Jonas Deichmann, a record-breaking ultra-distance cyclist, will be attempting the fastest ever Cape to Cape, the 18,000 kilometre ride between Cape North, at the far northern tip of Europe, and Cape Town, at the southern tip of Africa. His aim is to make the crossing in 75 days, taking around 25 days off the current record of 102 days. He was going to travel as part of a pair, but his partner, Mexican Charlie Meta was unable to get all the relevant visas, so he may now ride it alone.
Jonas already holds two exceptional records, first for the unsupported crossing of the Eurasian landmass, from Cabo da Roca in Portugal to Vladivostok at the eastern tip of Russia (14,000km, 2017, during which, interestingly, he picked up the then record for crossing continental Europe), and second the Panamerican record, for cycling the length of the Americas unsupported (2018, Panamerica Solo, from the Alaskan Arctic coast to the tip of South America, 23,000 km, 97 days).
Jonas is an ambassador for Ortlieb and Shimano. You can see more about him at his website JonasDeichmann.com. He will set off in late August and hopes to reach the southern tip of Africa in early November. There will be live tracking of his Cape to Cape journey on his site. We caught up with him just as he set off to ride the Inca Divide, a 473 kilokmetre challenge with 11,000 metres of elevation gain, starting at Conococha Lake in Peru..
First a bit of Form
At university I had no money but I did have a dream – to see the world. So that’s what I did. I cycled around the world (slowly, touring), visiting 64 countries in 18 months. While I ws doing it an idea formed, to set a world record, so two years later I set off on an attempt to break the record for the crossing of Eurasia. I succeeded, covering 14,000 km in 64 days. At that stage I had a full time job and barely any sponsors, but I decided that being out there was better than sitting in an office. There was no concrete plan for making a living out of adventure, but I thought if I promoted it as much as possible, I could figure that out afterwards.
After the Eurasia world record I decided I couldn’t stand being in an office any more, so I went into full time adventuring. It was tough to start with, but since the Panamerica Solo record I can live comfortably from it. I have a long bucket list, with one major expedition each year with a number of smaller adventures in between.
It might be worth adding that I don’t have a home. I have lived on my bike full time for 18 months now and I travel non-stop.
Why the Cape North to Cape Town, why now?
I set the world record for the crossing of Eurasia two years ago and then Panamerica last year: Cape North to Cape Town is the world’s third big continental crossing and so it was fairly obvious as my next project. I love the idea of looking at the map and simply riding from one extreme of a big landmass to another one. This is part of my goal, to become to be the fastest unsupported cyclist on every continent.
My Cape North to Cape Town ride is a world record attempt, yes. The current record stands at 102 days. I want to complete it a month quicker than that.
An average day…
The ride will split into two halves which are very different. Across the Nordic countries and Russia I will average more than 300 km/day, but in Africa, due to the danger of night riding, it will be no more than about 260 km. However, progress over the longer term is really about the average number of hours in the saddle: my daily goals are 14 hours in the northern section and 12 hours in Africa. I don’t take rest days, but I will have 3-4 recovery days where I ride only around 200 km.
I usually get up between 4 and 5 am and cycle until it gets dark. I sleep an average 5-6 hours. I use up a few hours each day while finding food etc, but how much depends largely on what country I’m in.
I never go fast, but rather at a constant pace that I know I can keep up for months. Food is the main challenge and I know I will have a calorie deficit every day - during Panamerica Solo I started with a slight belly and finished 12 kg lighter. I have a very simple rule on food: eat as much as you can of whatever you find. If I am outside Europe this tends to be a lot of cookies and fast food from petrol stations. Hydration will be a huge challenge in the Sahara. I’m carrying a few foldable water bottles which I can tape to the bike for extra storage. I also use hydration tablets if I’m lucky enough to find them.
I stretch when I am in training before a record attempt, in order to make myself more supple. However, I never do this during a ride. I think working muscles feel better without stretching.
The toughest aspect of a long event is of course the mental part. In training I sometimes put my bike on a home-trainer in front of a white wall, and allow myself no distractions - no music or tv, just me and the white wall for 10 hours.... It makes your mind stronger. During a ride the most important thing is to have small goals, so I focus only on the next few hours and the chocolate I am going to buy as a reward at the end of it. In this way I make many small steps towards the big goal.
What will be the most challenging aspect of the trip?
Cape North to Cape Town is 5000 km shorter than my Panamerica Solo ride and there is less climbing, but it will definitely be just as challenging in its own way. Africa has very limited infrastructure, so if something goes wrong I might be in more trouble. For this reason my preparation has been around building the most reliable bike possible and avoiding illness. The heat in the Sahara - probably higher than 50 degrees Celsius - will be very hard on the body. I have been training in similar conditions and have used the BikingMan Ultracycling series to get accustomed to it.
Are there things you enjoy?
Of course. I like the adventure of the ride as much as I like pushing myself to the limit. That’s why I go unsupported to explore exotic parts of the world. Even during a record attempt there is time to talk a bit with locals and explore the culture. My favourite moment is when I can make a campfire at night.
What is success?
Success for me is to have a great adventure and when I am pleased with my performance, when I can say I did my best. On Cape North to Cape Town there are a lot of external factors which I can’t control and if I for some reason don’t break the record, I will still be happy to have made the expedition.