Why go for ultra-long rides?. 1

Sounds tempting, but I could never do something this extreme….. 1

You must be nuts! Are you doing anything else but riding?. 2

Why this particular challenge?. 2

Flow - The Psychology of Optimal Experience.. 3


Why go for ultra-long rides?

  • A common pattern seems to be the desire to gradually discover and somehow live up to the full potential of one’s personal talents or skills – both genetically given as well as acquired / learned (nature vs. nurture). If I have the potential to go far, why not see just how far? The Olympic motto: Stronger, faster, higher. Records are meant to be broken.
  • Another element is the sheer joy of doing something well, using experience, advanced methods or materials, seeking out good conditions. Riding fast with a strong tailwind is a thrill that every rider can relate to.


Sounds tempting, but I could never do something this extreme…

  • Wrong! Most human beings can physically endure much more hardship or accomplish much more impressive feats of endurance than is commonly believed. Compared to what’s physically possible, riding a bike for 24 hours barely tips the scale.
  • To me, the most incredible stories are related to extreme situations like war or other forms of survival (such as “Endurance: Shakelton’s Incredible Voyage”). My own personal favorite is “The Long Walk” by Slavomir Rawicz: A true story about prisoners of war who escaped a Russian labor camp and walked out from Siberia several thousand miles to freedom in India. The trip took several months, including crossing the Gobi desert and the Himalayas. Slavomir’s ability to cope with suffering, including the ordeal of being deported to Siberia in the first place is just unbelievable. The will to survive and the longing for freedom bring out an almost super-human spirit.
  • In the absence of such vital, powerful motivators, endurance sport is mostly a question of motivation. Perhaps desire and enjoyment take this place. Like one super-sonic land speed record holder once stated: At some point, what you need is not more talent but more desire!
    Bottom line: If you enjoy it and you really desire it, you can do it!


You must be nuts! Are you doing anything else but riding?

  • Well I always used to think of people that accomplished extreme sports or endurance feats as stereotype "whackos" who don't have anything else going on in their life than just to do that sport or whatever it is they excel at. I'd like to think of myself as a more balanced - if not average - person than that stereotype "whacko" image I've always had.
  • I mean, yeah, it is a bit crazy to start a ride at midnight rather than to go to bed and sleep like most every normal person does (and certainly I myself do most nights). But then it's not something you need anything special to do either. Everybody could do something like this if they only put their mind and hearts to it. Every bike rider can slap a battery light on their bike and ride at night. And everybody can wait for an exceptionally windy day, ride a bus upwind the day before and then just hammer downwind all day if they like.
  • So my point is that there is really nothing unique about me doing it that anyone else couldn't do. I just have been enjoying these rides a lot and as a result I have consistently experimented with bolder ideas, explored new directions and done successively longer rides.


Why this particular challenge?

  • It is much less important which particular challenge you pursue than the fact that you have some form of challenge. Of course everybody has different motivations and interests. To me, geographic challenges such as longest distance or circling around a mountain, lake, country or perhaps the globe have always had a powerful attraction.
  • I have done similar exploits with several friends in the 90's in the European Alps in the sport of hang gliding, with similar results of progressively longer distance flights. In cross-country hang gliding, like in biking, there is also this challenge of "How far can I go in a single day?" There are flavors like open distance, distance to goal, out-&-return, or triangle courses. But ultimately nobody has to dictate the rules of your personal challenge but you.
  • Both sports are environmental friendly and keep you in shape as a nice side-effect. You get to see an awful lot of scenery, both from the bike and even more so from the hang glider. You have to pick a route and factor in weather and some logistic constraints, mostly around transportation, supplies and safety. And there is no apparent limit - all of which contributes to my fascination with long-distance riding / hang gliding.


Flow - The Psychology of Optimal Experience

  • The best description of my philosophy around why I do this can be found in the book: “Flow – The Psychology of Optimal Experience” by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly. Simply put, this book describes “flow” as a state of mind that comes from engaging in an activity or task in a disciplined way, with clear goals, rules and boundaries, where you get immediate feedback and exercise a sense of control over your actions. Typically you immerse yourself to a point that removes your worries and frustrations of everyday life, alters your sense of duration and removes your concern for the self. After experiencing flow you emerge with a rewarding feel and a stronger sense of the self. Extensive studies have found that happiness correlates with flow (whereas happiness does not correlate with other things typically associated such as wealth or material possessions). One interesting thought is that (active) enjoyment comes from increased complexity and leads to growth, while (passive) pleasure relates to simplicity and leads to decay.


Often when I am on a long ride, I am in flow. I enjoy it. I grow from it. It makes me happy. It’s as simple as that!