I doubled the world record cycling without hands for AMF

A couple weeks ago I announced I was going to try and break the world record cycling without hands for AMF. That post also explains why I wanted to break that record. Last Friday we broke that record and raised nearly €10.000 for AMF. Here’s what happened on friday. You can still donate here.

What was the old record?

Canadian Robert John Murray rode the old record of 130.29 kilometers in 5:37 hours in Calgary on June 12, 2023. His average speed was 23.2 kilometers per hour. See here the Guinness World Records page.

I managed to double the record and these were my stats.

How did the record attempt itself go?

On Friday, June 7, I started the record attempt on the closed cycling course of WV Amsterdam just after 6 am. I got up at half past four and immediately drank a large cup of coffee so that I could leave number 2 in the toilet. After all, that is not possible on a bicycle without using your hands, or at least that was not the record I was trying to break.

At 6 o’clock we did the last checks. Are the tires pumped? Is the bicycle in the right gear? After all, you can no longer switch gears during the attempt. Is the GoPro on my chest turned on? Stopwatches on? Guinness World Records forms ready and completed?

There was virtually no wind early in the morning, which was also the reason I started so early. Later in the day it would be windier and I knew from the training that with too much wind the balance becomes very difficult.

These are laps of 2.5 kilometers, and after 52 laps the current record of 130 kilometers would have been broken. The course is flat, but has one bridge, where you have to climb quite a bit. Because you can’t shift gears, you have to go at a good speed to keep enough balance when you get to the top. The advantage is that when descending from the bridge I was able to stand on the pedals without hands, so that my butt could get off the saddle for a while during each lap. And it gave me the chance to pee off the bike. The question is of course: how do you pee on a bicycle without hands? So when I wanted to pee, I picked up speed, stood on the pedals with my right arm resting on the saddle, and then peed straight over my bike with my left hand. Not super hygienic, but better than peeing in my pants, and I could always clean my frame with the water from my water bottles.

My first goal was 100 kilometers, anything below that would have been a complete disappointment. But at almost 90 kilometers I almost touched my handlebars out of habit. At that moment I would never have started again because it would never be possible to cycle another 130 kilometers without hands after those 90 kilometers.

At least, that’s what I thought, because eventually I would double the old record and cycle another 170 kilometers after those 90 kilometers. But at that point the record attempt was almost over.

In the end, apart from rabbits and angry goose mothers getting close to my wheels, I managed to get through the 100 kilometers smoothly. My next goal was the record: 130 kilometers. I started to get quite a bit of cramping, but I had a group of great volunteers who passed me food and water, and they gave me water bottles with lots of salt and minerals in them. I also drove relatively fast at 27.5 kilometers per hour, and then I decided to drive one kilometer per hour slower. That helped, and I broke the record without any problems, and then the question was how far I could go.

A question that I expected my ass to answer. During training I often quickly developed serious saddle pain. However, I had found a sustainable clothing sponsor and the bib shorts from Velor which I had only had for a week, made my butt really hurt much less than my other shorts. Those shorts not only saved my day, but maybe saved a life. I asked people to donate per kilometer and thanks to the help of Marvia, The Life You Can Save and more than 100 donors, I raised almost 100 euros per lap for the Against Malaria Foundation. This foundation is about 100 times more effective than an average charity, and with 100 euros they arrange malaria prevention for almost 100 people, mainly children. AMF has already saved tens of thousands of lives, and today it would save two more.

So the pain in my legs and butt was temporary. The pain of the 600,000 children who die every year from malaria is unthinkable. At 100 euros per lap it proved to be an incredible motivation to continue and put my pain into perspective. I had now broken the record and was aiming for my target of 150 kilometers. I achieved that quite easily because it was less than 1 hour of cycling from the record and only 8 laps.

Back then, 200 kilometers was a logical but seriously far goal. That was another two hours of cycling, and I was already quite tired mentally and physically and in quite a bit of pain. But my cycling buddy Bruno cycled behind me, and my parents, friends and my girlfriend Isa cheered from the side every lap, which provided distraction and extra energy. B and I discussed the strategy to go as far as possible. I knew from previous challenges that pain and exhaustion come and go in waves, so we agreed that if I really didn’t want to and couldn’t do it anymore, I would at least wait until that feeling disappeared for a while. At 175 kilometers it came to a point where I really didn’t want to do it anymore, but I waited until that feeling subsided, and just before the magical 200 I started to feel good again and so achieved that goal too. I decided to continuously set new goals so that I could always ride towards something. It really helped knowing that I was raising 100 euro’s more for AMF every 6 minutes (time it took me to do a lap).

8 hours on the bike, it was Friday after all and therefore just a working day. 216 kilometers.

222.2 km, a nice goal for a numbers nerd like me.

100 laps, 250 kilometers.

And then I was really done with it. I had a lot of pain in my butt, hips, knee and my achilles heel slowly started to inflame. But especially mentally it started to crack. 10 hours of focusing on not falling, all the preparation and all the anxiety about everything that could have gone wrong started to win over my will to save lives. I never expected that mental limit to be so far, and I really thought I would have difficulty reaching 150 kilometers. But it was only 5 rounds until the record was doubled, and that can be counted on one hand, so that would still be possible.

So I sped up, so that I could get rid of it as quickly as possible. I indicated to all the spectators that these were my last laps, and they shouted me to victory. After 104 laps I had doubled the record, but I wanted to make sure I hadn’t missed a single lap, so I did another lap just to be sure.

Immediately after I crossed the finish line I started shaking and crying. The combination of physical and mental exhaustion, breaking the record, and enough donations to save not one, but two children’s lives all came rushing out at once in my girlfriends and parents arms.

The new record

I drove exactly 262.5 kilometers in 9:45 hours with an average of 26.8 kilometers per hour. We raised €9,408 for charity, a number that might increase or decrease whether people actually donate what they pledged. We will save at least two lives and prevent a lot of malaria in the coming years. This amount will cover the purchase and distribution of almost 5,000 malaria nets that will protect almost 10,000 people from malaria. The local economy will improve by more than €100,000 due to less illness and more health.