This week we get to delve into the mind of Beny JJ, a cyclist who only a few weeks ago completed an absolutely incredible 12 everests in 12 months. Please sit back, grab a craft beer and take your time reading Benny’s story.
Can you tell us a little about your cycling background and what first got you started in cycling?
Growing up in the town of Clare, Souh Australia a population of about 1000 everyone knew everyone. I like a lot of small country town kids the primary method of transportation and fun was get on your bike, ride all day, make sure you home in time for dinner. Get hungry, ride home, get fed and get back on your bike.
I would think nothing of riding to Sevenhill, Farrel Flat, Burra, Blyth. Knowing kids in all the surrounding small towns meant you would pre-organise with your mates where we were riding on the weekend. Come Saturday morning after breakfast I was off, me a few mates, the 10 speed flat bar banger (back when 10 gears was nothing short of awesome).
As an adult for health reasons, another string to my bow as I was already running and swimming.
You’ve recently completed 12 Everests in in 2016. I’m sorry, but why? Wh at was going through your mind when you decided 12 in 12 would be a good idea?
In short: A way of keeping myself mentally accountable through a physical discipline and vice versa.
The long version: Naturally it started with one, Old Belair, the story behind that is simple.
It was the first longer sustained climb I rode great than 5/6% after starting cycling in May 2015. I knew about everesting & what an awesome idea it was, got about half way, legs were BURNING, I had to pull over and rest, at that moment I thought; I’m going to Everest this sucker HELL OR HIGH WATER! Being one of those disgruntled thoughts that most times we pass off. The idea didn’t go away.
At the time I was running a fair bit but doing A LOT of swimming for mental health reasons. To be honest, depression and anxiety had knocked me badly and keeping active was a great tool in recovery and recuperation.
January 30th 2016 comes around I get to Old Belair Road and start spinning 7am not having a bloody clue! I had asked a few questions on adelaidecyclists, a few known riders commented. I took what little I had learned I rode.
Unfortunately I was getting called from work all days which prolonged the day but who cares. I finished! The sense of achievement and a culmination of a long battle with poor mental health I had started to get on top of that was something else.
Post Old Belair the high within myself drove me to do another one, like a dog collecting a thrown stick. Still really having no idea of the caper & the naivety of it all I saw someone on Strava had ridden Coach Road commenting how much of a belter it was. Curiosity got me. I rode it a couple times and said yep I’ll give it a go. Knowing I have 1 weekend a month completely free I set myself 4 weeks to recover and go again.
Looking back now being green to cycling and especially everesting helped with Coach Road. I didn’t tell anyone I was doing it the same as Old Belair. Holy mother of all things cycling
Coach Road is horrible just once but I kept on keeping on.
Growing a severe hatred for the middle section about 600m of 15% that never seems to end not to mention the &%$!# wall. A fellow was riding by in a Hells500 jersey whom I knew of and his Everest. I sheepishly asked who he was, we chatted for a bit saying you need crew out here, put something up on the socials and get some help. Eventually I conceded at 6000 vertical meters posting on Facebook and goodness me crew came out.
Cyclist from all over Adelaide 99% of them I have never met who put in some solid time on the bike with me, helping where possible, dribbling in my ear making me laugh, telling stories. These people literally got me to the summit. Learning what #crewgotcrew was all about. That person who encouraged me to get some crew just so happens to be one of the most a we some people I’ve ever met & I’m glad to call them a mate.
12 in 12 was still not a thing as yet but I had thought setting myself a goal of using that one free weekend a month is a way of keeping myself mentally accountable through a physical discipline and vice versa which stemmed from a mental health perspective and drive to stay healthy.
Then comes Gill Tce, Fox Creek, Ridgeland Drive, clearly a trend was in full swing.
Reflecting on #5 , Ridgeland, the small thought of 12 everest in 12 month is possible, maybe, really? I’m feeling strong & riding up and down a hill more than ever kept me accountable mentally and physically with the greater goal of continued improved mental health and strength. Hence 12 in 12 was born. By now I knew the drill, it had become be diligent to the process which in short is eat, drink ride a whole lot & repeat.
That’s tough going and painful, but was there any particular “favourite” Everests?
Baronia or Fox Creek.
Fox Creek Hill was great as Sherpa numbers were awesome all throughout the day, I was attempting with a good mate, conditions were great, people showed up from all over the place, coffee and bakery runs into Lobethal & Cudlee Creek. Sherpa starting their stints at past midnight. The day & night was done in the spirit of everesting, both riders on the day got through on an honest 10% average. Just a top day out on the bike with good people on a good hill.
Barona although 13.9% average it was straight up and down, very little run off. I did it on the quiet as the previous Everest (Col du the Parade) I disliked pretty much the whole thing. I wanted to rock up to Baronia and ride the day lightouts out of it.
Settled into the 34/28 all day & just rode. Although quite a bit of the day was on my own I was in a great head space after the last attempt, was reaching good vert amounts per moving hour. It did rain for the last couple hours but I didn’t care. A mate rocked up to help ride it out, friends and family bottom of the hill for the last few hours. What I set out to do that done was done to a tee with a smile on my face all day.
And vice-versa, any one that was just the absolute bitch?
Col de la Parade – that section of hill can be swallowed up by an earthquake for all I care. It had been raining quite a bit leading up to it, I get there, setup the deckchair, esky etc its foggy, the road is slick. I set off down the hill for the first time and immediately find a line not to take, how I didn’t come off I don’t know. Get to the bottom of the hill
and hit start on the garmin. First ascent passing through the 20% section I am spinning on the spot, this happens for the first couple of hours doesn’t matter what line I take. The descent is slow due to conditions. First hour goes by and I am only at 650 vertical meters. I’m a little surprised but think ride to the conditions. It got colder, the road got
worse to ride on. Everything slowed down. Sherpas in the morning which was good, a couple in the afternoon but mostly on my own.
Col de la Parade
Col de la Parade
Col de la Parade
The hill never allowed me to just ride and settle into a groove. I had to be switch on at all times so I didn’t come off the bike. A few rocked up with hot chips around 6pm and could see I was not in a good head space. Physically fine but I didn’t want to be there.
A mate and fellow evererester said to me, come on Benny you know the drill head up finish this tucker off.
It was dark, alone again on the bike fighting inner daemons, the mind full of really dark parts of my life, everything closed in on me especially thoughts when living through a long-term domestically abusive relationship. I got to the top of the hill more foods and fluid, looked over the city lights and cried. No feeling of self-worth just alone and about 2500 vertical meters to go. Next thing I remember is riding again listening to music telling myself everything ends, every meter gained is a meter less. I had got into a better headspace with a drive of ultimately why I am doing this. For my son. To be a sound example of mind and body, to show adversity can be over come.
Then out of nowhere a Sherpa arrives. I didn’t really know this person at the time but they gave me 2000 of the finest vertical meters. We spoke about literally everything. He really really had to get back home but had got me well into the eight thousands. He left and I still continued to slip at the same steep section, had to be 100% engaged at all times on the down hill. Hands, wrists and forearms, shoulders and neck were hurting but I knew what to do; keep on peddling.
Gee the last handful of laps were extremely slow but looking back what matters
is I got from to bottom to top and repeat till complete.
You received a lot of support throughout your climbs. For future Sherpa benefit, what type of support helped you through the tough times?
Someone just being there, a wheel to hold onto, someone who is intuitive enough to see what you need & get it, do whatever possible to keep you spinning and gaining vertical meters. This is where those who have everested before & know what you’re going through is absolute gold! When your deep into the ride & you are beginning to hate with
every ounce of your being sections of the road. You hear the sound of a bike chasing you up the hill, look back to see that Hells500 jersey. Its sweet mental relief knowing that they know the drill, what your going to need & likely when.
This by no means discounts other cyclist who roll some laps or those on the sidelines throwing a lolly snake or few at you but there is a wonderful community within those who have everested and the knowledge mentally and physically what it takes.
What surprised you most about Everesting during those first few attempts?
How fantastic the Adelaide cycling community is. Everesting is a pretty crazy thing to do that can take quite a lot of time to finish, I’ve been hard pressed to not come across a decent person who is willing to come to a strange hill all hours of day or night just to support you in your crazy quest & have met some of the best humans through not just
my own everests but sherparing others on their attempts.
You had an accident on one that prevented you from finishing. What happened?
Hillrise Road, the conditions were just the worst, I was 3000 vertical meters deep and despite the persistent heavy rain and wind I was flying. I’m just about to hit the 20% section of the hill and the chain snaps, there is that horrible ½ a second you know this is likely not to end well, I wasn’t going quick and fell awkwardly sideways landing on my ribs
mostly with my wrist bent under me. Yeah that hurt, nothing broken just some very bruised ribs, sprained wrist & seeing stars for a few moments. I tried to get going again with repairing the chain but the chain pins both snapped (I’m now very agreeable with quick links) Ran through all my options but couldn’t brake with my left hand and
breathing hurt A LOT. I rested at the top for 1 hour hoping I would come good but no dice.
Fortunately I went back out to Hillrise at a later date and gave it a sufficient smack dropping a sweet Everest on it.
Whats on the cycling horizon for you now?
For the short-term give the body some rest then look to put some times up. Use that free weekend to just ride ride ride with good people explore some new roads.
As far as doing some crazy stuff on a bike … keep on eye out some cool things planned for 2017. But mostly looking forward to sherparing Everest attempts.
What advice would you give to people thinking about giving Everesting a go for the first time??
Do it, ride lots to prepare hit the hills get some verts into the legs, pick a hill, work out the numbers on it.
Esky full of food and drink. Tell a few people, tell lots of people. Ride ride ride.
Physical preparation knowing the hill absolutely helps but for those who have everested all say for their first attempt there was some naivety but that completely works in your favour. Just ride and ride lots.
Do you do all your own maintenance or do you use a LBS? If so, which one?
Kim @ North Adelaide Cycles has been an absolute champion giving a lot of his time in not just keeping the two-wheeled machine moving but talking about the balance of on and off the bike time, mental approaches to time in the saddle. The guy really knows his stuff. Highly recommended.
What is your favourite piece of cycling kit or accessory?
Bikes and gear used?
Without a doubt the spin cycle featherlight kit, absolutely rock solid. I’ve everested 10 times in that getup & hasn’t let me down once. Honestly go to spincycleclothing.cc and do yourself a favour.
I feel lucky that Spin Cycle have asked me to test some of their new cycling kits, Nathaniel the owner, designer, the everything of Spin Cycle is really into bikes, gear, kit etc & just so happens to be a champion of a person too.
Accessory probably my $5 sunnies from ebay, the blue ones. A staple of my everesting setup.
The first 2 everest I used a Reid Falco Advanced running a 39/53 to 11/30. I did Coach Road on that…what was I thinking!
The next 10 were on a Boardman SLS9.2 which I got mid-week, had it put together by Kim at North Adelaide Cycles then everested on the Saturday. Compacts up front to an 11/28, post Gill Tce and 32 was put on and quickly.
What do you love about cycling?
My immediate thought is it saved my life, brought me into a better place mentally and physically plus the many many awesome people I’ve met who share a passion for a healthy life style. They just get it, whatever it is they want it too. You can find this it on a bike on your own or with a group of other like minded people.
What do you love about Adelaide?
After having traveled around Europe and Australia I found the simplicity of the Adelaide life style, we really do have it good here. Plus the Adelaide Hills are the best in Australia to ride around.
What annoys most about cycling?
The very little money allocated to cycling within Adelaide. We could be one of the best cycling locations in the world. A dedicated variable crit & CX crack for starters.
Other than yourself, who is your favourite cyclist?
Myself, laugh, certainly not. I’ve always like Contador how he is out of the saddle so much, something I have follow suit for some reason. Some say it is because I come from a running back ground??
But aside from professionals the people in the Hells 500 community. I’ve
learnt a lot about technique, mental approaches to cycling, how to be a better cyclist at certain types of riding. Adelaide has some absolute big dogs who are seriously fast around the hills short and long climbs. Those guys are tops & have been fortunate to ride with them and will continue to.
What is your favourite post ride coffee/tea spot, and what would you normally buy as a treat?
Big fan of Kitchen 2C in Hahndorf.
The pecan pie at Ottos bakery Hahndorf is on point
E for Ethel in North Adelaide for the best banana bread going round.
What is your favourite local training route?
A training route, not so much. For an Everest I do ride the hill
for an hour block in the morning and night to see what vertical meters are achievable and in different conditions.
Wow, thanks Benny, an inspiration to those considering an everesting attempt, it’s even got me thinking about something, but i might try a sneaky. I’m ok with failure, but its something i like to keep to myself. The mere fact that you only took up cycling again in 2015, nothing short of extraordinary.