More gas than a Russian oligarch: what extreme endurance cycling does to your body
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Recently I went on a continuous, un-supported 1,000km bike ride with some mates. Over the course of 60 hours, our bodies reacted to the stress and strains in ways we’d not experienced before.

If you’re thinking of doing extreme endurance riding, you should probably we aware of a few things. Be warned, it’s mostly gross.

Words - James Raison

So, let’s begin at the top and make our way down.


Sunburn was a constant worry on a ride that started in the dark on Friday morning and ended Sunday afternoon. That’s a lot of sun. I’m the type of English rose that could probably get burned by too much exposure to moonlight. So the application of sunscreen was thick and frequent. But still, I felt that burn. There was only one solution; cyclo-bandit mode:

Other headlines from above the neck include face grime, furry teeth, and worse breath than an unhealthy Labrador. Form an orderly line, ladies.

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This ride was way too long to maintain any sort of good riding posture. The spot between my shoulder blades felt like I’d been shanked by a sharpened toothbrush during a prison riot. The only relief came from the “cactus arms” stretch when off the bike. Leave your dignity at the door, people.


My cyclist chicken-arms got hammered by absorbing road impacts. They’re just not used to that sort of stress. My sore back meant the elbows and arms had to support more weight than normal. The result: Chris Froome elbows akimbo when on and off the bike.


This is where things start to get gross.

The volume and type of food we consumed gave us more gas than a Russian oligarch. The flatulence had a real heft to it as well. Every time the man in front lifted out of the saddle, you’d brace for impact. The smell was bad enough to cross the gap and whack you in the face. It was a brief but frequent, and thoroughly unpleasant experience. Thank god for all the horror-show rotting road kill to give us some perspective on what a truly bad smell is.

41 hours in the saddle led to some significant gooch discomfort. I gave my gooch every opportunity to succeed: chamois cream compliments of Dave Zabriskie, and a saddle recommended by sit-bone measurement. It wasn’t enough. Sometimes you would stand and low-cadence pedal just to give your poor ass a break. Thankfully gooch recovery went well for me. Much better than my ride companions. Yeesh, those descriptions will not leave me soon.


I’ve made a lot of spelling errors typing this because a couple of the fingers on my left hand are purely ornamental at the moment. I wore plush and comfy gloves for the whole ride but I still lost feeling in most of my left hand, and some of my right. Feeling is gradually coming back though and I’m operating a knife and fork with more dignity than a few days ago.


The knee pain was probably the worst. I noticed them starting to swell during the first night. They felt like poking a zip-lock back full of warm custard. Nice. Then the cold night temperatures froze them up like Jack Nicholson in The Shining. Getting back on the bike and spinning them up to temperature was awful in 10 degree temperatures. The horror:

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I wore my slipper-esque MTB shoes for the ride and they delivered on comfort. Mostly. I still had a rogue little toe that decided to rub itself raw against the inside of the shoe. Freeloading bastard. Contributed nothing but made an annoyance of itself. Sort of like taking a toddler to the opera.


“Fwoarr, you guys stink!” The brutally correct assessment of a mate who joined us at the 1,000 km mark. He was right. We smelled like a burning pile of garbage from a hair salon. We smelled like nappies left in the sun. We smelled like Winston Churchill being cremated. Then at the finish of the ride someone sprayed us with cheap champagne. After that we smelled like a bar mat that had been microwaved.

Individually those are all very unpleasant. All at once they add up to quite a horrible feeling. But after you’ve climbed off your bike after 1,080 km you are only thinking one thing: I feel awesome!