Interview 031: Ben Davies | From Bike Tourer to Ultra-Distance Racer + Tips for Ultra-Distance Racing Success

In Episode 031 of Bike Tour Adventures, I have the opportunity to talk with Ben Davies, an ultra-distance endurance racer from England that has done some epic bike touring before getting more involved in ultra-distance racing. Starting in 2017 Ben participated in the Transcontinental race and in 2019 he came 2nd place in the TCR and 3rd in the Race Across Poland. For 2020, Ben is planning an epic fast-tour from Cairo to Cape Town while raising money for World Bicycle Relief.

When in his early 20s Ben became really addicted to bike touring and embarked on many different bike tours, including cycling the Pan-America from Canada to Argentina. Having always enjoyed the challenge of spending long days in the saddle and challenging the body’s limits, it was inevitable that Ben would eventually discover ultra-distance endurance racing.

After three consecutive years participating in the Transcontinental Race, Ben has achieved great success going from a 44th place finish to a 2nd place finish, coming in only 8 hours behind the overall winner. Throughout this time, Ben has learned a lot on how to manage his race outcome. One of the things that makes the Transcontinental Race such a difficult race is that compared to many other ultra-distance races, each racer is required to do their own route plan between the various checkpoints. 

Throughout Ben’s three continuous years competing in the TCR, Ben learned a lot on how to manage his race outcome. The first two races helped him develop an understanding of what his ideal terrain is for ultra-racing. While, some people prefer to take the shortest route and go over mountains, other’s prefer to take the flattest route possible, even if that means having to ride further. It’s also important to develop an understand of your own body’s needs with regard to rest and nutrition. For Ben, he didn’t feel the need to have a hotel room to sleep in but was content to grab between 2-4 hours of sleep in his bivy bag. With regards to food, Ben said that in order to be competitive, you couldn’t take the time to eat warm meals at restaurants, but had to just grab what you could from gas stations and convenience stores and eat while on the bike.

Not all participants in the TCR race series race with such a level of steadfast resolution, and enjoy the opportunities to meet and engage with other bike races, share meals, all the while enjoying the various countries they pass through. Just like bike touring, ultra-distance endurance events are individual challenges and each person only answers to themselves. 

Having initially gotten into bike touring as a means of exploration and adventure, Ben decided that 2020 would be the perfect time to give himself a new challenge, while also incorporating aspects of ultra-distance endurance racing. Ben decided that he would ride from Cairo to Cape Town, a distance of over 10,000km and crossing 8 countries all the while pushing big distances on a daily basis, with a personal goal of completing the ride in 40 days. This would be 1.5 days faster than the current record. Of course, this does not come without difficulties. In order to Ben to be successful, he will need to deal with overly caution Egyptian police, which will only allow him to cycle with an escort. This can lead to costly delays. He will also need to brave the extreme temperatures of the Sahara desert and risk being hit by stones by rock wielding Ethiopian children. However, through this experience, Ben will have encounter after encounter with people, eat delicious foods and get to enjoy seeing wildlife that most people only get to see in a zoo. 

Unfortunately, all these dreams and wishes must be put on hold. Due to the outbreak of Covid-19, Ben had to call of his fast-tour, as it was no longer feasible because various countries had started to close their borders to foreigners. Until such time as borders begin to open again, Africa will continue to be a dream for Ben. Hopefully, things will improve before too long.

Cheers Ben and keep on pedalling.

Chris

Follow Ben on his adventures at:

Show Notes

~ 01m 30s     Intro to Episode, who is Ben Davies and past touring experience
~ 06m 45s     Making the move into ultra-distance racing, lessons learned in the first two attempts at TCR
~ 10m 15s     Keys to managing stop time –> Eating and sleeping
~ 14m 00s     Tips for 1st time ultra-distance racers –> Bike and gear
~ 23m 00s     Talking about TCR #7 (2019) and finishing 2nd place
~ 27m 15s     Biggest challenges about TCR, sleeping, speed, and food
~ 34m 00s     Cairo to Cape Town fast-tour, bike and setup
~ 39m 30s     Expected challenges and what he most looks forward to
~ 44m 00s     Sponsors
~ 47m 00s     World Bicycle Relief and what it is
~ 50m 30s     Where to find Ben online
~ 53m 15s     Episode 032, Arie Hoogerbrugge

About the Author
Traveller. Cyclist. Expat. Over 15 years experience living abroad in six different countries. I've travelled to over 40+ countries and met countless travellers, cyclists, and other expats. As a passionate cyclist I've had opportunities to bike tour in some truly amazing places. While definitely not an expert at bike touring, I'm passionate about sharing bike touring stories and helping others learn hacks, tricks, and techniques to improve their touring experience. I look forward to you joining me on this journey of learning about and becoming a better bike tourist.