We chat long-distance time trialling, gravel riding, channeling emotions and how to ride longer distances with endurance rider Chris Hall
Over the past decade, ultra-cycling events such as the Transcontinental and the Trans Am Bike Race have skyrocketed in popularity. They’ve changed the way many now think about what it means to race and be a “proper” cyclist.
Meanwhile the tough, motivated, hardy adventurers who take on these epic events are - while inspiring - still slightly elusive to those of us looking in from the outside. So what does it take to push yourself to ride thousands of kilometres over a matter of days? How do you find the motivation while you’re up against the clock, no food stations for support and no cosy bed to jump into at the end of a tough day on the road?
In our documentary series, Endurance, we follow three cyclists who are doing just that. And explore what they can teach those of us who aspire to take on bigger, bolder challenges.
If you've followed Attacus for a while, you've probably heard of Chris Hall.
A seasoned amateur cyclist, last year his popularity skyrocketed after he become “the dude who cycled 107km every day for 107 days”.
A 24-hour time trial and a brutal off-road mountain race, all in a month's work
It was a huge achievement that helped cement his name on the UK endurance scene, but it’s definitely not all Chris is about.
Spending time with Chris, you instantly see his passion for cycling ooze from him. He just bloody loves riding bikes, whether that’s on a road, a trail, up a mountain or around a circuit. As he puts it, “mixing it up is much more fun”.
And his goals for this year - competing at the UK National 24-hour TT Championships and, a month later, taking on the Silk Road Mountain Race - show just how versatile an endurance rider he is.
Chris says he channels his emotions into everything he takes on
Like many long-distance riders, he talks about liking the meditative, calm feeling riding long gives him.
Chris is also drawn to the structure of preparing for big endurance challenges. He says it gives him focus, which counteracts the “very low moods” he sometimes experiences.
Further, faster, harder
Although he’s definitely an all-rounder, long-distance time trialling is his favourite discipline. “It’s just you in your head battling yourself - channeling an inner demon to force yourself to go further, faster and harder,” he explains.
Chris is ready to take on the National 24-hour time trial championships
His venture back to the National 24s is a chance to finally “tick off” the challenge, after his 2017 race ended early due to pretty terrible weather conditions.
About 80 riders entered the race that year, and only around 20 finished.
His set up for his time trial race
The 1,700km Silk Road Mountain Race, meanwhile, feels more like an opportunity to indulge in the joy of riding his bike.
Don’t get us wrong, it’s no mean feat. The race will see him and his doubles partner Rob Quirk take on 26,000m of elevation on an off-road course through the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. But, as we already know, Chris loves a challenge.
If it's ridable, Chris will ride it. Photo by AJ Hill
To prepare for this one, he’s been seriously upping his distance on his gravel bike - including completing the 200km off-road Dirty Reiver earlier this year - as well as doing some bike packing.
‘If I’m invested in it in my heart I do better’
Chris makes no bones about the fact he’s drive by his emotions.
While you often hear of athletes who suppress their emotions in order to get through difficult moments and challenges, Chris rides through the highs and the lows - quite literally - and somehow manages to gain strength from them.
“I think if I’m invested in it in my heart I do better, in everything I’ve done.”
Comfort is key, says Chris
His advice for anyone wanting to do more long distance? Get comfortable.
From the chamois in our bib shorts and tights, to the materials and fit of our kit, we’ve spent a lot of time with Chris developing clothing that enables him - and anyone else who has an ambition to ride long - to do just that.
“Comfort makes you faster, especially over long distance,” he explains.
His other main piece of advice: eat. As he puts it, you have to fuel the fire properly, or it goes out.