Our interview with Steve Abraham ahead of his 2017 attempt at the one year time trial record. The one year record is a massive undertaking, it requires a greater commitment than almost any other sporting record. So much so that it went unbroken from 1939 when Tommy Godwin recorded a distance of 75,065 miles or 120,805 kilometres until Kurt Searvogel broke it 76 years later. See our article about Tommy here. Kurt finished his year on the 4th of January 2016 with a mileage of 76,076, in honour of the time Tommy had held the record. UltraMarathon Cycling Association Year Record.
At one minute past midnight on Saturday the 4th Steve will be setting off from the McDonalds next to the Trek bike store in Milton Keynes. Steve has invited anyone along for a meal beforehand or to join him on the first ride. More details on his Facebook page.
We last interviewed Steve in March of 2015, when he was a few months into his first attempt. Unfortunately for Steve he had to end this following an accident that left him with his foot in plaster. Despite this he still managed to record the 4th highest annual mileage in history. Steve’s first interview.
In September of last year Steve tried for the one month record setting an all time high mileage of 7104.3. UltraMarathon Cycling Association Month Record.
OSMTB: Are you nervous about this attempt?
Steve Abraham: I was scared of riding the year again before I did the month record in September. That was just from memories of riding the year before and it didn’t make sense because it never felt bad at the time. I knew that a good month record would put things right and riding for just a month didn’t seem like very much. I was right and ever since I got the month record in September I’ve just wanted to get going with the year again. I might get nervous a few minutes before I set off, I don’t know, but it feels more like I’m carrying on with something I started several years ago. I took time out after I stopped in January last year then made my decision whether I’d keep going or not. Then I got stuck into training, so it hasn’t really ended for me.
OSMTB: Tell us a little about the bike(s) you are using.
Steve Abraham: Same 3 Steel Raleighs as before. I picked the Raliegh Sojourn because I think the frame geometry fits me best and it has disk brakes so I can use light wheels all year round without wearing out wheel rims. The other Raleigh I narrowed it down to was a carbon fibre, Raleigh Maverick. I went more for what I thought would fit me better than whichever was lightest. I lost about 7kg when I started in Jan 2015 and that never really made me any faster. The Sojourn also has a rack. I won’t have a follow car or be riding short circuits all the time, so I need to carry stuff. Plus steel has proven to be reliable for over 100 years. Most of the components are entry level Sora but the hubs and headset are Hope and the bottom bracket is a high end Shimano. Trek Bicycle Store in Milton Keynes have done a very good job getting them back to life again.
OSMTB: What backup/support will you have?
Steve Abraham: A more streamlined support this time. When I started in 2015 I tried to cover all bets but during the year I found that simplicity was often much better. I still have Idai helping with sponsors and publicity etc. Dave Barter, who wrote the book about all of the year records until 2015 will be crew chief, who will be my main contact with the UMCA. Ian will keep the website going and I still have Andy helping with whatever comes up. But this time I took a leaf from Kajsa Tylen’s World Record year and have recruited mum to help at home with the food and shopping as well as keep an eye on the money. I also have Kajsa Tylen and Mike Wallis who will be helping out as well. I have some rides set up starting and finishing from Trek Bicycle Store in Milton Keynes ranging from 60-400 miles for everyone to ride, once they are set up.
Between my team of helpers, they will be on call if I get stranded or run into trouble.
OSMTB: What equipment do you use to monitor your miles?
Steve Abraham: I’ll use 3 GPSs to record each days ride. The main GPS will be a Garmin 520 that should automatically upload to Strava at the end of each ride. Then a back up 520. Plus an Etrex 30 as further back up and what I’ll be using to navigate with. Everyone who has taken on the year record (though I’m not sure about Amanda) has had GPS issues. The UMCA require a day’s ride data within 24 hours of my finishing a ride, so there’s no time to sort out any problems. The two 520s will have a backup battery pack so I can charge them up on the go and the etrex runs off AA batteries.
All of my rides will be uploaded to Strava, which is where the UMCA will take my mileage from. But if Strava fails it will be sent via email to the UMCA and posted elsewhere as further backup.
OSMTB: What did you learn from your last attempt that will help you with this one? (Other than watching out for dangerous moped riders)
Steve Abraham: I learnt the best routes to use with a SW wind and to start at 9am rather than 5-6am. Starting early means you have two lots of rush hour traffic to deal with and in winter gives more chance of icy roads.
I thought that my fitness would improve more than it did in 2015. I think I might now know why it didn’t.
My fitness did improve during 2015, but nowhere near as much as I thought it would. I think it might be possible for my fitness to improve during a year record attempt much more than it did during 2015 from what I saw during my month record. I won’t know until I start.
OSMTB: What happened in the crash?
Steve Abraham: I was hit from behind by someone on a moped in Cullompton one Sunday morning. My ankle hurt but I thought it best to have a sit down then get going. A passer by came to see if I was OK and called an ambulance. I wasn’t keen on going to hospital. If I was OK and my ankle was just hurting a bit but would be OK in a few days, I really didn’t want to waste 5 hours of good tailwind in a hospital when there was nothing wrong that wouldn’t heal. On the other hand, if it was bad I could still go to hospital. So I stood up on my broken ankle, pretended I was OK and fled the scene!
I set off along toward Taunton and my ankle was hurting so I was in a very low gear riding near enough one legged. I tried tying a sock around my ankle to see if some compression would make it feel a bit better.
I climbed over the hill to Wellington and started feeling a bit queasy. I was in the small chainring (with a triple) riding uphill in bottom gear very slowly. I realised that progress was too slow so stopped in a bus shelter to summon rescue. Luckily Ian lived nearby and he DNSd a local time trial to come and meet me in a coffee shop. Walking was very painful by then so I was being helped get around. They were very sympathetic in the coffee shop in Wellington. I think we might have scored some free coffee from the coffee shop, so a win there!
I rested and sleep at Ian’s for a few hours and was still hurting so a physio was called. He reckoned my ankle was broken and advised getting an x-ray and you know the rest. Well, perhaps not quite…
The police put out an appeal for a victim of an RTA in Devon who fled the scene. The police weren’t happy! Chris Hopkinson was crew chief and he found out about the police appeal. He phoned the police at about 1am to explain to three different police officers. Apparently, the first was pretty angry but they became progressively more understanding as Chris explained why I did a runner!
A few days later, Chris said he can get a trike for me to ride. Trouble is that I’ve tried riding a trike and I’d need to learn how to do it and there was the risk I’d panic and put my foot down with the broken ankle, so we went after a recumbent trike.
A friend of mine, Rich Forrest, rides recumbents and got in touch with D-Tek, as he knows them pretty well.
Rich sent an email explaining the situation to Kevin at D-Tek.
Kevin’s response was something along the lines of, “Pull the other one, I’m not falling for that!”
Rich noted the time and date of the email he sent to Kevin. 12:30am April 1st! Rich phoned him up to explain…
OSMTB: Has your ankle recovered fully?
Steve Abraham: My ankle isn’t the same as it was and I was told that it probably never will be. It didn’t stop me getting the UMCA month record though, so it can’t be that bad.
OSMTB: Do you think the challenge is harder for you bring UK based than it was for Kurt Searvogel? (Not to take anything away from him, his 76067 was incredible)
Steve Abraham: I don’t know. You have to put the same person with the same fitness in both places to find that one out. Plus what works better for one person won’t be as good for another. Kurt doesn’t do cold, but could I go as well as Kurt in hot conditions? I think there’s a lot of grass that is greener on the other side. I’m really not convinced that pan flat is best either. I think a little bit of up and down helps. What really does make a difference seems to be knowing your routes and what works best in whichever wind direction. Everyone who has done a year record since 2015 has used routes that they know. Looking at data from my training rides and month record, I reckon I gain about 1-2mph for the same effort compared to just riding wherever.
Florida seems pretty risky as well. Kurt had quite a few crashes and Amanda has had at least 4 that I know of. I had 2 during 2015. One on ice and the other when I got hit by the moped rider. that was only serious because my foot was clipped into my pedal.
At least I won’t have to deal with alligators, wild boar and snakes!
OSMTB: What do you think your daily calorie intake will be?
Steve Abraham: I reckon about 7-8000 as a guess.
OSMTB: How has your diet changed since the last attempt?
Steve Abraham: I can go longer without eating as much. The main basic difference is that I get my carbs from oats, rye, brown rice and potatoes. No wheat or refined sugar or anything with a high GI, unless I’m having a cheat meal or rare treat. I had to adapt before I could go as long as I do without needing to eat.
OSMTB: How do you maintain the motivation for another day in the saddle, especially on those cold, wet winter mornings?
Steve Abraham: It’s no different to going to work. You just get up and do it every day. Just daily routine.It’s mostly but not entirely curiosity that motivates me to do the year record in the first place.
OSMTB: Are there any sponsors or people you would like to thank?
Steve Abraham: It’d take me a very long time to give a detailed list of thank yous to everyone and every sponsor. It would probably be longer than the answers to all the other questions combined!
But, all of my sponsors past and present. All of my team of helpers past and present, all those who accommodated me, offered accommodation, came out to support and cheer at the roadside, donated money, Audax UK and it’s membership who often set up fund raisers and everyone who follows me on social media. If you take just one of those away, it probably wouldn’t be possible for me.
I hope to see you on the road when I’m riding. I should have some rides and challenges for everyone coming up after I set off. Rides ranging from 60-400 miles based on the roads I expect to take in the next year.
Many thanks to Steve for taking the time to answer out questions, the website for his record attempt is here.
All photos used are copyright of Steve Abraham.