23 August, 2016

Records on a single wheel, by Markel Uriarte

Well, yes, I already have a new challenge in mind: to beat the Guinness Record for the longest bicycle wheelie in one hour. After climbing Tourmalet while popping a wheelie, I was thinking about what else I could do. My original idea was to travel The Way of St. James on only one wheel, but that was something that was going to take a long time. I needed 2-3 weeks to finish it and the truth is that I didn't have that much time, so I decided to postpone it.

Looking at the different records, I came across this option: I read that a Swiss man had set a record of 24.20 km, and I felt like I could beat that and I started everything in motion. I told my parents and my friends and since they know I like to do this type of challenges, they weren't surprised…it was just one more!

Since he was a kid…popping wheelies.

My passion for wheelies came from practicing trial when I was a kid. It's a discipline that requires you to get around a series of obstacles without putting your foot on the ground, so anyone who knew how to ride on one wheel had an advantage over his competitors, because you could enter gaps that the others couldn't.

When I was 12-13 years old and decided to get into mountain biking, I began to try to do wheelies on mountain bikes, but it was almost impossible for me. I couldn't even turn the pedal twice. But I kept at it and little by little I improved, going from one meter to two, from two to ten…and over the years I was able to complete a kilometer.

My first high was 3-4 years ago, when I was able to go all the way around the reservoir we have here in Aretxabaleta, Urkulu, which is like 7 km. Even I was impressed!

“And now what do I do? Do I go home?”

While I'm doing a challenge like this, I am totally concentrated, I don't notice anything. The day of the climb up to San Miguel de Aralar, two of my friends were recording me and we ran into a ton of people riding up on their bikes. At the end of the challenge, we laughed a lot about some of the comments from the people whom I passed on one wheel. Things like: “And now what do I do? Do I go home?” (He laughs.)

Two laps per minute to set the record

Every challenge is different. In this case, it's going to be a very specific challenge: to keep my concentration and overcome the monotony of riding in a place like this. I will need to complete around two laps of the velodrome per minute…and after the 20th lap, you end up not knowing which side of the track you're on.

It's not like a climb, where you have left- and right-hand turns, flat areas, others with a steeper slope…in a velodrome, all the turns are the same, and you're working the same muscles. Your whole body cramps up sooner.

Since there are no long, straight stretches, I can't accelerate very much. It's all going to be accelerate a little and turn, accelerate a little and turn…

It was clear to me from the beginning that to try to set an official record, I had to opt for a closed circuit, because it is very difficult to demonstrate that an outdoor route is a certain number of meters in length. It also prevents me from having to deal with bad weather conditions, specifically the wind, and I can ensure that the conditions on the day of the challenge are identical to those I trained with.

My intention is to play it safe. You can always try to beat the record by as much as possible, but that means being more tired, and the more tired you are, the greater chance there is of making a mistake. I'm going to set and maintain my pace in order to beat the record, even though my mark is not the best I could do.

Alma, the perfect bike.

For a challenge like this, it is important to have a lightweight bike, because your hands end up in pretty bad shape. So the lighter it is, the less force you need, and the less your hands suffer.

In this sense, the Alma is perfect. It also pulls laterally at the same time. When you’re riding on one wheel, it is very important for the bike not to flex, because you might lose your balance.

With Alma, I'm able to stay up on one wheel almost effortlessly and it behaves fantastically on the turns. On the day of the challenge, I'll just lower the seat a little and I'll adjust the stem as low as possible so that it's more comfortable.

A challenge within reach

The critical zone to beat the one-hour record will be between minute 25 and 45, because you're usually fresh for the first twenty-something minutes and your body responds very well. But in the middle zone, your body cramps up, and you can't lose concentration at any time. You need to have a clear head, not going overboard on the straightaways, so that you enter the curves at the right speed, but not stopping too much so you don't slow your pace…

In addition, after minute 30 or so, you begin to notice the discomfort in your hands – riding on one wheel usually causes calluses, in case you didn't know – and that is when you need to know how to suffer.

However, after minute 45, your mood is different, you see everything closer and you cheer up.

Physically, I am trying to go to the velodrome at least once a week, because the rest of the days I continue to train for my upcoming enduro competitions. Before anything else, I do a short 4-5 minute warm-up at a slow pace on one wheel.

Then I take a short rest, drink water and I go all out with the session. During the challenge, I won't eat or drink, because there are no long stretches in the velodrome where I can stick out my hand and grab something.

No matter what happens, next year I would like to try my luck with The Way of St. James, but it will all depend on what my schedule is like. In any case, there are always more challenges to try: the longest wheelie in terms of kilometers, the longest wheelie in terms of duration…these are things that I'm mulling over in my head…