Remembering Mike Hall: The greatest ultra endurance cyclist ever lived
I met Mike Hall on June 6, 2014, a day before the inaugural Trans America Bike Race 2014 which was to begin from Astoria, Oregon and end 4,200 miles later in Yorktown, Virginia. I remembered my first thought, “he’s too soft spoken and sweet to be a beast on the bike!”
The next day, I began the Trans America Bike Race with Mike Hall and Juliana Buhring (the fastest man and woman to circumnavigate the globe on a bicycle in 92 and 142 days respectively) and 20 something other incredible cyclists. Long story short, I didn't complete the race but continued my ride east via an alternative route, ending 4,000 miles later at Baltimore, Maryland instead.
Mike was there at a prominent and defining moment in my life. That bike ride (Trans America Bike Race 2014) changed my life from a comfort seeker to a dream chaser, a spoilt brat to a focused individual, a food lover to a life lover. That bike ride gave me a purpose and continues to steer me in the direction of my dreams today. Mike showed me that it is possible to ride through any storm that life throws at you - his sheer determination in the face of the most challenging troubles to behold racers (unforgiving weather and rough road elements) to emerge a winner time and again, in one grueling race after another, is testament of the man of steel that he was made up of.
Mike transformed the world of ultra endurance cycling by pioneering and founding the TransContinental Bike Race across Europe in 2013, out of which many other ultra endurance races across different countries in the world have emerged, including but not limited to the Trans America Bike Race (America, inaugural 2014, founded by Nathan Jones), TransAtlantic Way Race (Ireland, inaugural 2016, founded by Adrian O’Sullivan), and the Indian Pacific Wheel Race (Australia inaugural 2017, founded by Jesse Carlson).
Has he always been an ultra endurance cyclist? No, he participated in local cyclocross races in Cardiff, England for fun in his late teens and it wasn’t until 2011 when he raced the Tour Divide, a 2,745-mile bikepacking trail (where racers carry their clothes, food, sleeping tents and other essentials with them on their bike) through steep elevation, deep snow and remote terrain from Banff, Canada to New Mexico, USA, that he became hooked onto ultra endurance cycling. Despite it being his very first such race, he finished in 11th position (among 67 participants).
The following year, in 2012, once again he upped his own challenge by becoming the fastest man to circumnavigate the globe (18,000 miles) on a bicycle in 93 days. That’s an average of 193 miles per day for three consecutive months!
He raced the Tour Divide again in 2013 and came in first.
In 2014, he raced the inaugural Trans America Bike Race organized by fellow ultra endurance cyclist and long time friend, Nathan Jones, and no surprises, Mike won that race, beating 20-something other cyclists to the finish line in 17 incredible days. He rode an average of 250 miles per day during that race, cycling some 23 hours per day and taking only cat naps totaling 90 minutes per day.
In 2016, Mike once again raced the Tour Divide and won it for the second time.
If Mike Hall wasn’t super human, I don’t know who else is. In fact, his website is aptly named “Normally Aspirated Human” and his Twitter handle, “Normally Human”. Which I interpret as, outside of cycling, he’s normally human, but put him on a bike, he’s superhuman. Of course he doesn’t say that, but for those who know him well, they know that he was an incredible human being alright.
Mike wasn’t just a cyclist - yes he loved anything and everything bicycle and spent almost every available hour on the bike - he was a design engineer in an aerospace company and a much loved individual - messages of the amazing man that he was, the kind man that he was, the sweet friend and brother he was, the awe-inspiring cyclist that he was, are evidenced all over social media.
I’m in as much grief, shock and unbelief as the rest of the world of endurance cyclists are, by Mike’s shocking death after a collision with a car at the Monaro Highway on the outskirts of Canberra at 6.20am on Friday, March 31, 2017 during his participation in the Indian Pacific Wheel Race. He was 200-something miles short of reaching the finishing line at the Sydney Opera House, a feat he would have easily accomplished in 24 hours. It is by sharing the legacy of this extraordinary man that I hope to bring some comfort to those seeking answers to this awful tragedy and loss that binds us all.