Cycling, Interviews

Interview with Sean Conway – Next in line to attempt the G.W.R for the fastest cycle around the world.

1.What expeditions/adventures have you been on to date?

Not a lot really. Well not as much as I would have liked to have done. I have done Kilimanjaro (dressed as a penguin), competed in ultra endurance canoeing marathons and spent a fair bit of time in the Himalayas soaking up the mountains. Adventure is not all about rowing oceans and climbing mountains. Adventure, in its purest form, is simply a way of thinking. I think adventurously.

Courtesy of Sean Conway


2.What made you decide and commit to doing this?

I wanted to do some BIG in 2012. Something that I would never be able to do again. My bucket list has always been. Swimming the Channel, Climbing Everest and Cycling the World. Cycling the world is probably the most exhausting so I figured get that one out the way first.


3.What is your day job and how did are you getting time off for this endeavour?

I have been a professional photographer my entire life and as much as I still love photography, I became bored of the type of work I was getting. This was because I said yes to too many jobs 10 years ago that weren’t my passion and before I knew it 98% of my work wasn’t what I set out to do. It was a hard decision to say NO to my clients who, for the most part, are practically my friends now but I don’t regret it. I wish I had had courage enough to do it years ago.


4.What can people do to help?

There are loads of ways you can get involved from helping me with route tips, places to see, places to avoid and choosing songs for my iPod. Most of all I am looking for people to help me Solarise Africa by paying for a school to be solarised which is as little as £1000, or simply providing a family with a Solar Lamp for £6 so that they no longer need to use kerosene. Please help me banish the kerosene lamp.


5. Why did you pick Solar Aid as your charity? I am from Zimbabwe and have seen firsthand what life is like for 98% of rural Africa. Solar is such a simple and effective way to tackle global warming, increase education and save lives.


6. When are you set to embark on this challenge and where is your starting point? I leave Greenwich park, on the meridian, on February the 18th 2012. Please come down and show your support. Bring a banner too.


7.What is the current world record to beat and how many miles a day do you have to cover in order to beat it?

The current record is 153 days which is only 117 miles per day. This is actually quite an easy record to beat and it will probably be beaten before I leave. I hope to bring that record down by a few weeks raising my average mileage to about 130 per day.


8.What are your plans for the nights – hostels/camping/hotels?

I have no plan really. It all depends how well I am feeling. I will be taking a tent, sleeping bag and mattress and will camp whenever I need too. What I won’t do is cut my days short in order to stay in a hotel. Graveyards are a great place to camp as people tend to stay clear of them at night.


9.Who does your support team consist of?

Support???? What support? This is a solo and unsupported attempt. It will just be me, my bike and loads of maps. I can’t wait.


10.Why pick cycling as opposed to hiking, swimming…etc?

I love swimming and hope to swim the channel one day. Cycling is a great way to see the world due to the huge distances you can cover in a short period of time. The feeling of freewheeling down a long road after a long day is second to none. Although I love hiking, it doesn’t challenge me enough. TO do challenging hiking probably means running and that’s one thing I can’t do. I have never done a marathon.


11.Is this going to be your one and only challenge or are there more to come?

Oh, there are LOADS more to come. I have one in the pipeline for when I return. I can’t give it away but it is another cycling world record attempt. . . only this time a lot shorter.


13.What does your training schedule consist of?

I currently spend about 40hours a week on the bike and then another 10 or so in the gym. I am trying to vary my training with some short sprints, hill work and some long rides. Nothing can compare to the race but I can only hope to replicate some of the fatigue I am going to have to endure.


14. Besides raising money for charity, why are you doing this?

The charity side of it is a huge part but also testing myself, testing what’s humanly possible and achieving something that for many many years seemed only a distant dream that you read about in the paper once in a while.


15.How long have you been planning this and also training for this?

I decided quite late and have only been in training for 8 months. It can take years to get the stamina in your tendons. Training is only a small part of the preparation. Route selection, food, sleep, flights, visas, equipment, spares, navigation and loads more take up way more time that cycling.

Courtesy of Sean Conway

16.What bike are you using?

I am using a full steel frame bike with 2 small bags on the back. I want to be a lightweight as possible yet not sacrifice comfort too much as being uncomfortable is just as bad, if not worse, than having a heavy bike.


17. My mam wants to know how much sleep you will be getting and how you are going to eat?!

Sleep strategy is the hardest thing to work out. It’s such a fine balance between keeping the miles rolling vs recovery so that you cover more miles the next day. I don’t really know the answer to that and I guess only time will tell. Food is difficult too. Some countries will be easy but other like the Atacama Desert in Chile will be more difficult and I will have to carry what I can. I literally need to eat anything and everything I can find.


18.How can you plan flights and boats ahead of schedule if you don’t know exact arrival times at countries?

I have had to guess arrival times at airports but there may be times when I miss a flight so will just have to beg the airline to help me out. I haven’t booked boats yet as I figured I will just be able to jump on with my bike when I arrive. The plan is to get back to London before the Olympics so I can’t afford any delays.


19.What routes have you cycled in preparation?

I have cycled a bit in Ireland which was great. I am hopefully going to go to Spain to train for a bit too but most I have stayed near London as this is where I need to be for fundraising. I am getting a little bored of cycling London to Cambridge and back but that also part of my mental stamina.


20. Have you met any of the others that will be competing for the title?

I have seen them on Twitter and Facebook. There are a few really hard core guys. It’s great. It really pushes everyone’s game up.


21.How much do you estimate the whole trip costs and how much of your own money goes into that?

This attempt is really expensive with flights, visas, food, equipment, more food, gym etc. I had nothing when I started, not even a bike so have had to fork out quite a bit. I have put about £10,000 of my own money already. The rest has come from my sponsors. who have been incredibly supportive in my attempt and can’t thank them enough really.


22.What is the toughest part of the preparation?

I would say route selection. It’s so hard to know whether the route you have chosen goes over a huge mountain or not. Everything else is the same for everyone. It’s the route that can make or break a record and that’s the thing keeping me up at night right now.


23.Do you know any of the languages of the countries you will be crossing through?

I can speak 2 other languages (Zulu and Afrikaans) and neither of them are helpful. I hope to learn Spanish along the way via audio books. That should be fun and keep me occupied.


24.Is being beaten an option?

No! It has never even crossed my mind. This race is as much mental as physical and I hopefully have both.


Follow Sean on Twitter: @Conway_Sean

or for his website and to donate click here.


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