Long road to fitness – and a new perspective
Ben Cunningham and five friends cycled through the Americas and he’s written a book about their adventures
Dehydration was “a massive concern. We were worried initially about hydration, diet and clothes. But when you’re on the bike for months, looking after these things becomes automatic.
“We were careful about what we ate initially, but after a while, we didn’t care and ate whatever we wanted. We always carried water with us which we’d get from rivers and taps.”
The lads got tired of putting up tents and tended to sleep “under bushes, in hostels, in garages. We just wanted to lie on the ground.” Cunningham admits there were times when he wondered why he had embarked on the trip.
“It was physically challenging at different points, depending on the terrain. Everyone’s mood seemed to ebb and flow. Some would be doing well, others not so well. We had occasional rows.”
Cunningham remembers Patagonia as particularly difficult with its “vicious winds. The trip is normally done in such a way that you have the wind behind you and you just sail up South America. But the way we did it, there was an unrelenting southerly wind hitting us in the face for about two-and-a-half months.”
By the time the lads got to Patagonia, they were “like prunes. When you’re on the road for a long time, you forget about putting on sun screen. You just get out there and take on the sun and the wind. We were all battle-hardened.”
The Baja Desert in Mexico marked the peak of the cyclists’ fitness. “We had lots of energy and were zipping through the miles nice and quickly.” However, the temperature was 40-50 degrees.
At the end of the cycle, Cunningham’s shape had changed, “but not enormously. My legs were like steel. My upper body lost muscle. There was wear and tear on my back, my neck and my elbows.”
Cunningham has since cycled on trips taking in Norway, France and Spain. He says the Pan American Highway cycling adventure “puts other things in perspective. Everything you learn from it is transferable, even in business.”
The Longest Road – An Irish Pan-American Cycling Adventure, by Ben Cunningham, is published by The Collins Press, €14.99.