By now you are probably familiar with the cycling challenge known as Everesting. If not, it is fairly easy to understand. This is how they describe it on the Everesting website:
The concept of Everesting is fiendishly simple: Pick any hill, anywhere in the world and complete repeats of it in a single activity until you climb 8,848m – the equivalent height of Mt Everest.
Everesting on a bicycle has been around for a while, but has gained a lot of attention as of late. This is because of YouTube personality, Phil Gaimon. Phil set the time for the fastest ever Everesting with a record breaking 7 hours 52 minutes. Since then a number of professional cyclist and ex-professional cyclist have taken a crack at it. Even former Tour de France winner Alberto Contador held the record for a while. As it stands the current world record is a jaw dropping 6 hours 59 minutes, set by Sean Gardner in Virginia, US. If you would like to know exactly how fast that is, use the Everesting calculator to find out. Insert your local climb and play around with the speed you will be ascending and descending during your Everest attempt.
Unfortunately I can not help you break the Everesting World Record. That is far beyond my list of palmares. What I can help you with is how to COMPLETE your first everesting. I failed this challenge twice. Only on the third attempt did I complete it with a smile on my face. Here I will share with you the mistakes I made during those first two attempts and what I did right on the third, so that you too can add your name to the Everesting Hall of Fame. As the saying goes it is easier to learn from other people’s mistaken than to make your own.
Choosing your Everesting climb
First things first, you need to find the right climb to do your Everesting. Here we will be looking at things such as the climbs distance, average gradient, elevation gain per repetition, terrain and how far the climb is from where you live.
What you need to know is that the longer and steeper the climb is, the better. It is important to find a good balance between those two things. For example you don’t want a climb that is 10km long but only averages at 3%. You also don’t want a climb that is 20% but is only 100m long. I would use the following as the minimum measurements when choosing a climb for your everesting attempt: Choose a climb that is at least 1km in length and has an average gradient of 7% or more.
A steeper and longer climb will ensure that you need to do less repetitions to reach the 8 848m mark. This will make the ride less mentally taxing. It will also decrease your total riding time. This is true because the steeper the climb, the easier it is to rack up elevation. Look at all the Everesting world record attempts. Riders vying for the record hunt the steepest climbs they can find. Phil Gaimon even considered flying to Ireland because he could not find a climb that is steep enough in the US. A longer climb also means a longer descend. This means less braking time. When you turn around at the bottom of the climb you are coming to a complete stop or at the very least, if you have a nice wide road to turn on, you will slow to below 10km/h. The less you have to do this and the more you can keep moving, the better.
You want to choose a climb that has as smooth a surface as possible. A road that is filled with pot holes and speed bumps will become very uncomfortable later on in the attempt when your arms get tired, but you still have to grip the handlebars on your bike to avoid crashing.
A climb that is close to where you live is good, because it means you have less commuting to do the morning of the attempt. An everesting is hard and you want to give yourself as much sleep as possible the night before the big ride. If your climb is close enough to your home that you can ride to the start of it and then do an everesting, then THAT is ideal. The climb I chose to do my everesting was 1km from my front door.
Just to sum that up – you want a climb that is as long as possible, as steep as possible and is on a road that is as smooth as possible. Keep this in mind when searching for your climb, but do not become too pedantic over it. There is a chance that you will not find a climb that meets every single one of these criteria. In which case you just need to work with what you have.
Your Everesting Bike Tech
There is one thing that is of utmost important when it comes to your bike tech. That is having the correct gearing on your bike. Exactly what gearing I would recommend for your everesting attempt will depend on how steep the climb is and how fast you are going to ride. So for this reason I cannot say for certain. What I will recommend is that you go to the climb you will be attempting to everest and ride up and down it a few times at the same pace you will be riding during the attempt. You want to ensure that your cadence does not drop below 70. A higher cadence is definitely better. If you do feel that you are grinding too much on the climb then you should consider putting easier climbing gears on your bike. When I did my Everesting I had fairly easy climbing gears for a road bike – 34×32. The climb I everested had an average gradient of 8.4% and peaked at 10%. Even with as easing gearing as I had, I still found my cadence dropping during the later part of the attempt when my ascent time on the climb dropped significantly. There is no doubt that I would have been far better off with easier gears.
Riding at a high cadence will put less strain on your legs. This ensures that they get fatigued a lot later than they would if you were riding at a low cadence. It is no surprise that professional cyclist, especially those in Grand Tours, have adopted an extremely high cadence in recent years. This technique was made famous by Lance Armstrong and his coach Dr. Ferrari. It was later mimicked by just about every Tour de France winner, from Alberto Contador to Chris Froome to Egan Bernal and so forth. All of them ride at an extremely high cadence of around 80-110rpm. The longer and harder the effort, the more important this becomes.
The easiest gearing that is “technically” possible on a road bike is 34×34. That means that you have a compact crank at the front and a 34 cassette at the back of your bike. A 34 cassette is big for a road bike, but it is possible for it to work if you use a long cage derailleur or a road link. A road link is a derailleur hanger extension that offsets the position of your road derailleur to make it possible to run a wide-range mountain bike style cassettes on your road bike. With a road link you can use a cassette on your bike as big as a 40! You might need a longer chain for it to work, but it will work. My local bike mechanic completed his everesting with a size 40 cassette. I have used a 40 cassette on my road bike with a road link, just not for my everesting attempt. If you do not feel like going to the trouble of installing a large cassette on your road bike, you could always choose a climb that is less steep. You could also ignore all the advice I gave here and do your everesting in the BIG RING to prove you are stronger than everyone else.
If you are interested, here is the link to buy the road link I used on my bike (I am not sponsored by this company).
Fueling for the Everesting Cycling Challenge
Now that you have decided on the climb you are going to use and you have installed the correct gearing on your bike, you want to start thinking about what type of food you are going to eat before and during your attempt. The most important thing with an everesting attempt is that you eat enough carbohydrates.
The day before the challenge is very important. A cycling coach once said to me “The carbs you eat today is the work you do tomorrow.” I always have an early dinner, around 5-6pm, when I know I have to wake up early the next morning. This ensures that the food has enough time to digest before I wake up. I eat simple food, high in carbohydrates and low in fat and protein. The classic pasta and tomato sauce is a good example. Rice and beans is another.
The morning of the attempt I will also eat a big breakfast, once again loaded with carbohydrates. It is hard to get enough carb calories from cereal alone, therefore I add a lot of refined table sugar to it. Sometimes I do not eat cereal for breakfast and would instead opt for a fruit smoothie. Just like with the cereal I also add table sugar to my fruit smoothie. For breakfast I will aim to eat at least 1000 calories. This might sound like a lot, but remember how long you are going to be riding for. For almost ALL of my longest rides ever, I have started them uncomfortably full. This is not fun for the first hour or so of the ride, but you will definitely be thankful later on during the attempt.
During the attempt you want to average between 80-120g of carbohydrates every single hour. Because of how long this ride is it will be very difficulty to get all of those carbohydrates from gels and liquid calories. At some point you will begin to resent the sweet taste of it. That is why it is a good idea to get some of your carbohydrate calories from savory sources. Here are a few example’s of food I like to eat during a very long ride:
- Sugary drinks, such as Powerade, Fanta, Sprite, SIS Beta Fuel etc.
- Fruit (bananas, dates)
- Rice cakes
- Pizza slices (low fat, so no cheese)
- Boiled potatoes with salt
It is important that you wash all these carbohydrates down with enough water. It is more difficult to gauge how much water you will need. The amount always varies and is determined by a number of factors, especially how hot it is outside. I always make sure that I drink enough water so that I am peeing clear every 2-3 hours. I use that little measuring tool every single day, whether I spend the day lying in bed watching Netflix or if I am doing a 24 hour ride on my bike. Unless you are downing Vitamin C tablets, the color of your urine should always be able to tell you if you need to drink more water.
I failed my first Everesting challenge by not drinking enough water. It was a brutally hot day under the African sun. I made sure that my carbohydrate needs were met, but grossly neglected my hydration. To be honest I was just too inexperienced to know how much water I needed to drink. To cut to the chase I became so dehydrated I spent the night in the hospital while they pumped fluid into my body. It was a great learning experience.
More Everesting Tips
Here are a few tips you can use to complete your first Everesting challenge. They do not belong under their own heading but they are important enough that they can make or break your ride:
Keep moving. Climbing 8 848m will take some time. Do this challenge from start to finish with a sense of urgency. It is very common for an Everesting ride to take over 20 hours to complete. At this point sleep deprivation becomes a real problem to contend with and you will regret taking those EXTRA long breaks during the day. A break now and then is fine. But limit your stops to around 10 minutes each. Use this time to eat and cool off, if it is a hot day. Speaking of the heat; on a hot day it is a good idea to cover up. A chemical barrier, provided by sun screen, is good. A physical barrier, that you get from arm and neck covers, is even better.
Invite your friends and family to support you during your challenge. For my successful Everesting attempt, my family arrived later in the day and set up a gazebo with food and drinks at the bottom of the climb. Having them there was a great boost to the morale! My sister even ran next to me at times and handed me ice cold bottles of water. Also, I had a peloton of cycling friends join me for a few repetitions of the climb. Unfortunately I could not convince anyone crazy enough to join me for the full challenge. If you can find someone to do the full ride with you it will help a lot! Knowing there is a person next to you who has been through everything you have been through that day, makes things a lot easier. I spent the last few hours of my ride suffering in the darkness, all by myself.
That brings me to my final piece of advice. There is a good chance that you will start and finish your ride in the dark. I feel like this goes without saying, but just in case it does not… have a good front and back light! When you get tired you also loose focus. Your little light that was good enough when you started the ride might not be good enough near the finish. The last thing you want is to visit the ER after 7000 or so meters of climbing, because you crash over a bump in the road you did not see coming.
How do I know if I am ready for the Everesting challenge?
Great question! The best way to find out is to do a half everest. The everesting website has actually started recognizing half everests in 2020. So you can train for the full Everesting attempt and get your name in the Everesting hall of fame at the same time.
If you are able to do a half everest with a fair amount of ease then you are ready to attempt the real deal. It will also give you a great chance to test out the climb you want to use for the full attempt and work on your nutrition strategy.
I have developed a healthy obsession with the Everesting challenge. I guess I just love the idea of riding up and down a climb for as long as you can, or in this case until you reach the height of Mt Everest. Best of luck with your challenge. If this post has been of any value to you I would love to hear from you in the comments below, on Instagram or on Strava.
RIDE HARD, RIDE SAFE AND HAVE FUN!