“If long distance bicycle racing was a form of punishment, it would be illegal.” – unknown
We are excited to bring you this exclusive interview with Jonathan Shubert who plans to set a NEW World Record!
On 11th February, Jonathan will attempt the almost superhuman feat of cycling 1,300km across Oman. The current fastest time for this journey, on a bicycle, sits at 6 days. Jonathan intends to obliterate this mark and, in doing so, establish a new world record at less than 48 hours!
This British-cycling champion and endurance athlete is no stranger to daunting challenges. Back in 2013-14, he cycled an unassisted 30,000km around the world through 3 continents and 29 countries. He’s also snatched up national cycling titles and medals in both the 12- and 24-hour championships.
Today, we hear from Jonathan—a science school teacher—on how he’s training for this challenge, what his concerns are, what his motivation is, and how he entered the world of cycling.
Follow Jonathan’s attempt to set a New World Record with live tracking on our Explorer’s Page (Click Here!) and on Instagram @ub.cool.
If you are in Muscat, don’t miss the chance to meet Jonathan live at ub-cool TALKS tonight! Click here for event info >
ub-cool: What inspired you to take on this 48-Hour Challenge? When did the idea come to you?
Jonathan Shubert: I feel privileged to feel the pride and contentment which accompanies my achievements on a bicycle. I certainly haven’t felt I have had anything new to prove to myself recently.
Living and working in the Middle East, I felt compelled to do something to help people afflicted by the tragic conflicts that play out in this part of the world. With my cycling pedigree, I realised that I could use my talent for long distance cycling to raise awareness and fund raise for victims of war. These thoughts spiraled until I had chosen a charity and conceived an idea crazy enough to nearly kill me and, in doing so, grab people’s attention: cycle 1300km across Oman in under 48 hours.
Watch Jonathan Shubert explain the 48-Hour Challenge:
“What drives my motivation is knowing that my suffering—attempting to push myself this far, this hard, and for this long—can help to relieve the suffering of others, which has been far worse and far more prolonged than anything I can imagine.
This is what makes all the weeks, days, and hours of training and preparation worthwhile and what will keep me moving in the night when the record attempt gets tough.”
ub-cool: Why have you chosen to attempt this World Record in Oman as opposed to the UK or elsewhere?
Jonathan Shubert: I have lived and worked in Oman for three years; I love the country, I love the people. So, firstly, I’m already here, secondly, the road infrastructure and the topography of the country is amazing and thirdly, as a resident of Oman, I feel compelled to do something to assist with problems in the region, however small my contribution.
Jonathan’s planned route for the World Record Attempt on 11th February in Oman
ub-cool: What are you most apprehensive about during the upcoming record attempt?
Jonathan Shubert: Over such a long period of time there are opportunities for many things to go wrong; so, planning for every eventuality is essential.
Dehydrating, hypernatremia, and gastric distress are all things that could profoundly slow me down. But, I have worked out some very clever strategies with one of British Cycling and Team Sky’s chief nutritionists to minimize these risks, which involves everything from putting stockings full of ice cubes down my back to loading myself full of sodium bicarbonate two hours before I start to help draw more water into my blood.
Discomfort on the bike like hot foot, chafing, and saddle sores are a concern and, again, can really hamper performance. I will be using shammy cream and special body geometry materials to relieve the pressure on my contact points.
Jonathan leading the breakaway group before winning the tour of Oman support race in 2017 | Image Source: Jonathan Shubert
ub-cool: How does this challenge differ from your previous cycling achievements?
Jonathan Shubert: In the past, my ultra-endurance races have always been for pre-determined durations…
“the fact that this doesn’t finish until I arrive… scares me a little.”
Attempting such a feat in the Middle East poses added challenges that I have never had to deal with before; most notably, coping with heat and dehydration, but also the dust and its effect on my respiratory system.
Cycling Equipment for the World Record Attempt
Cycling 1300km requires incredible strength and determination. But, it also requires reliable cycling equipment to help you perform at your best. For this record attempt, Jonathan chose these companies for his cycling gear.
A giant trinity advanced SL2, equipped with Zipp 808 NSW wheels, a dura ace 11spd groupset, and a Quarq D4 powermeter.
Jonathan’s giant trinity advanced SL2 bike | Image Source: Jonathan Shubert
Quarq D4 powermeter with Absolute Black osymetric chainrings | Image Source: Jonathan Shubert
Giro mips aerohead: This proved to be the fastest helmet as it has been scrutinized under very accurate drag coefficient testing. The helmet has been painted white to match the design of the record-attempt skinsuit and to help reflect heat rather than absorb it.
The Giro mips aerohead helmet Jonathan will use for challenge | Image Source: Jonathan Shubert
Bioracer: This brand produces some of the fastest cycle clothing in the world. It is now understood that as the rider is much larger than the bicycle, his/ her clothing is far more important when it comes to reducing drag than the bicycle itself. A special cut of material used by the British team for the 2016 road-world championships in Doha is being brought out of retirement for this record attempt. This material employs far more breathable panels than a regular skinsuit, which focuses predominantly on speed, whereas this places an emphasis on cooling and breathability.
Team GB breathable road skinsuit, as ridden by Mark Cavendish to silver in the 2016 Doha road world championship | Image Source: Jonathan Shubert
I always choose to use mountain bike shoes over road shoes for long distance races simply due to added comfort and support; so, I’ll be using the Specialized s-works tarmac shoes which I cycled around the world in back in 2013-14.
Specialized s-works tarmac shoes | Image Source: Evenscycles.com
Training for the World Record Attempt
ub-cool: How do you train for an almost impossible human feat?
Jonathan Shubert: It might not come as a surprise that training involves lots of long rides. These don’t exceed eight hours as I find no further gain from travelling for any longer; but, I do back them up one after another on consecutive days at the weekends as a good trick for developing endurance further. I also include a couple of hours of threshold-based workouts each week to maintain my top-end speed.
ub-cool: How often do you train?
Jonathan Shubert: Between 12 – 18 hours a week.
ub-cool: How far in advance did you begin training for this challenge?
Jonathan Shubert: Specific training began in mid December.
ub-cool: Do you need to prepare differently emotionally and mentally for this challenge as compared to your previous challenges and races?
Jonathan Shubert: Probably an even greater benefit of long training rides than building physical endurance, is training your mind. If unconditioned, I find a three-hour ride to seem like an eternity. When I practice eight-hour rides, my mental perspective and perception of time change and at six hours in I feel like I have only just begun.
“My intention is to start early in the morning and finish the following evening. If I extend this time frame, I risk travelling into a second night of tiredness which I have never experienced and which I have been warned is much harder than staying awake for the first night. Fingers crossed I don’t find myself in that situation.”
Jonathan’s route for the unassisted 30,000km circumnavigation of the globe from March 2013 – March 2014
Diet Schedule for the World Record Attempt
ub-cool: What diet do you maintain ahead of such a challenge?
Jonathan Shubert: The route lacks substantial elevation gain; despite this, I have been gradually dropping my body weight in an effort to improve my body’s ability to cool down in the midday heat. I adhere to a whole food, largely plant-based diet to do this.
I have also been abstaining from caffeine to ensure my body is as responsive as possible to it as a stimulant during the nighttime hours of the race.
ub-cool: How far in advance did you begin following this diet?
Jonathan Shubert: I always try to eat healthily but I have been focusing on lowering my weight for six weeks; this is the same amount of time I have spent shaking with coffee-withdrawal symptoms.
ub-cool: How many times a day do you eat?
Jonathan Shubert: With my elevated training load, I am burning close to 5000Kcal a day, so I consume four large meals and plenty of healthy snacks in between.
Breaking the British 24-hour team record in 2016, covering a cumulative distance of 2478km between three riders | Photo Credit: @fabulouSport Photography
Sponsors and Future Adventures
ub-cool: Are you self-funded for this attempt or do you have sponsors?
Jonathan Shubert: Yes and no; I have made a sizeable personal investment in this record attempt, but it wouldn’t be possible without the support and assistance of my sponsors: Oman Bicycle shop, Prismic media, Husaak, and by far the most directly involved, Medina Ilyassova and her team at ub-cool.
ub-cool: If one of our readers wants to attempt a World Record themselves, in any sport, what advice would you give them?
Jonathan Shubert: Be meticulous, be scientific, and use technology.
“There is a reason world record times continue to fall in all sports and it’s not because the human blueprint is any different to 100 years ago.”
ub-cool: After the World Record attempt on Feb 11th, what is the first thing you’ll do?
Jonathan Shubert: Unfortunately, unlike running a 10km race where there is an almost instantaneous sense of relief, this is far less profound after such long feats.
“I will most probably be incapable of walking, eating, sleeping and generally incapacitated. But, after 24 hours, I can look forward to lying on a beach and reading a good book.”
ub-cool: What’s next? Any idea of what and where your next challenge will be?
Jonathan Shubert: I have begun toying with the idea of cycling back to the UK from Oman, largely through the Arab-speaking world but this is currently just a pipe dream.
Jonathan cycling across the Pamir mountains into China at the start of winter in late 2013 | Image Source: Jonathan Shubert
A Passion For Cycling
ub-cool: Let’s step back a minute. How did you get into endurance cycling competitively?
Jonathan Shubert: Cycling has always been in my blood, a pastime I grew up around and something I never had to search too far to find. My grandfather had been a great cycling champion in the 1930s; he was a time-trial-record holder and three times winner of the Irish 24-hour time trial championship, amongst other notable accolades. My father, in succession, passed his knowledge of the beautiful sport down to me, decanting everything from riding etiquette and the countryman’s code, to how to build bicycles and lace a perfect wheel.
From the age of fourteen I had found my independence and was spending large portions of school holidays away from home with my friend Sam, bravely exploring remote corners of the British Isles. Throughout my latter teenage years, I took great pleasure spending my spare time building, tinkering, riding, racing, and exploring on my bicycles.
ub-cool: What do you love most about cycling?
Jonathan Shubert: I love the freedom it gives you – the exhilaration when you fly down a hill and around corners. I love how it allows you to get in touch with your surroundings and really feel and sense the world around you.
ub-cool: Do you excel in other sports as well?
Jonathan Shubert: Cycling is definitely my forte and where I channel most of my focus but I enjoy turning my hand to most sports.
Jonathan on his way through remote Kyrgyzstan on his round the world journey | Image Source: Jonathan Shubert
ub-cool: When you’re not cycling, do you enjoy other activities like camping, hiking or scuba diving?
Jonathan Shubert: One of the main reasons that I love Oman is because there is always adventure to be found and if I’m not on my bike you’re bound to find me in a wadi, a beach, or hiking in the mountains somewhere.