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Extreme road bike racing

The longer the better as far as Robbie is concerned. If ever there was a man who wouldn’t get out of bed for less than 100km of biking it’s Robbie Ferri. This year he’s taking part in the ultra-distance Bikingman series. We sat down with him to get our heads around this enigmatic and thoroughly engaging individual:

The Bikingman Race series - the beginning

When I made the choice to enter the Bikingman Race series, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself in to. I never realised it would be so enlightening. Bikingman is a series of self-supported races in some amazing places across the world. The series starts in Oman (Middle East), goes to Corsica (Europe), Peru (South America) and finishes in Taiwan (Asia). I’m half way through the series and feel the experience has been amazing, I have completed Oman and Corsica and seen some amazing sights! These are places I never would have cycled before and are hidden gems full of surprises. From the Jebal Shams climb in Oman to the relentless hills of Corsica, I have memories that will never go away.

Mental

Mentally preparing is so important. On the road you face a lot of lonely and tough times and it can really get the better of you. I am always ready two days before a race, I feel it’s so important to have some down time before you go into these challenges. Rushing around and stressing before will just lead to a stressful time on the road, getting to the start days before and learning a bit about the local area will really help.

I tend not to spend too much time researching because you can overthink it all and make more problems for yourself. I normally spend maybe a day or two on and off looking at the routes, marking the climbs and where to stop for supplies. During Bikingman Corsica we started on a Sunday so practically nothing was open. Researching helped me find out there was fountains to drink from everywhere so I just packed enough food for a day and water looked after itself.

Sleep

Before I race I try to bank as much sleep as possible. I aim for ten hours the night before a race start. I normally race two days before I sleep. I keep riding until I get very tired, when I start to feel sleepy I think about when the last time was I slept and if my riding is productive. If my speed is good then I will take a shot of caffeine and carry on. If I’m really slow and sleepy and I’m not being productive then I will find anything looks relatively comfortable to sleep on. Safety is the most important thing.

Time for thought

When I’m racing my thoughts are all over the place. I spend a lot of time thinking about where I am, I’m enjoying the views. Sometimes I get so lost in my head that I forget I’m in a race. Normally after a good few days riding I plan how I’d take over the world or what I’d do if I won the lottery!

Stop or not to stop...

Everyone needs to stop for sleep and food but you can still lose so many places in a race by spending too much time off the bike. I try to be very strict with myself about stopping. Before I stop I think about what I need to do over the next few hours – it’s usually things like applying suncream, getting food, using the toilet. I try to put a time limit on stops as stopping for too long makes getting back on the bike harder.

Choosing places to sleep is difficult, and normally it’s better if the places choose you! If it’s a public bench, a bus shelter or even a small clearing, I’m normally so tired I don’t really care too much. On a long race I will find a hotel every three to four days to just get a shower and a decent few hours kip. Being inside makes me feel like a normal person again.

The hidden places & local people

What I love about the extreme racing is being taken to the hidden places and meeting the local people in the middle of nowhere. They are always so humble and always want to help, they smile and wave, cheer and give me the boost I need to carry on riding. They are so welcoming and live the most extraordinary lives. I wish I had time to stop and talk to them to find out about their lives.

Focus on comfortable riding

The longest I’ve gone without a wash is about a week. After a day or two you feel pretty dirty, after three or four days I just give up caring. I’m normally really focused on the riding. I really look forward to the shower at the end, it’s something to keep me going.

As long as I’m comfortable I enjoy the ride. I’m using a PRO Stealth saddle at the minute and even though it’s a shorter racing saddle its padding is just right for me. I’ve matched it up with the Shimano S-PHYRE racing bibs and they rock. The combination of them for distance riding works wonders and keeps me in the saddle for long periods of time.

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