I strive for that feeling of progression. The feeling of being totally engulfed by the process, from when you first conceive the thought, all the way through until you step out the front door with a knotted feeling in your stomach. When you're fully focused on just one thing. You know that feeling right before you tackle what feels like an impossible task, whether that be a chunky chute, a start gate, a jump or writing an article for Pinkbike. That's what gets me going. That's what fuels the fire within.
It had been a long time since I had felt that feeling to the point where I've been satisfied. Training and working every opportunity from the beginning of the year, I felt I was beginning to get too comfortable with my surroundings. I needed something to excite me and I wanted to push myself and see how far I could go again. After completing an Everest last year at age 15 on my 130mm Specialized Fuse Hardtail on a sealed road, I was left feeling less satisfied than before I had started. There was now an even bigger void to fill. It felt like I had cheated myself; that isn't who I am. Riding down a sealed road on cross country tyres just didn't sit right. After hearing the news that the first three rounds of the 2022 EWS season had been cancelled in Australia and New Zealand, my goals needed reassessing. Additionally with the recent surprise of the Delta variant in New Zealand and the looming uncertainty of events in New Zealand, now was the time.24 hours, one bike, one loop, no sleep.
I wanted this to reflect me, so I chose Victoria Park, located in Christchurch on the east coast of the South Island in New Zealand. My lap consisted of a mix of blue and single black tracks (For any locals: The Worm-Brake Free - Sesame Street - Shazzas - Ponos), starting with a road gap and finishing with a bomb down a gravel fire road back to the start of the climb. I shared some personal history with these tracks; they were the first proper mountain bike tracks I rode about four or so years ago and it's still one of my go-to laps to this day.
1 lap = 9.9km and 389 vertical metres
The climb was a cruisy 6-8% until it approached the upper slopes of the hill where the seal was swapped out for gravel as it gradually developed into 12-14%, at its steepest point hitting 26-28% for 60 metres then settling down to what then feels like a flat 14-16% before reaching the top carpark.
I planned to wake up at 6:30 am and make a start by 7:30 am. Starting at 1:30 am after an hour's sleep for my first Everest, I was falling asleep instantaneously while riding down the hill 24 hours in at 60kmph. I did not want to relive the absolute fear I encountered that night. Opting for a full night's sleep meant I'd be facing the dark hours in a mental hard patch, but I was willing to accept that. If it all went to plan, during the last lap I'd be greeted by the sunrise and finish on a high.
Only deciding to do this ride the day before, I was in a mad rush to plan an array of food that would be stashed at the bottom of the hill. A quick dash to the supermarket and I was all ready.The Menu:
1.5k of rice
3kg of potatoes
Salt & Vinegar potato chips (crisps)
12 Clif Bars
2 Bags of Lollies (Candy)Bike Check
S-Works Enduro 2021
Rockshox Zeb Ultimate 170mm, Rockshox Super Deluxe Select
Sram X01 Drivetrain, 10-52 Cassette, 32 tooth chainring, 170mm cranks
Code RSC Brakes, 220mm front rotor, 200mm rear rotor
Zipp 3ZERO Moto wheels 29"
Continental Der Baron 2.4" Tires (20PSI front, 22PSI rear)
Cushcore Pro front and rear
X-Fusion Manic 125mm Dropper post
Fabric FunGuy grips
Specialized Seat, Stem and Bars
Total Weight 17.4kg (38.36lb)
At 7:30 I set off, the beep of my Garmin marking the start of my journey. With roughly 5 hours of sleep, I had already made a better start than last time. My mind was tense, a challenge of this scale brings huge uncertainty. With 24 hours of riding on the horizon, scenarios were flying through my head.
Lap One... there's no better way to start off a mission than throwing a no hander right?
I really lacked confidence during the first few hours but about the 4th lap I actually started to have fun, and at that point, it turned into a normal ride. The downhill was what kept me going with a solid mix of dust and hero dirt. I was fizzing to get back to the top after each lap. It was one of those rides where you really understand why you ride your bike. The laps between 11 am and 6 pm just cruised by.
As the daylight faded, so did I. With so much time to think readily at my hands on every uphill, the beginning of these dark hours turned into a grind. At 7:30 pm I hit halfway, feeling very second-hand. It was easy to let the fact I still had another 12 hours to go get to my head. It's so easy in that state to become so overwhelmed. I knew it was going to be hard, but you never really know what you've put yourself against until you're right in the midst of it. At this point I broke it down into sections; at first, it was 2 laps at a time and then I'd allow myself to have a sit-down and that quickly turned into 3 stops a lap. The pace slowed.
It was at around 10 pm, things were getting really grim. I was by myself; I was ready to call it a day. If I wasn't having fun, what was the point of it? I got to the top of what I thought was the last lap, and I was willing to accept defeat, only 14 and a half hours in. I took some pressure out of my tires and went for a party lap to round things out. In a span of 5 minutes, thanks to a few cutties, I wasn't done just yet. That descent was one of the fastest laps I've ever done albeit in the pitch black, and at the moment, it dawned on me that I wasn't going to give up this easily. With a newly found motivation, those next few laps were easy. One of the most exhilarating parts of any physical endeavour is when you're up against the wall, in so much pain, completely bonked and almost defeated, and then suddenly something clicks unexpectedly, and you smash through it with a grin on your face. The high is unparalleled.
At 3 am, whilst riding down the hill, that deflating sound all of us are familiar with struck me. My valve core had just simply disappeared into the darkness. Feeling equally as deflated as my tyre, I realized my two options: pack it up or keep on trooping. Giving up this far in just wasn't an option. I dug into my Swat Box and pulled out my tool stash and got to work. After 45 minutes of faff, I was back on the bike. Motivation had once again plummeted to an all-time low, but a can of Coke seemed to fix that. Rain was starting to fall; the wind was howling and one pedal stroke at a time I made it to the top thoroughly drenched. That lap didn't quite go to plan; the run into the road gap had become exceedingly slippery, and speed was an issue. Committed to it, I landed short on the flat, simultaneously hucking my face into my stem and giving myself a bleeding nose. That lap felt quite unfulfilling. Still on the high from the can of Coke once I got to the bottom, I decided 10000 was a nice-looking number so decided to push for it. The last 3 three laps were going to have to be consistently faster than any of my previous times.
At the end of the day, it was just a number on a screen but the journey that comes with it is something I won't ever forget. Having pushed myself through something I didn't know I could do makes you wonder, what else am I capable of? Caught up in the grips of type two fun once again, what is a seemingly miserable pursuit is what keeps me coming back for more. Once you've experienced the violent cold shakes, forcing food down your throat when you don't want to eat and the involuntary wheezing, you too will develop a thirst and fall down its slippery slope. It's not an easy path but what a journey it is.
My 24 hours were great. Despite inevitable lows, the highs easily outweighed them. My bike ran like a dream, my body exhausted but not quite wrecked. The hardest part was not the physical endeavour, but the mental fortitude required for such a task. To fathom the enormity of such an effort requires all your mental focus to dull it down into a manageable game plan, but the key is the power of acceptance. Accepting that it's going to hurt, that it's not all going to be an easy road. If you can accept the challenge and take it for what it is, well, you're on to a winner.The Numbers:
10119 Vertical Meters
20 hours and 25 minutes riding time
6.4kg (14.1lb ) lost the next day, have since regained
Even though the motivation was entirely selfish and the riding was done solo, these great humans are what got me through.
- My parents - for the endless support and allowing me to push myself to the limit
- Jamie Scott (@athletica.nutrition)
- for putting up with my ever-changing plans, getting the most out of me and letting me tap into your bottomless pit of knowledge
- Dominic Blissett (@__blissfield__)
- for hanging around the whole day behind the lens and capturing some bangers and the rest of the people in my corner from friends to brands none of this would have been achievable without your support, thanks!What's next?
This December, Olympus Mons, 21900 Vertical Meters, One Ride. Time to get my head down, I've got some serious work to do.