and sunny country.

Eager to mix up my menu choices as much as possible, I went for the lamb goulash while we studied the map, trying to decide whether to push on to regain lost ground, or stop and make camp. As we were already behind, we decided to push on, which, although it was undoubtedly the only decision we would have ever arrived at, let us in for a whole world of pain.

The remainder of the evening faced us with very heavy head winds and rain. The evening’s ride comprised of a twenty mile hill, straight as an arrow, which seemed to take an absolute age to cycle up. At around 10pm we had finally reached its’ summit, and spotted a sign for a B&B 5km away. As we were totally destroyed, we decided to go for it, and headed down a gravel track. This was a mistake.

The surface was very loose with large rocks scattered about, and the bikes were constantly tracking as they got caught in the various grooves. We came across a farm building we hoped would be the B&B, only to be greeted with the confuse look of a local who was busy cooking herself a pizza. No rooms here, she pointed us further down the track.

That farm was probably only half way down the gravel track. By the time we got to the very end of it, we came across the B&B. After a lengthy wait following an initial discussion highlighting our desperation, they allowed us to use their tiniest hut. At least we had a warm shower, and Dawson—the legend that he is—surprised me with his secet stash of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk! Oh the joy! We slept well that night.

Day 2 Summary  
Date Tuesday 21st July 2015
Target Kirkjubaejarklaustur
Destination Gravel Track B&B
Time taken 11:00–17:00 (10hrs cycling)
Distance / Elevation 110.2mi (4131ft)
Money spent -
Nutrition lamb goulash, coffee x 3
Accommodation B&B
Total distance 189.8mi
Total elevation 9853 ft

Day 3—buy cheap, buy twice.

We were determined to get back on target and reach Kalfafell tonight so we left early, which would mean a monster 120 miler. However, within three miles, the gods decided that yet again we weren’t to have a smooth day. Well, to quote Mrs Dawson,

They don’t give away world records, do they?

Before we managed to reach the end of the gravel track, Dawsons’ cheap pannier rack snapped. It’s like I always say, “buy cheap, buy twice”. We struggled to the end of the track, then had a meeting about how to proceed. After a lengthy and reluctant discussion, we had to face the inevitable—Dawson had to leave behind one of his panniers, and dump as much unnecessary stuff as possible so we could continue, spreading the extra items between my two panniers and his single. It was a make or break situation, and we were both determined not to let this ruin our journey.

Immediately Dawson was revelling in his new aerodynamic shape, and reaching some excellent speeds having lost half of his additional weight. I tried to tuck in behind as best as I could, with my extra weight, and this pattern would continue for the following nine days…

To add insult to injury, today my phone stopped working. After just two days it would seem the cold of Iceland was too much for it. In a way this was a blessing in disguise, as it allowed us to use both battery backs for keep Daws’ GPS and phone running so we would at least have one full set of Strava records (which I later copied over to my account) and a full Garmin log.

Today we hit our biggest obstacle yet, glacier Vatnajokull, which covers roughly 25% of the area of Iceland. It took us three hours to cycle up a hill that passed alongside the edge of it, into the most intensely cold headwinds yet, “glacial winds” I like to call them. It is incredible that in all this time we saw far less than 1% of the glacier, it is phenomenally huge and generates massive winds across its smooth surface. At the top of the hill we were treated to a spectacular ice river, with broken chunks of ice floating around, this was perhaps the most beautiful part of our journey.

Amazingly we managed to hit our target, and for the first time on our journey we were on track, we had reached the day three stopover and Kalfafellsstaour, we were stoked! Our efforts today had really taken it out of us, we arrived very late so the B&B was fully booked. Not a problem, we could camp, so we duly set up our miniature home and went inside to freshen up. NO HOT WATER. I braved a cold shower, which is character building after fourteen hours of being freezing cold!

Another dilemma, we had nowhere to buy food. The manager gave us a banana each but that lasted mere seconds. I sat and started at the energy bars with utter derision. Dawson—having waited for the hot water—went off to grab a shower, instructing me to find some spaghetti bolognese for his return. Wishful thinking.

Unbeknown to me, a lovely group of French people had noticed our plight, and invited us to help ourselves to the dinner they had just cooked, which was none other than—wait for it—spaghetti bolognese! What a treat, Dawson could not believe his eyes when he returned to me tucking into this fine Italian dish, he must have thought I was Paul Daniels!

Day 3 Summary  
Date Wednesday 22nd July 2015
Target Kalfafell
Destination Kalfafell
Time taken 11:00–17:00 (10hrs cycling)
Distance / Elevation 121.3mi (6300ft)
Money spent -
Equipment status broken pannier, 1 bag down
Nutrition lamb goulash, coffee x 3
Accommodation B&B
Total distance 311.1mi
Total elevation 16153 ft

Day 4—cycling is an eating and drinking game.

Today was saved entirely by Dawson. About halfway though the day we reached Hofn, at which point I was eager to push on. With 60 miles left to reach out destination, I was eyeing up victory and the potential of a fairly early finish. However, it was a barren 60 miles with no food stations at all, so Dawson, true to himself, argued the case for us to backtrack into the town and eat our fill. This would add an extra ten miles onto the day and countless hours, and I don’t mind admitting that for the first time on the journey I found myself struggling mentally to accept that we should take this setback. We had already been to a hotel who failed to help us in any way at all, refusing us left over cereal no less. All we managed to buy there was a single yoghurt each, nowhere near enough food. The following ranch we went to we were promptly kicked out of by the owner, telling us he was closed. We then cycled past Hofn and to a cafe, which was closed as well, and all we could get were some words of warning from a resident about not dropping our litter. I was in a bad mood, very rare that is.

Hence Dawson was 100% right, of course, but it’s hard to see clearly when you are in stressful situations. We cycled uphill into the centre of Hofn, a lovely touristy town, and enjoyed what was one of the best meals of the journey. We ventured into a log cabin in the centre of town, had some fantastic soup to start, Dawson had the first beer of the journey (much to my utter amazement, knowing what we would have to face for the rest of the day) and we tucked into a delicious main before heading into the local Netto supermarket to stock up on rations for the extended journey.

We embarked upon the second half of the day now fully fed, in much brighter spirits. Our first landmark was a tunnel, we had convinced ourselves that this must be flat, who in their right minds would build a tunnel that went uphill? The Icelandics. So we cycled in the dark (for the first time since we arrived) for about half an hour, constantly climbing through the side of a mountain. A little highlight just before we went in—I spotted a surfboard strapped to the roof of a car down on the seafront, things were looking up in more ways than one!

The following 60 miles presented us with intense rain and winds. After the downhill section following the tunnel, we opened into a large expanse that seemed to be a headwind all the way.

When we finally arrived at Djupivogur the relief was immense. It was another touristy town, and we managed to secure a six bed dorm all to ourselves for a hefty pricetag! At least this allowed us to dry all our stuff. There was even a disabled shower we could sit down in and rest while we washed, glorious.

Day 4 Summary  
Date Thursday 23rd July 2015
Target Djupivogur
Destination Djupivogur
Time taken 11:00–17:00 (10hrs cycling)
Distance / Elevation 106.7mi (6144ft)
Total distance 417.8mi
Total elevation 22297 ft

Day 5—let’s off-road!

Today we climbed a mountain. We literally went up and into the cloud layer. And it was freezing.

We woke to a hearty buffet breakfast and set off early, for a nice cycle around the bay in the morning. The only trouble with bays—the roads hug the coastline, which invariably mean they climb and drop like the big dipper. We had our first experience of the gravel sections on the main road, and whilst they weren’t as severe as the dreaded gravel track we encountered on the second day, they were still very nerve racking for our skinny road tyres.

There was a potential short cut today, the infamous mountain pass, which would save us upwards of forty miles. However, having experienced the gravel roads, and seen the various warning signs, we decided against it, and stuck to the R1. This had its own mountain pass, and judging by the severity of it we made the right choice to avoid the “extreme” route!

Coming down the other side of the mountain was hard work, we had to constantly monitor our braking to ensure they didn’t overheat, all the while being tormented by rain, freezing winds and loose gravel. Once safely back we had a lovely beer in the Salt Cafe (which went straight to my head) and an excellent steak/pizza and camped for the night.

Admiring the scenery to come
Admiring the scenery to come
Day 5 Summary  
Date Friday 24th July 2015
Target Skjoldolfsstadhahnukur
Destination Egilstadir
Time taken 11:00–17:00 (10hrs cycling)
Distance / Elevation 93.3mi (9035ft)
Total distance 511.1mi
Total elevation 31532 ft

Day 6—give it some gas

We started out with a steak sandwich from the N1 (I was working my way though the menu) and managed to grab some excellent treats from the Netto—bananas, chocolate raisins, pizza slices, and some pastries. Today was a great day. One of the highlights of the trip. We encountered our second mountain today and again had to dismount, but once we were at the top, what a joyous few hours we had!

We hit extended periods of 28mph speeds along the top of the mountain, the sun was shining as we pedalled freely with the wind behind us. Despite all this we managed to climb a huge amount of hills, nearly 15,000 feet today alone, that’s halfway up Mt. Everest!

In Reykhalid we had a fantastic room, managed to get all our laundry washed and dried for the first time and ate in what seemed to be the closest thing to a pub that Iceland had to offer (though this did mean we had to withdraw another £100…) .

Day 6 Summary  
Date Saturday 25th July 2015
Target Laugar
Destination Reykhalid
Time taken 11:00–17:00 (10hrs cycling)
Distance / Elevation 102.8mi (14614ft)
Total distance 613.9mi
Total elevation 46146 ft

Day 7—easy does it

Today is Sunday, traditionally a day of rest. With that in mind, we decided to have a fairly easy day, having spent another half an hour studying the map. A mere fifty miles was the order of the day, allowing us to get a nice rest in and recover our energy.

Day 7 Summary  
Date Sunday 26th July 2015
Target Miklibær
Destination Akureyri
Time taken 11:00–17:00 (10hrs cycling)
Distance / Elevation 61.4mi (6427ft)
Total distance 675.3mi
Total elevation 52573 ft

Day 8—men of mountains

Double mountain day. Back on target!

Day 8 Summary  
Date Monday 27th July 2015
Target Hvammstangi
Destination Blonduos
Time taken 11:00–17:00 (10hrs cycling)
Distance / Elevation 91.9mi (8657ft)
Total distance 767.2mi
Total elevation 61230 ft

Day 9—eating is cheating

Long morning cycle today on no breakfast, very risky! Right at our death we found an N1 (never have we been happier to find an N1) and persuaded them to open up so we could enjoy an awesome buffet breakfast including yoghurt poured over cereal, hard boiled eggs and a selection of meats, all washed down of course with unlimited coffee.

We got chatting to an Icelandic guy who couldn’t quite believe the speed we were doing the journey in (take note, Guinness) and he told us how he lived in Shanghai now, along with some other tales of an Icelandic girl who traversed the island alone, washing in streams and her bike broke so he had to pick her up…

The afternoon journey was tough, and despite us following a river downhill at the end of the day, the winds were so strong that we couldn’t even roll down the hills, we had to cycle downhill for two hours! Nuts.

Dawson absolutely saved the day today—for the second time—-the legendary Newquay hat blew off my saddle, unnoticed by me, and he cycled back along the rode and managed to find it. Luckily we were going so slowly that he didn’t have to go far, but my knee had fallen apart so there was no spare energy for me to retrieve it. It’s fair to say I was in a state of distress.

Once in Borgarnes we had an awesome steak dinner (very pricey, mind) along with beers and a dessert, we were really beginning to feel like champions. We set up camp and left our clothes in the toilet block to dry out on the radiators.

Day 9 Summary  
Date Tuesday 28th July 2015
Target Borgarnes
Destination Borgarnes
Time taken 11:00–17:00 (10hrs cycling)
Distance / Elevation 106.4mi (12841ft)
Total distance 873.6mi
Total elevation 74071 ft

Day 10—fail to prepare, prepare to fail

Things went wrong today. We were looking at a potential early finish, giving us time tomorrow to relax and possibly hit the Blue Lagoon Spa. Unfortunately (I’ve said that word a lot) we weren’t allowed to take the final tunnel which ran underwater, cutting out the entire bay. This meant we would have to cycled an extra 35 miles, again on rollercoaster terrain around the bay, which was being affected by the open expanse of winds coming from the west. This was supposed to be a short day.

We had a terrible chicken dinner at the N1 halfway around the bay, and my cleat finally broke meaning I was reduced to cycling with one leg, a real test of character at such a late stage! Coming into the city we were faced with three lanes of traffic, a bit like cycling on a motorway in England, quite a frightening experience but we managed to navigate ourselves to the Bus Hostel who luckily had a room for us!

We ordered Dominos pizza to the hostel and ate like kings—well, eventually, as it was delivered to the wrong place initially leaving us hungry for hours. We got chatting to a very interesting guy who had just sailed to Greenland. Bus Hostel has the oldest McDonalds meal in the world, currently lording it up at the ripe old age of seven…

Day 10 Summary  
Date Wednesday 29th July 2015
Target Blue Lagoon spa
Destination Reykjavik Bus Hostel
Time taken 11:00–17:00 (10hrs cycling)
Distance / Elevation 72.8mi (6916ft)
Total distance 946.4mi
Total elevation 80987 ft

Day 11 – always be finishing

Dawson and me at the finish line
Dawson and me at the finish line

We were given a free toast breakfast by the hostel, then hit the road following the painful “cycle routes” marked out by the city.

On the approach to the airport, we were flying down the hard shoulder of the 40 at a rate of knotts, we could sense victory. If we could only make it back before midday we would have completed the journey in less than ten full days…

…and we did! Arriving back at 11:30am, with half an hour to spare! Winners! A quick photograph to finish at SXT before we dismantled our bikes. One of the employees who works there is from Stourbridge just down the road from me—small world! He has been there for 18 years…

Dawson had his flight that evening, whilst mine was the following morning. Unfortunately I was faced with the familiar problem of everywhere being fully booked, so we had some celebratory beers in the really expensive hotel, then a quick sandwich at the airport. As Dawson left, I jumped in a taxi and booked myself into the appropriately named FIT Hostel down the road. This allowed me to take a look at some normality in Iceland for the first time, even doing a spot of shopping in the local convenience store.

Day 11 Summary  
Date Thursday 30th July 2015
Target Airport
Destination Airport
Time taken 11:00–17:00 (10hrs cycling)
Distance / Elevation 30.5mi (2479ft)
Total distance 976.9mi
Total elevation 83466 ft

Day 12—until next time



I’ll start with the tyres, because this is hands down the easiest bit of kit for me to recommend. This is all you need to know:


Neither of us had a single puncture during our adventures to both Paris and around Iceland. These tyres took an absolute battering, and they can clearly handle far more. Despite over 1,000 miles covered, they look almost new, the grip is excellent and they have a reflective seam all the way around the tyre for safety.

Just think, if you have to stop and change an innertube, that could cost you anything from half an hour to an hour depending on where you suffer and what the conditions are like. Dawson had to repair his innertube ten times in one single day during his JOGLE effort, before he came across these gems. It is just not worth the hassle.


I went for the Old Man Mountain rack, though it was slightly more expensive than the others it was clearly better engineered and could carry a much higher weight than I needed, as well as having a variable fitting system so I knew I could get it to fit my bike. It also positioned the panniers far enough backwards so they were never in danger of clipping my heels as I cycled. Make sure your rack has at least three points to mount it—a saddle rack will not last during these types of excursions!


Ortlieb dominated my research here. I looked at many many different brands, these are generally the most expensive but also the best. Fully waterproof, which is imperative, with adjustable roll top closing mechanism meaning they can hold a lot. Very easy to remove from the rack as well which is a godsend at the end of a tiring day or if you are just simply trying to dash into the N1 out of the rain.

I bought a pair of apple green ones from Rose Cycles that came at a discount because they have the companys’ name advertised on them, not a problem for me at all!

I looked into the ideal bag placement, and it became clear that rear twin panniers were the way to go. Front panniers can adversely affect the steering, creating a gyroscopic effect.

Pro tip: do something to make your panniers stand out from one another, make them unique. The amount of times I looked in the wrong pannier for things is ridiculous, little things like this really test your character during stressful moments. Spray paint one yellow, scribble graffiti on it, do anything that will make it immediately obvious which bag is which. “Oh yeah, the map goes in the yellow bag”. These things help.

On this note, ensure you keep the map in the right hand side pannier. Every time you stop to check it, you want to make sure you are standing off the road, not in the middle of it with traffic hurtling past. Give yourself a chance.

I also purchased a small saddle bag which is imperative for quick and easy access to your frequent items, such as phone and battery packs, wallet, passport, the days’ energy gels and repair items.


I invested in a brand new Brooks N1 saddle which I managed to bag for less than half price from eBay. Now, If you are going to go down this route, you need to put some serious miles in before the event in order to break the saddle in. It caused me a fair bit of pain and discomfort, but then I was spending abnormal sessions on it so I can’t really complain. I would say that only now, after 1200 miles, is it really starting to soften up. It was a great idea but I didn’t prepare well enough for it.


Dawson invested in a Carrera bike from Halfords for his JOGLE event, but I knew I could get a better deal buying second hand. Here’s the thing; with high end equipment—be it bicycles, audio systems, or the like—buying second hand can prove to be a great investment, and I’ll tell you for why.

That guy who paid £3,000 for his bike looked after it. He didn’t drop it on the floor or let it get dirty or jump off it while it was still going and let it run its own course, he pampered after it like a Father to his newborn child. That £5,000 stereo system was not allowed to be used by anyone but him, no children, no guests, in fact it was probably high up on a shelf and only turned on once in a blue moon.

Buying quality goods second hand can often get you a fantastic discount, and you end up with quality goods. I picked up my full carbon fibre race bike for £500 on eBay, which is less than 1/5th of it’s value. Now, I could have purchased a brand new bicycle for £300, saving £200; but the minute I purchased the bike it would only have a resale of £100. Full carbon bikes have a bottom value of £500, so this was an investment with true resale-ability.

Of course, it’s not just extra cash for the sake of it, this means I get a super strong, super light bike with a top end gearset, in my case Shimano Ultegra gears, crank, shifters and pedals.

Not that I can ever sell this bike now. It’s a part of me…


Once again I went second hand—this time my good friend Nick Furlow (the type of chap who runs every day and competes in ultra marathons) sold me his old carbon fibre soled cycling shoes for a mere tenner. They would have cost me £100 in the shops! Remember, second hand doesn’t matter. Everything you buy you will fully check over and service so there won’t be any problems.


I got this wrong. My bike is a triathlon race bike, with gearing set higher to attain top speeds. This does not help on Iceland mountainous roads! Dawson had a better set up, enabling him to stay seated for the majority of hills and not require such a drastic run up as myself.

However, I found that it is far more important to have maximum varierty on the rear cassette and stick to a single front ring if you can. Switching between front rings is the most common source of chain displacement, and the increase in speed it offers requires an extensive amount of extra energy, which you won’t have.

A much better tactic is to have many rings on your rear cassette, ranging across as many ratios as possible, to give you a decent top end, but more importantly, good hill-climbing ability.

Think about it; reaching 40mph for brief periods instead of 30mph is nice, but it pales into insignificance when compared to twenty minutes walking up a hill because your gears are too high than crawling up in five minutes in your lowest gear. Even worse, having your chain come off on the approach to a hill, giving you no chance to get a run up!


Layers. If you can afford top-quality waterproof gear, spend the money. Ensure you have plenty of socks and invest in some decent overshoes.

Food & Nutrition

Nutrition packs
Nutrition packs

This isn’t just about energy, protein and recovery, you are not a machine, some robotic device to complete a program. You are human and you will get bored of the same old bars and gels. Food is the one thing you should be able to enjoy on your journey, don’t ruin it by creating a program of identical food like I did.

This is where me and Dawson differ, he is very chaotic, and comes across at times as completely unorganised. It does amaze me that this guy is a Doctor of Physics and has actually found a star. But when it came to food, he had much more variety, and some great little treats that really lifted our spirits.

My selection was a carefully thought out meal plan—4 gels a day, 4 energy bars a day, 2 breakfast bars and 2 recovery bars—which although gave me great satisfaction in knowing that I had regular planned food stops, ended up in me literally giving away half our stash of food to the group of French explorers who served us spaghetti bolognese. It was as much a gesture of thanks as it was a relief to offload the monotonous, bland processed food. I can never eat another Trek bar again after Iceland.

It is ok to treat yourselves. The amount of energy you burn through is ridiculous, so go ahead and throw in a multi-pack of Galaxy Ripples or whatever takes your fancy.

Tips—how to get the job done

When to go

Without a shadow of a doubt, go in the height of summer. Yes it’s warmer, but the overruling factor here is the sheer amount of daylight—twenty hours, meaning you never have to cycle in anything remotely approaching darkness. I did have lights on my bike as standard (which came in useful during the tunnel section) but they simply aren’t necessary in July.

How to structure your days

I am a big advocate of getting things done early. By front-loading the days you can look forward to a relaxed afternoon, thereby actually being able to relax and enjoy it knowing you have done the hard work. A typical pattern:

Regular stops for food help to break the day up—both physically and mentally—and prevent you from bonking. Remember,

Cycling is an eating and drinking game

How to keep warm

As my youngest sister Hayley has always told me,

The best way to keep warm is to not get cold in the first place

This is one of the single most important things you can learn in life. The energy and effort required to regain warmth and remove damp is magnitudes of that required to take appropriate precautions.

We learned early on that our feet would suffer, despite having some excellent overshoes and a couple of pairs of socks. On day three we both tried putting plastic bags over our feet, which had its pros and cons. It definitely helped to block out some of the wind chill, but more important it kept the rain out. The disadvantage of this method is that it doesn’t allow your sweat to escape, so your feet do remain moist, albeit warm and moist.

Layers layers layers, you’ve heard it before and it is true. A number of layers that you can peel off and add to is a far better solution than a bulky coat or thick jumper. Especially when it comes to multi-day journeys, as it is a constant struggle to get things dry at the end of the day. Having two or three days worth of clothing allows you to rotate items, even midway through the day if necessary.

How to eat

There is one simple rule for eating:

Eat at every available opportunity.

When you are cycling into the unknown, you can never be sure where your next opportunity for a hot meal will come from. Never skip breakfast, you will simply burn out. Yes, the N1’s are repetitive and not particularly inspiring, but trust me, when you are at the top of a freezing cold mountain and have just finished the last of your chocolate raisins with no food stop in sight for the next forty miles, you would give it all up in a heartbeat for a low quality portion of burger and chips!

How to sleep

Dawson and me enjoying tent life
Dawson and me enjoying tent life

This is absolutely not a problem at all. By the time you have got your tent up, you will fall asleep precisely the second you hit your sleeping bag. We were generally asleep by 10pm at the latest, and up around 7 or 8am.

It is important to remember to do your chores before going to bed; get your clothes dry, charge your accessories, fill up your water bottles (the cold night air will chill them nicely for the morning) and organise the equipment in your panniers. I was constantly rotating and rearranging stuff.

Also, do your stretches. You have been holding a forced pose for hours, just five or ten minutes of stretching can really help to ease any pains and relax your muscles to improve your sleep.


  1. No Guinness World Record existed at the time of the attempt. 

  2. Wishlist:

    1. Set a world record
    2. Catch a tube (surfing)
    3. Write a book
    4. etc etc

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