This weekend ten cyclists will tackle the ultimate bicycle race of cycling around the world, in an 18,000 mile challenge that is set to rewrite the history books.
We introduced the ten cyclists who will depart from London this Saturday, and will be profiling several of them as they embark on this epic undertaking. The ten cyclists will start their race from the Greenwich Meridian outside the Royal Observatory in London at 9am.
Today we’ve chatted to Sean Conway
Bikemagic: What made you want to try and set a new record for cycling around the world?
Sean Conway: Challenging myself physically and mentally is something I have always done. I like to take the ordinary and try to find ways to make it harder. At the beginning of the year I climbed Kilimanjaro and did it in a Penguin suit to add extra effort. Cycling the world, swimming the channel and Everest have been on my list for ages, so I thought I would get the ball rolling with the toughest one first.
BM: Have you always been a keen cyclist?
SC: Not really. I cycled Lands End to John O’Groats in 2008 and didn’t cycle before or afterwards. I do love cycling now. I can’t see why anyone needs to drive the short distances we do. Get on a bike. It’s so much quicker and cheaper
BM: Why 150 days?
SC: 150 days was the record when I started training. It has now come down to 96 days which is what I hope to beat.
BM: Have you worked out how far you are going to have to cycle each day to make the record?
SC: I am aiming for an average of 200miles per day. 225 per day mean I cycle the world in 80 days which would be a dream come true. Just means I need to hold thumbs for some good weather and tail winds.
BM: How has your training been going? Are you feeling ready for the off?
SC: I go through stages from feeling very prepared and then five minutes later questioning everything from my bike choice, route selection and sleep strategy. The logistics involved have take twice as long as the amount of time I spend training. Right now I feel good though with no injuries.
BM: What was it like growing up in Africa and how do you think this has affected your love of adventure?
SC: I grew up a world away from where I am today. It wasn’t just Africa, it was deep in the heart of the African bush (my father is a game ranger) that imbedded a longing desire for adventure and discovery. My father always said he wouldn’t be surprised if I landed up back home and was actually telling me about it the other day when a heard of elephant walked across our garden. (Pretty everyday occurrence nowadays) It’s surreal. I became a bit blasé about it all growing up but I really miss it now.
BM: What’s the toughest part of planning such an immense trip?
SC: There are so many aspects to it. Budgeting, finding food, getting the right equipment getting enough training in, the list goes on. The thing that keeps me up right now is whether I have chosen a fast route and weather I will hit really bad headwinds which could destroy my attempt. There are millions of roads all over the world I could cycle on and it’s a matter of reading every blog possible to find out what other people have done in the past. I think I have got it right but it’s so hard to know until you get there.
BM: Are there any strict rules you have to stick to in order to break the world record?
SC: There are three main rules:
1: Cycle a minimum of 18000 miles
2: Pass two opposite ends of the earth
3: Cycling in one direction without going back on yourself
As you can see with such relaxed rules there are multiple ways of going around the world. Straight away I am doing something different by going west. Most people go east first but I need to head for warmer weather.
BM: You’re aiming to raise £100,000 for charity, how’s that going? Do you think you’ll make your target?
SC: £100,000 is a really hard target in the current climate, especially when I am going to be out of range to physically do the fundraising. I am hoping we can get some companies on board who want to help me solarise Africa as it’s such an important issue
BM: What or who do you hope this money will help?
SC: Solar Aid helps kids and schools in Africa with both personal solar lamps and large installations in schools. Smoke inhalation from flames based light sources kills more people than malaria in Africa so by providing a Solar Lamp for around £6 will allow a family to get rid of their kerosene lamp.
BM: Where are you planning on sleeping? And how are you going to ensure you and your bike are kept safe and sound?
SC: There will be a mixture of camping and hotels depending on where I am and how I feel. My bike will stay with me at all times and when I am camping I will chain it to my sleeping bag.
BM: What kind of thing will you be eating on the trip to keep those all important energy levels up?
SC: Nutrition is the most important element of this attempt. I will be burning 500kcal per hour and on the bike for 18 hours per day. I literally need to eat as much as my body will allow at all times. Luckily with cycling 200miles a day you tend to pass quite a few shops no matter what country you are in.
BM: What are your top packing essentials that you know you won’t be able to live without?
SC: My iPhone. This has my maps, GPS and music to keep me sane. That is probably the thing I will use the most , and Vaseline!
BM: Where are you most excited or intrigued to visit on your route?
SC: South America. I have heard nothing but great things and I will be cycling the iconic Pan American Highway all the way from Chile to Ecuador passing through the Atacama Desert – the driest place on earth. I can’t wait. I am hoping to learn some Spanish through audio books too. I figured 18 hours a day on the bike for 3 weeks will help me alot.
BM: Anywhere you’re not sure about?
SC: The only bit I am worried about is the last section of Peru into Ecuador. I have heard cyclist get mugged quite a lot there. I am hoping I am going to be so dirty and smelly (I am not carrying any form of cleaning products, not even toothpaste – it’s too heavy) that they will leave me alone, or feel sorry for me.
BM: What do you think the biggest challenge will be whilst you’re away?
SC: There are many challenges I will have to overcome from loneliness, fatigue, hunger and more, but the biggest one is my mind. This is as much, if not more of a mental challenge than anything else. There will be days where I will get puncture after puncture in the rain with a huge headwind going only 4 miles per hour. These are the times when I will have to dig deep to overcome the need to stop.
BM: Is there anyone or anything in particular that inspired you to do this trip?
SC: I have been following many of the old school round-the-world cyclist like Nick Sanders and then most recently Mark Beaumont. These guys gave me the idea that if you want to do something then go out and get it.
BM: Your bike is going to become your best friend over those 150 days, have you given it a name?
SC: For sure. She is called Maid Marian. Strong, yet Kind. We are best friend already.
BM: Are you going to come back and let us know how it all went?
SC: Yes, I already have another world record in mind. It’s a little shorter but a lot more adventurous. Watch this space. I leave late 2012 or early 2013 for that one. It’s going to be awesome!