Chris Hall is a London-based cyclist. His love for huge (and, some might say, slightly unhinged) challenges for charity – such as 107 for 107 – brought him to the attention of the cycling community both in London and via social media. From there, Chris moved to long-distance cycling rides and races, including National 24, the Silk Road Mountain Race, and an epic trip across Australia. We caught up with him to talk to him about his cycling adventures and post-lockdown plans.
How did you get into cycling?
I always used to cycle as a kid, mainly MTB and just general mucking around off road with a bit of BMX. But I stopped when I was a teenager to play rugby. I then managed to absolutely destroy myself playing rugby (I wasn’t exactly the tallest prop out there) and that became the end of that career. I ended up putting on a lot of weight, I was about 120kg at my biggest. Cycling then became a way for me to get to and from university when I was studying, simply because I was skint. I bought a second hand bike that was a few sizes too big for me and that rekindled that child-like love again.
Let’s talk about 107 for 107 (107km for 107 days). Was that your first ‘major’ challenge or had you done any crazy stuff before that?
107 for 107 wasn’t the first ‘challenge’ I had done, but it’s probably the most well known. I cycled 107km every day, through the winter whilst balancing a full-time job. I was getting up around 4am to go and ride before work, filling myself up with coffee and doing a shift (back then I worked as an architect). That early start became later and later as the week went on and I ended up having to ride more and more distance in the evening. It was tough; it’s probably still the hardest thing I have done.
I did it in aid of the PACE Centre, a charity for 107 children with motor-based disorders such as cerebral palsy. It’s a charity that’s incredibly close to my heart. I guess the first big challenge I did was actually cycling around London’s Richmond Park for 24 hours, which was also for PACE.
Did that kickstart the next phase of your riding?
After 107 and the 24 hours in Richmond Park, I learnt that I was pretty good at going long, dealing with the pain, and had the stamina to do these things. So next I had a crack at the National 24 in 2017. I pulled out: I got pneumonia as the weather was absolutely horrific, around minus 3 at night in July (Wales can be horrible in the summer I learnt). Later on, I ended up getting shingles, which is effectively severe nerve damage and chronic fatigue which took me months to get over.
By that point, I had quit architecture and was working for Jam Cycling. I guess in the years that followed, I wanted to try and see if I could find my limit. I’ve maybe hit the physical one once or twice but not through my own doing. I’ve had some incredibly unlucky crashes but I definitely haven’t found that mental limit yet.
In 2018 I did the National 24 again, coming eighth and breaking the Under 30 British record. I then headed out to Kyrgyzstan to do the Silk Road Mountain Race, which ended up with me crashing off a mountain and breaking that bike!
In 2019, I was back to the National 24 with another top 10 finish, breaking the Under 30 European record. Then Australia came. That trip was more for fun, with my mate Francis and I exploring a country I absolutely love. I’m keen to go back and see more. Although it was 20 days of riding from Perth to Melbourne (look it up on a map… it’s HUGE) there’s still so much more to explore there. I guess it was a natural progression to keep pushing myself and keep some focus and momentum going forward. Selfishly I like the pain and I love inspiring others to try new things. The messages of support and kind words regularly blow me away and I feel unbelievably lucky.
What appeals to you about these kind of long distance rides and races?
They are slow enough for me to be competitive! Ha ha I joke! I always just think seeing a new country is a part of it. Plus they are epic. The whole challenge scares me a lot of the time. What’s the point of doing things if it doesn’t scare you. That’s why I challenge myself. To scare myself and give these things my absolute best.
What’s your bike and kit set-up?
I’m now sponsored by Cervélo, who have kindly kitted me out with pretty much everything a cyclist could ever want! I have an S5 and an R3 for shorter, more ‘normal’ races, a C3 for more bikepacking style races, an Aspero which will be for gravel races going forward (it’s being built up at the moment and I can’t wait to see it!), and a P-Series TT bike. They have always been my favourite bike brand and it’s flipping cool to work with them. All of my bikes are kitted out with Shimano groupsets and PRO components.
For bike packing I use a real mix of different things. When I rode across Australia, and for the Atlas Mountain Race, I was riding a custom-made WyndyMilla bike kitted out with Shimano and PRO Components and a Lauf fork. What I like about the Tailfin is the size of it: it is a lot larger than many of the other packs out there and also feels so much more stable compared to many others I have tested in the past.
Do you pack a little or a lot? What are your essentials? How do you decide what to take with you?
I try to pack as little as possible but I always end up bringing more than I need. Some of my essentials are a solar-powered charger, toothbrush, and toothpaste, sun cream, a Wahoo ROAM bike computer (and a spare ELEMNT, just in case). I usually take a jar of peanut butter for the tough days, as I love the stuff and it’s a great treat in case you can’t get it.
How are you managing riding during the Covid-19 lockdown?
I’m doing most of my riding indoors, to be honest. I use a Wahoo KICKR and spend a lot of time on Zwift. I’m planning on completing it, ha! I personally don’t feel too comfortable going out for long rides outside with the current crisis we are in. I know we are technically allowed to but I think several hours is probably taking the mickey a little. Doing a three-hour turbo session is way more efficient and mentally more taxing, so I feel like I’m actually doing better committing to it, in some weird kind of a way.
When we’re all out of lockdown, what’s next? Any big races planned in?
I have a few things in mind at the moment but as so much is up in the air, I’m not too sure what will be next. I had signed up for the Trans Pyrenees, which has now been moved to 2021, and Badlands which is in September but I was also planning a pretty epic bikepacking trip to fundraise for PACE again. So a lot will hang on whether I can make that work or if that moves to next year. One thing for sure, I’ll enjoy it when we can head out on these adventures again – and I’ll be as fit as I can be.
Chris rides with Tailfin the AeroPack Carbon X when he takes on these challenges. He enjoys the weight-saving qualities of the rigid seat pack, combined with the versatility of being able to mount side panniers when he needs extra space.
Thanks again Chris for talking to us, and sharing your experiences.
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