Riding the Miles: February Update of the Highest Annual Mileage Record

I am fascinated by the UMCA’s Highest Annual Mileage Record Challenge. Earlier this year I documented Arkansas ultra-cyclist Kurt Searvogel’s attempt to best the record. I have also blogged about the history of the record and England’s Steven Abraham’s attempt.

On February 16, both Searvogel and Abraham were still riding steady.

Kurt in FL profile

Kurt Searvogel in Florida

Kurt had been riding for 38 days, as he started his attempt on January 10. Since then, he has already ridden 7,645.5 miles at an approximate average of 19 mph. His longest ride to date is 263 miles on February 14 during the Sebring 12-hour time trial. His shortest ride was 120.5 miles, on February 13, as a recovery day before Sebring. In comparison with the record-holder, Tommy Godwin, Kurt has 1,795.5 miles more in the same time period. Remember, however, that Godwin started out riding fewer miles during the winter and ramped up his mileage later in the year to well over 300 miles a day.

The day-to-day mileage has not shown much wear on Searvogel, but the same cannot be said about his bikes. He started with a Cervelo, two Giant road bikes and a Bachetta CA2 recumbent bike. His fleet has suffered from broken derailleurs and areo bars. The handlebars on the Cervelo snapped right off! The rear carbon triangle on one of the Giants broke into two pieces.

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Kurt’s bike rack has not held up as well as he has, either. On Day 26, Kurt finished his ride and was headed to a motel in the van when someone pulled up alongside him and told him he had lost a bike. Apparently, the plastic tray holding one of his bikes broke, dumping the bike onto the highway. The good Samaritan rescued the bike from the road and was able leave it with three other good citizens until Kurt could retrieve the bike. Fortunately, the bike was unharmed.

I was able to reach Alicia Snyder, his crew chief – actually, his only crew member – by email to ask her several questions.

How is Kurt liking the recumbent?
“About 50 miles a day.” (Apparently, Kurt giggles when Alicia asks him this question.)

How much time is he getting to sleep?
“About 6 hours a night.”

Does he get any relaxing time?
“Plbbbbbbbbbth.”

What is the coldest temperature he has had to ride in?
“40 degrees.”

How is he keeping fueled? Does he eat real food on the bike or is he using liquids on the bike?
“He eats everything all the time.”

How are you and Kurt choosing the routes?
“Wherever the wind blows, literally!”

Is there anything else you would like to add?
“This isn’t easy, what we are doing. We try to make light of it and laugh, yet it is very demanding. We’ve made it one month – now eleven to go!”

Many HAMR followers want to know more about how Kurt is fueling. Perusing Alicia’s Facebook posts, Searvogel eats a large pepperoni or meat pizza after almost every ride. In one video Alicia shared, Kurt shouts, “Little Debbies!” as he passes her parked on the side of the road.

Kurt McDonalds

Kurt eats everything all the time!

Ian Gilbert, a long-distance cyclist from Scotland following the HAMR “race” between Searvogel and Abraham quips on Facebook: “Hey, that’s an unfair advantage, Kurt on pepperoni/meat pizza and Steve Abraham carrying a pound of sausages in his back pocket every day – and Tommy Godwin a vegetarian!”

Steven has been riding for 47 days. He started his attempt January 1. Since then he has ridden 7,179 miles at an approximate average of 14 mph. His longest ride to date is 231 miles, and his shortest ride is 149.5 miles. In a comparison with the record holder, Tommy Godwin, Steven has 1,638.9 miles more during the same time period.

Steve Abraham Photo by Phil Whitehurst

Steve Abraham Photo by Phil Whitehurst

Abraham’s attempt at the record is a little harder to follow, as his Facebook page is not as active as Searvogel’s. However, I was able to reach Idai Makaya, his media manager, by email to ask him several questions:

I know Steve is riding a steel-frame Raleigh – has he had any mechanical issues with the bike?
“None – a few problems with the mudguards, but he replaced them and they are fine.”​

Chris Hopkinson mentioned on a Facebook post on Kurt’s page that Steve has had issues with wheels – how many has he gone through?
“He damaged a rim on the first day but since then has been okay.​ So he’s gone through a pair of wheels.​”

How much time is he getting to sleep?
“It varies depending on where he’s sleeping. Sometimes his hosts keep him awake chatting and he gets four to five hours. Ideally we’d like him to get eight to ten hours, but he seems to fluctuate a lot depending on how organized things are at the home base on each particular day.​”

Does he get any relaxing time?
“On the bike and at lunch stops.”​

What is the coldest temperature he has had to ride through?
“Negative 5 degrees Celsius, I think … five degrees below freezing.​ It was like that for many days, not just one.​”

How is he keeping fueled?  Does he eat real food on the bike, or is he using liquids on the bike?
“Snacks on the bike, a sit-down meal once a day and a sit-down meal at the end. He eats what he feels like on the day. He finds protein shakes useful.​”

How is he choosing his routes?
“A support team member called Andrew Morris makes routes for him every day.​”

Is there anything you want to add?”
“Here’s an interview I did with Steve last month, which addresses common questions he’s asked by media and interested parties.

Abraham minutes into the first ride of 2015. Photo by Phil Whitehurst

Abraham minutes into the first ride of 2015. Photo by Phil Whitehurst

Special thanks to Snyder and Makaya for taking the time to answer my questions!

I hesitate to compare the mileage between Searvogel and Abraham. A Google spreadsheet exists that does exactly that, if you care to do the comparison. Many enthusiasts in the United States and the UK, of course, see the challenge as a competition between the two cyclists, and want their native bloke to win. But this challenge should transcend the head-to-head competition. We should cheer and support both cyclists. Both men are riding unfathomable miles with completely different approaches. Kurt rides at a faster pace, in warmer temperatures and with fewer hills; Steven rides a slower pace, in colder temperatures and over hilly terrain.

It could be a classic case of the tortoise and the hare. However, these two men are not in a race against each other. They are attempting to ride their bikes over 75,000 miles in a year to best a 74-year-old record. Kudos to both cyclists! May they both be able to keep the rubber side down, ride safely without injury, and crank out the miles for a full year.

Follow Kurt on Facebook.
Follow Steve on Facebook or his website.

 

  • Witness

    I’m curious as to how these riders weight will trend over the coming months

    • CrookerLetterCycling

      In the interview link posted in my questions to Idia Makaya, Abraham indicated that he weighed 75 kg (165 lb) on Jan 1 – just three weeks later he was already down 5kg or approximately 10 lbs. I agree it will be an interesting statistic to monitor.

  • Godfrey Barlow

    Excellent information. If anybody wants to know what went on when Tommy set the record in 1939, the book UNSURPASSED tells all and more.

    • Thank you! I will try to get my hands on Unsurpassed – I am sure it is a fascinating book!

  • anonymous

    You’ve misreported the total mileage for Steve. It was 8817 miles after 47 days not 7179

  • Gavin

    What both these riders are doing is just incredible, day after day after day… To me, it really doesn’t matter who does more miles by the end of the year, or indeed if either of them break the record. This is just way out there in terms of human endeavour. Reading the article above suggests that they are, however. essentually doing two different tests in very different conditions with Steve having the tougher time of it. (English weather in winter = often not good for cycling – at present for example, we have persistent strong, and sometimes very cold, winds. VERY draining to cycle in for long periods.) I hope their health stays okay and in particular they get the nutrition/hydration advice they need. e.g. A pizza a day doesn’t sound quite right!

    • Thank you Gavin for your comment. I agree. What it also brings to light is how amazing Tommy Godwin’s feat actually was.

  • Gavin

    Please can you update us on Kurt’s progress? Thanks.