Extreme cycling is one fascinating way in which the human body can be pushed to its absolute limits, whether that’s through ultra-long distance journeys, death-defying rides hurtling down mountainsides, or executing impressive and carefully honed tricks. Just like any other extreme sport, extreme cycling attracts dedicated fans watching from the sidelines, accomplished athletes who pull off amazing feats, and the odd daredevil who just wants to give things a go.
This is no great surprise though, really, as human beings have a long and varied history of being attracted to activities that hold some element of novelty or excitement. Popular pastimes that offer this seductive edgy thrill include Urbex photography, playing games such as roulette or poker, and skydiving, to name but a few. People are drawn to the wild side of life, whatever that means for them.
So, let’s take a look at some of the most extreme cycling activities the world has ever seen.
LDR (Long Distance Rides)
The Transcontinental cycling challenge spans an unbelievable 3000 – 4000 km, with the route snaking its way across Europe from the north-west to the south-east of the continent. It is undertaken as an individual time trial, with no official stops factored in along the way, and participants are free to choose the specificities of their own route. This results in most winners taking between 7 and 10 days to finish, with ‘finishers’ taking up to 3 weeks to reach the final destination. The race was inspired by the equally gruelling Trans Am Bike Race, which spans almost 7000 km in total across North America from Oregon on the Pacific coast to Virginia on the Atlantic. These completely unsupported time trial races focus on individual strength and endurance, leaving almost everything up to the skill and courage of the rider.
Although the races mentioned above may go the distance, they are not going to break the cycling land speed record any time soon. In fact, that record is held by one woman – Denise Mueller-Korenek, who holds the title of world’s fastest cyclist after her successful attempt in 2018. With the assistance of professional racing driver Shea Holbrook in a specially fitted dragster pace car, Mueller-Korenek smashed the previous record of 167.044mph with a new record of 183.931mph. Not all cycling speed demons can hit these incredible speeds though; in fact, the fastest recorded speeds reached during a pro cycling road race were at the fourth stage of the Tour of Qatar back in 2014. Thanks to a fair wind, the average speed of riders in this race was 35.303mph, which just goes to show the herculean effort and technical know-how needed to reach Mueller-Korenek’s unbelievable speed out on the Utah Salt Flats.
Speed or distance not doing it for you? Well, how about impossible terrain? Some of the world’s most extreme mountain biking courses include Crankworx Rotorua in New Zealand and Crankworx Innsbruck in Austria, as well as those used for the Downhill World Cup which takes place at courses in Maribor, Slovenia and Lousa, Portugal, along with in several other European countries. Wet mud, dry dust, sheer drops, and sharp corners keep both riders and watchers on the edge of their seats as some of the best in the biz battle to stay mounted whilst they hurtle downhill. Falls, crashes and injuries are expected in this dangerous but thrilling sport, that truly has to be seen to be believed.
High as a Bird
One step above these mountain biking races are challenges such as Megavalanche and Yak Attack which incorporate 1000s of metres of descent into races that will shake even the most seasoned professional cyclists to their core. On the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal, you’ll find the route for Yak Attack, ‘the highest mountain bike race in the world’. High altitude means little oxygen, so cyclists must be in peak physical fitness to take on this beast of a competition, though they are rewarded with stunning and unforgettable views across the Himalayas. Across in the French Alps is the Megavalanche race, an hour long downhill scramble that incorporates loose scree, rocks, mud, and snow as 400 racers battle it out to be the first to reach the bottom – hopefully all still in one piece.
The Simple Session contest, held in Tallinn, Estonia, is certainly in the running for most impressive BMX freestyle competition in the world. The tricks that riders pull off here are almost inconceivable in their fearlessness and complexity. Barspins, tail grabs, wheelies and back flips abound in this display of the world’s greatest talent performing in custom built arenas to enthusiastic and supportive audiences. Stunt riding is a world of its own, completely separate from road racing and mountain biking, but equally as impressive, innovative and extreme. It truly is a sight not to be missed.