The need to escape Sydney traffic prompted a road trip to the Snowy Mountains of NSW for a couple of days of riding, exploring and catching up with a mate who is determined to finish the 2022 RAAM.
– A blog and videos by Rob Arnold
It all came together in a surprisingly simple way. While on a ride in Sydney’s Centennial Park I spotted Rupert Guinness in the distance and eventually caught up with him to say hello. We’ve been mates for almost 30 years, and have done similar work for most of that time. We both love cycling and that’s what brought us together in the early-1990s, when we first met at the Commonwealth Bank Cycle Classic of 1992.
There have been a lot of conversations about cycling between us ever since.
Although we both live in Sydney, the most common catch-up opportunity tended to come at the end of July in Paris. Rupert has covered the Tour de France since 1987, and I began my long professional association with the race 10 years later.
Originally it was bike racing that united us and provided fodder for plenty of stories. Together we have written thousands of articles about cycling and, I’d like to think, introduced many Australians to the beauty of the Tour and a host of other races that have become dear to us all.
Of late, however, it is bike riding that has kept us in touch. If you’re reading this site, chances are you know of Rupe’s exploits of late. He rides and rides and rides… and, as he approaches 60, he’s determined to tick off a few things from a to-do list that’s filled with ultra-endurance events that challenge him mentally and physically.
When we first met, he had competed in a few Ironman triathlons, finished a Zofingen duathlon or two, and contested other events that were considered fairly extreme tests of human endurance in the 1990s.
As you know, Ironman has grown to become one of the leading multi-sport companies in the world and there’s a long list of events under the banner of a brand that has grown from obscurity and become part of mainstream sporting life.
Rupert likes to ride his bike, and he still writes about sport. He grew up as a rower and that was the first sporting love, as well as the original topic of his long journalism career, but he is also passionate about rugby and a host of other sports. But it’s cycling that floats his boat the most; he may have been submerged in the cycling life for almost 40 years but the passion remains and, these days, he’s riding more than ever.
See RIDE Media’s ‘Talking Cycling’ series for several interviews with Rupert Guinness:
- Introduction to his sports writing career
- Battles with bulimia and other personal challenges
- Completing the first Revolve 24-hour race
- Story of his bike: Trek Emonda (2021)
In 2022, Rupe’s sporting obsession is the Race Across America (RAAM). He had hoped to complete this challenge a couple of years ago but had to settle on doing it in the virtual world, riding on a home trainer for 12 days and completing the equivalent distance of the real thing (3,358km), but via the FulGaz training platform after sweating on his bike inside for ±280 ‘virtual’ kilometres each day of that quest.
The pandemic has changed much and that includes the regular rendezvous that Rupert and I used to enjoy in Paris at a brasserie on a corner in the 17th at the conclusion of the Tour de France each year. Despite living in the same city as each other, we had traditionally spent more time together in France than Australia.
Cycling brought us together and although our regular trips to the Tour have been halted because of travel limitations, it’s bike riding that has kept us in touch. He rides a lot, and I’m enjoying my cycling more than ever in 2022.
Rupe is focussed on building (and maintaining) the fitness required to complete a real RAAM (beginning on 14 June 2022) and, along the way, he’s setting challenges to help with motivation – and to earn a bit of publicity for his sponsors. This year, he’s ridden 1,000km in Centennial Park and he’s added his name to an entry in the Guinness Book of Records for the ‘longest static cycling class’ (831.8km, 30hrs 2min).
WHAT A WEEKEND: Rode in the ‘Fab to be Fit Foundation’ Guinness World Records ride for ‘longest static cycling class.’ It was in support of the foundation’s fund raising to get kids into exercise. We rode 30hrs 2 mins on spin bikes with an instructor. I clocked up 831.8km. pic.twitter.com/zpIWmAueO3
— Rupert Guinness (@rupertguinness) January 17, 2022
Although he’s seen a lot and done plenty in the cycling world, Rupe hasn’t lost any of the spark that got him started with this bike riding caper all those years ago. The difference now is that he prefers to compete rather than report on it.
The challenges vary but the themes remains the same: ride a bike, look after the body, and allow the mind to wander. In 2022, cycling offers Rupe (and many others) a release from the strain of everyday life. And while it helps keep him fit, it also provides mental stimulation and many other benefits that most cyclists are familiar with.
Rupe will tell you he’s “in training”, and that may be the case, but really he’s riding his bike because – quite simply – it’s what he likes to do. It’s a simple concept but it can get complex when you start taking on challenges like RAAM. Fundamentally, however, the act of pedalling has served him well.
I ride because it’s what I’ve always done. In 2022, I’m riding further than I have in a long time and I’m seeing the world in a different way. The #StoryOfMyRide series of videos on YouTube continues to grow each week and I’m enjoying showcasing some of the places I’ve visited thanks to my bike.
Sydney hasn’t traditionally been a great place to ride but the pandemic has kept me close to home for two years and while there hasn’t been much travel, I’m enjoying cycling more than ever. Sydney is a great city to explore and part of the motivation for the #StoryOfMyRide series is to show others the beautiful places where you can go while getting a bit of exercise.
At 51, my approach to bike riding is ‘Pacing not racing’. I’ll go at a speed I’m comfortable with and if there’s a distraction on my adventures around town, I’ll take the time to explore a little more.
This summer I’ve found waterfalls and billabongs, swimming spots that have helped give me a destination to ride to, as well as some reprieve from the heat on the hotter days. It is still cycling, but it’s different to what I’d grown accustomed to over the past 30 years – and it is more enjoyable than ever.
Instead of regular reporting on the racing, I’m mixing it up a little – showcasing riding and cycling products, and trying to encourage the many who have come to cycling during the pandemic to push themselves, to discover what a bike ride can offer, and to enjoy some of the simple things in life.
Riding with Rupe in the Snowy Mountains
During our chance meeting in Centennial Park a couple of weeks ago, Rupert Guinness explained that he would be going to Jindabyne early in February for a nine-day “training camp” for RAAM.
He rides a lot, but Rupe doesn’t drive at all.
“How are you going to get there?” I asked.
“Not sure,” he replied, “haven’t figured that out yet.”
Little did he know that I’d already arranged for another riding adventure in Canberra around the same time, and so the solution to his travel quandary emerged without much planning. “I’ll drive you down,” I told him, “and I’ll join you for a day of riding.”
For me the motivation was to get away from the city, to maintain the kind of kilometre count that I’ve been riding in 2022 (±400km per week), and to get some time on the bike without the frustration of traffic, traffic lights and other nuisances that are so much part of cycling in Sydney.
For Rupe, the trip was about building on his training and pushing his body to help it cope with the load of what’s expected of it during RAAM in June.
For both of us, it was a chance to catch up and to talk about the cycling life and the journey we’ve shared over the last 30 years.
It was only a couple of days away but it was good for the body, mind and soul. It was a road trip built around the notion of riding bikes but it became much more than that.
Of course the ride together with Rupe was a great one. For me, it was around 120km – from Jindabyne to Charlotte Pass and back (plus a few extra kilometres after lunch). For him it went on for a bit longer and became another seven-hour day on the bike. Early on, he spent some time chatting with me as we climbed to near the highest point in Australia, and later Rupe rode on his own in the meditative state he finds as he rides and rides and rides.
For us both, it was a chance to reflect on a friendship and to appreciate that bike riding has given us much over the years, and to recognise that we’re still getting something out of this thing called cycling.
– By Rob Arnold
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