An Introduction to Ultra-Cycling, Bikepacking, and Randonneuring, with Matt Roy, Nick Legan, and Jose Bermudez

What's it like to race for days? We step inside the fascinating world of ultra-distance events, including Tour Divide, RAAM, and Paris-Brest-Paris.

Matt Roy riding bikepacking randonneuring ultra-cycling
Photo: Courtesy Matt Roy

Are you ready to go long? Today we want to introduce you to the fascinating world of ultra-distance cycling.

While there isn’t a true definition of what “ultra” means, and some of our guests like to say it is a state of mind more than anything else, for the sake of this discussion we’re talking about multi-day bike-packing events; randonneuring events which range from 200 kilometers up to 1200 kilometers, as in the case of the granddaddy of them all, Paris-Brest-Paris; and ultra-cycling races like RAAM, the 12- and 24-hour Time Trial World Championships, cross-state records, and the list goes on.

What are these events? How do you prepare, physically and psychologically, for these feats? What’s it like to ride when sleep-deprived? What should you eat out there on the lonely road? That, and so much more on today’s show.

Our featured guest is Matt Roy, someone who has been competing at ultra events of all kinds for over a decade. Some of his accomplishments: Matt holds both the Maine north to south and west to east cross-state records, he holds the Saratoga 12-hour course record, he won the Trans-Atlantic Way pairs division in 2018, finished the Paris-Brest-Paris in 2019 and has completed more than 27,000 kilometers of brevets since 2007. His list of accomplishments goes on.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that Matt also holds his Ph.D. in immunology from Harvard and now works in CRISPR and gene editing technology… a conversation for another episode.

Joining Matt on the show today is his friend and colleague Nick Legan, the road brand manager for Shimano, who is also an accomplished ultra-distance cyclist, having completed Tour Divide and the 12-hour Time Trial World Championships, among other races. He’s also a tech and gear guru, having formerly served as the tech editor of VeloNews magazine as well as a professional mechanic for WorldTour teams.

We also hear from Jose Bermudez, another accomplished ultra-distance cyclist. As he says, his modest claim to fame is that he’s the first, and still the only, person to have completed RAAM, the Tour Divide, and the TransAm, a self-supported bikepacking race across the U.S. He’s also raced the 350- and 1000-mile Iditarod events in winter. Not only does he race, he also coaches: Jose is a USA Cycling Level 2 coach. Irrelevant though still interesting is the fact that he is a professor of philosophy at Texas A&M University.

I’ll ask it again: Are you ready to go long? Let’s make you fast!

Matt Roy cycling
Matt Roy just loves to ride his bike.

Jose Bermudez at the Iditarod Trail Invitational 1000-mile event.

Episode Transcript

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