“…a man’s reach should exceed his grasp”
We caught up with Axel Carion, the man behind the BikingMan adventure series. Our mission was to find out what makes him tick and what BikingMan is all about.
His approach to life in general and cycling in particular, seems inextricably linked to the birth and development of the BikingMan series. It made absolute sense therefore to find out a little more.
The man himself
Axel seems to have followed a well worn path. Quitting his job in 2015 he abandoned corporate life and all its trappings to embark upon a voyage of self discovery.
There is a strong literary and cultural tradition of achieving self awareness by taking yourself to extremes. Finding your limits, whether physical or mental, then pushing beyond them to emerge as a changed, and hopefully better, person. A sort of mental metamorphosis.
Well, this is what happened (within a cycling context) to Axel but, en route, it also planted a seed in his mind. A seed that grew into the BikingMan series.
Professional and corporate pressures left behind, Axel and two companions followed the long and winding road through South America. They visited Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina in a 154 day trip.
As long distance cyclists will know, even riding with a companion, there is plenty of time to think. And this is what he did.
Predictably, the trip was transformative and inspirational. A freshly minted Axel returned home, motivated to introduce like minded people to the pain and pleasure of ultra distance cycling.
BikingMan – the philosophy
Finding and breaching your limits takes strength and commitment.
Physical strength is a given, but to really take yourself above and beyond takes mental grit too. Not only must you be prepared to cut yourself off from the psychological comfort of physical possessions but you have to face mental challenges too. The prospect of navigating a 13,500km ride with 154km of elevation gain across several different countries, experiencing different cultures, languages and weather can beat some people before they have even started. And, as with all extreme endeavours, there is sure to be something for you to face along the way, your very own Heart of Darkness, that fast tracks your development, your growth as an individual.
You aren’t going to do this by riding through your local woods. In fact, Axel maintains you have to cast yourself adrift from your concept of civilisation to confront and embrace different cultures, their values and the physical and intellectual challenges that entails.
Axel’s role in all of this? He is a facilitator, a sort of cycling shaman!
BikingMan – the first edition
BikingMan 2017 saw the first iteration of the event, the 3,500km IncaDivide race.
The main challenges were the high altitude combined with the challenging weather all too common in the Andes. The route took competitors across the Andes Cordillera through 4,000m passes, along remote tracks and ‘interesting’ road conditions. Seventeen riders started but only six finished with the quickest rider completing in less than 17 days.
For me the BikingMan events, although not classics in the Bikepacking calendar, offer a great introduction for riders new to the discipline who want to dip their toe in the ultra endurance world and a chance to explore lesser travelled destinations. For more experienced riders they are a great warmup event. A chance to fine tune the body for the longer tests ahead.
Oman is my favourite. Flying to the Middle East is not as expensive as you may think. Plus the event offers a ray of light to aim for in the midst of a typically miserable European winter. It is also, a good test of endurance, reminding the body what this long distance riding is all about without wrapping yourself up in multiple layers!
I’d recommend trying a short event such as those BikingMan offer before jumping in at the deep end at an event such as the Transcontinental Race, the lessons you learn here will stand you in good stead for when the going gets tough in longer events.’Josh Ibbett
The event must have been tough to run as, once it was all over, Axel and his team vowed ‘never again’. Feedback from the athletes and ultra distance community however encouraged them to keep at it. In due course, instead of being a hardcore challenge, BikingMan evolved into something suitable for beginner and elite athlete alike.
230 entrants took part in 2018, proving that he must have done something right the first time round. For 2019 the BikingMan Series has evolved with races taking place in new and exotic locations.
BikingMan Series 2019
If you feel you are up to this scale of challenge then the 2019 series will leave you spoiled for choice. The various rounds take place in Oman, Corsica, Laos, Peru, Portugal and Taiwan.
Full details can be found here.
If this all feels a bit beyond you for the moment, revel in the stunning landscape as revealed by Axel’s camera. Then maybe pencil in a round or two for 2020!
Last modified: 14th February 2019