Carpark Everesting Bad decisions make good stories
It may have been the middle of the off-season, but that wasn’t going to stop Raphael trying to pull off a pretty crazy stunt. While the rest of us were busy polishing off the last of the festive treats and snoozing on the sofa, the long-distance specialist used the otherwise-dull period between Christmas and New Year’s to attempt the world’s first Everesting of a car park. His partner-in-crime was Magnus Heller, better known to most as the brains behind the Roadbike Party YouTube channel. Unfortunately, their first attempt met an abrupt end. So, they organised an advance permit for their second attempt – to avoid being thwarted again in the middle of their historic endeavour.
Who came up with the idea?
Raphael: I saw a picture on Instagram a friend posted of him riding in a multi-storey car park at BER Airport. I thought that was pretty cool. Magnus was also up for it, so we decided relatively quickly to do it the day before the opening, that is, before things really got going at the new airport.
Some people spend a lot of time trying to find the ideal climb to ‘Everest’. Did you think much about the car park’s suitability beforehand?
Raphael: I’d never seen the car park at BER in real life, but it wouldn’t have made any difference, anyway. Of course, I prepare and think about when I should eat and so on. But for us, it never mattered whether the route was ideal because we had no alternative anyway. We were also both surprised we didn’t get more dizzy.
Magnus: At BER, we rode up seven floors with a 5-6 % incline. That went quite well. In terms of location, the new car park was a bit different: at BER everything is so new and empty. In contrast, we had completely different conditions for our second attempt in the middle of Berlin’s Neukölln area, where there’s always something going on.
Raphael: At the car park in Neukölln we gained 22 metres of altitude per lap. The outer lane had a 12-13 % gradient and the inner lane 18-19 %, which is more than steep enough!
Why did you have to abandon the first attempt?
Magnus: After five hours of riding at BER, security changed shifts at around 8 am, and a member of staff turned up who wasn’t so into our idea. We had to leave. This was pretty surprising because the other guards had been really cool up to that point.
Raphael: We were even willing to start the whole thing again and went to another car park, but this one only had three floors and a barrier we would’ve had to crawl under every time. So yeah…no thanks!
What time did you start your second attempt?
Raphael: At 5 am; we wanted to get a bit of sleep beforehand. It was really hard this time because we rode in complete darkness for the last 13-14 hours. On top of that, a multi-story car park in the middle of Neukölln can be, ahem, ‘interesting’! We left our stuff on the top floor and there was a guy up there who could well have been on drugs. As we arrived ‘upstairs’ at one point, he said he would’ve “stolen everything” if we’d got up there just a few seconds later. We’d also left a huge plastic bag with food and a pump which disappeared at some point during in the evening. We still had a good ten hours ahead of us and both only half a litre of water left, which wasn’t ideal. So, we had to go to the supermarket and stock up on chocolate and cola.
Magnus: There was more going on than you would’ve thought. A lady got into her car and wanted to know why we were riding in circles. She came back the next morning and was quite amazed that we were still there. The security guard we met at the very beginning came back in the evening and wanted to know where we had slept. He was great! In principle, we did his shift together with him and he let us stash our bags in his car by the end.
Were there moments where you’d had enough and thought about throwing in the towel?
Magnus: After about 4000 metres of altitude, I really felt like I’d had enough. If the car park had spontaneously burnt down right then and there, I probably wouldn’t have shed any tears; but I eventually got back into it. I felt tired at one point, but I recovered. I think it’s normal to get demotivated at certain points, no matter how many sweets you eat.
Raphael: I felt the same way. It really hurt from 5000 metres onwards. But otherwise, I was quite sure that we’d do it. The gradient might have been less steep at BER, but we would’ve had to go up and down so many times that it would’ve quickly stopped being funny. I found the night super hard, so I put my headphones in, gritted my teeth and carried on until the end. Our rhythms had to adapt throughout the course of the evening. I also laid down in the stairwell for a power nap once.
Magnus: My routine was to ride for about an hour and climb about 500 metres before taking a break. It definitely stopped being fun at some point – but eventually I realised I’d complete the challenge as long as my knee didn’t pack up and I didn’t have any other major problems. It just worked out somehow.
Were you filming it too?
Magnus: My girlfriend Laura filmed some bits while she was there, and I gave an update on my physical and mental condition every 2000 metres or so. I had the GoPro strapped to my chest, which didn’t really bother me, although there’s not so much to see on my recordings; mainly just us going up on one side of the road and coming down the other. Laura got some good footage, though: you can enjoy watching us suffer and see all the crazy characters coming and going from a Neukölln car park.
How did your bike computers deal with continuously riding up and down this massive block of concrete?
Magnus: For me, the first 400 metres of altitude weren’t recorded because I hadn’t coupled my speed sensor. As you say, it’s a concrete block and you have relatively poor reception. If you don’t pair the speed sensor to the computer, it doesn’t record so accurately.
Raphael: We investigated this beforehand and were advised to start the computers outside. They then know the altitude and should work, even if you ride indoors. For me, everything worked perfectly until exactly 6581 metres of altitude. Then my computer crashed and kept restarting. Luckily, I had a buddy with me who had a replacement. I used his for a few laps until my computer repaired the file and started working again.
Magnus: My computer crashed when I finished. That means the fit file was completely corrupted, although I could see up to exactly which point it was still ok. I do have proof we completed on video, though. So yeah, it’s not in the record book, which is a shame, but I can still brag about it. The first-ever car park Everesting!
How long did it take you in the end?
Raphael: For me it was 24 hours and 5 minutes. We definitely didn’t set any speed records.
What’s the next challenge after completing a car park Everesting?
Magnus: The question of how many kilometres you can do on Tempelhofer Feld in one day has been rattling around my head for a long time. You can also do it off-road across the meadow, but of course, only in summer because the field is open longer then. You have 18 hours to see how far you can go. The bar is quite high, however, because Christoph Strasser set the 24-hour world record there, riding 896 kilometres.
Raphael: I’ve thought about a double Everesting, but if I’m realistic, I’d have to ride much faster. When you have to sneak around like we do, it just takes too long. If I could do a single Everesting in 12-13 hours, that would be possible, but that’s a long way off. And maybe not necessarily in a multi-storey car park again…
Magnus: Yeah, I’m well and truly over the multi-storey car park thing. I dread every little ramp now!
Got any closing words for us?
Raphael: Thanks to Laura, Carlos and my brother, who took care of the media. A few friends came by – and there were a few Americans skating, which helped enormously because you knew you weren’t alone and saw some people every now and then. As soon as they left, it got really shitty!
Magnus: It wouldn’t have been nearly as relaxed (laughing) without all the support we had, so thank you!
Read Raphael’s personal experience report on his blog https://cyclingrapha.com/
If you don’t know Magnus’ YouTube channel yet, you should definitely tune in to Roadbike Party for a good dose of entertainment.
Fotocredits: Carlos Meyer https://carlosmeyer.com/
Text: Martin Ohliger