Five Minutes With... Mark Beaumont
15 August, 2022
Mark Beaumont is a staple in the endurace cycling world. With records for supported and unsupported trips including around the world supported and unsupported, Cairo to Capetown and the 1 hour record on a Penny Farthing. It all started at 12 years old with a cycling trip around Scotland and led him to winning GBDURO21. We asked Mark some questions earlier this year about GBDURO and his latest adventures.
Images all courtesy of Markus Stitz
1. started off your long distance adventures cycling across Scotland at age 12 and Lands End to John O'Groats at 15, what sparked your interest in long distance cycling?
Growing up on a farm and being home schooled, I had a huge amount of freedom from the start. Riding ponies in the forest nearby and going skiing nearby at Glenshee were a bigger part of my formative years than school work, so it was a fairly obvious transition to start taking my bike on journeys. I was never racing, or a part of a club, but I rode to go on adventures and because it extended my freedom beyond the farm.
2. Your first round the world attempt in 2008, 194 days and 17 hours was unsupported with 30kg of equipment. How was that different from your supported attempt at 79 days?
Whilst both of my cycles around the World were for the Guinness World Record and both therefore covered 18,000 miles, they couldn’t really have been much more different in reality. Aged 23, my first time was more about what happened off the bike - the cultures and the geography - as I pedalled 100 miles a day. Whereas aged 35, my second time around the planet was fully supported, with an amazing performance, logistics and media team, where I was racing 16 hours a day, averaging 240 miles a day. So this time I saw the world like a slide show, but the only people whom I spoke to were my team and the odd person who came and rode with me. It was no longer a wild adventure, but a very focussed race, therefore my experience was entirely different. The first time was more fun, in the true sense of what a bike ride should be, but the second time as my opportunity to put ‘all my cards on the table’ and figure out what the ultimate was. I will always be grateful for the opportunity to have done both.
3. You recently attempted your first ultra-race, winning GBDURO 2021. Could you tell us how you found this in general and compared to solo record attempts?
It was very odd lining up with around 60 others at Land’s End, on maiden gravel bikes to do 2000km self supported to John O’Groats. I was pretty calm, as the distance didn’t intimate me, but there were unknowns with the amount of gravel riding and the competitive field. In the past, the only person I have really been racing is myself. In the end, this was not that much different. These ultra races aren’t won at midday when the sun shines, they are won at 3am when you are still riding as others sleep. They are a real test of your resilience and ability to minimise breaks and keep the momentum - both literally and also psychologically. I was amazed at how many people scratched. Only 14 racers finished GBDURO in 2021. Very few of them quit because their bikes broke. They quit because they stopped riding the road in front of them. I guess that is something I have learnt to do well since I was a 12 year old pedalling across Scotland - focus on what you can effect and try to enjoy the ride, no matter how hard it gets.
4. Over lockdown you ran every street in Edinburgh whilst your 6 year old daughter rode her bike, covering over 500 miles. Can you tell us a bit more about how you kept your young daughter motivated to get out riding?
This was a family project that grew out of listening to Rickey Gates, the American ultra runner talking about running every street in San Francisco. My daughter really wanted to spend this time with me - just the two of us, away from her little sister and her mum, so that helped. But there were days when she didn’t want to, or the weather was bad. So it allowed me to have a conversation with her about how to turn up every day, to make things a habit and to be consistent, so that the big, often scary goals take care of themselves. She really wanted to outcome - to have cycled every street in Edinburgh - but the process got hard over nearly 4 months, so we kept our focus short, made it fun and tried to focus on each day, as opposed to the scale of what we were taking on.
5. You hold many solo records including Cairo to Cape Town (41 days 10 hours and 22 minutes) and the North Coast 500. But, we see a lot of rides at a more adventurous pace. Which riding do you prefer; an adventure or a challenge?
I like both. That doesn’t really answer your question, but I like variety. I love riding my road bike, my time trial bike, my gravel bike and even my penny farthing! It is the variety of focus that keeps it interesting. I wouldn’t be motivated to train to race the same events each year, which is why I have never entered much in the racing world, either road or adventure. I also have a background in broadcasting, first with the BBC and now with GCN, so my passion has always been storytelling, taking people on interesting journeys and hopefully informing people how to get out there themselves and experience adventures on two wheels.
6. Being someone who enjoys a point to point trip you’ve done some interesting and inspiring rides. What is your next adventure?
This summer, 2022 I will be racing RAAM (Race Across America), which is widely regarded as the worlds hardest ultra endurance road race. This year I will be entering as a pair and building on the Lands End to John O’Groats pairs (relay) record that we set last year of 39 hours and 40 minutes, which was an average of 23 mph.
7. Can you give us your top tip for eating on the bike?
Keep it natural. If you granny wouldn’t recognise it as a food, don’t eat it!