Interview Raphael

1. Who are you and when did you discover cycling?

I‘m Raphael and in my first life I was a semi-professional table tennis player! I only discovered cycling about 3 years ago while crossing the Alps with my little brother. A year later, I cycled through Georgia, Armenia and Iran with a friend and discovered the Silk Road Mountain Race while scrolling through Instagram. It quickly became clear: that’s what I want to be doing. 

Two DNFs (did not finish) followed, at the Italy Divide and Bikepacking Transgermany, before I was actually able to successfully compete in the Silk Road Mountain Race in Kyrgyzstan. This was also the starting point for many other ultra-distance projects on the bike: tours through Mexico, Guatemala and Belize, the Atlas Mountain Race, Orbit360 Gravel Series, Everesting Brocken, the Apidura 24-hour Parallels challenge, Two Volcano Sprint, Car Park Everesting, the Race Around Rwanda…

2. Why do you ride a bike?

I come from a touring background and have always associated cycling with discovering new countries and cultures. Compared to passing through in a car, on a bike you’re much closer to the people and environment, people welcome you with open arms when they find out what you’re doing. At the same time, cycling allows me to indulge my competitive side, which is always there in the background telling me to push harder. 

Last but not least, cycling means freedom for me. It doesn’t matter if it’s just a short 2-3-hour ride, a multi-day ride or even week-long ultra-endurance race: being on the bike gives me time to think about different things and forces me to be more self-aware. 

3. Why is your VOTEC the perfect bike for you?

I’ve been able to ride the VRC on all kinds of roads and paths. This ranges from a 2 Volcano Sprint on Italian roads to an Everesting challenge in a parking garage, to Rwandan volcanic rock roads. ‘All-road’ is completely and 100% accurate! 

4. Why should people go for a ride with you?

Difficult question. Maybe others should answer that or we should answer it as a team?! Basically, I’m always happy to have company and I’m up for any kind of talk. I’m also happy to talk about things other than cycling, honest!

5. Is there a cycling experience that’s had a particular impact on you?

Definitely the Silk Road Mountain Race. I’d often had doubts before that. I’d asked myself if I had to go the Ultra Distance route or whether ‘just cycling’ was enough. The Ultras push you to your (mental) limits, which also means you have to make sacrifices in other areas. Finishing the SRMR was a game changer – after that I knew for sure I was up to the ‘ultra’ thing.

6. What’s your perfect weekend?

Spending Friday night together with friends. Saturday a long ride (with friends), sleeping outside if necessary. Sunday riding back and enjoying the rest of the weekend.

7. What are your plans for this season? What are you looking forward to and what are you dreading?

As a rule, I’m never afraid. That’s not meant to sound macho, but I like cycling without too much pressure. So, there’s really nothing to be afraid of. After many race cancellations in 2021, I want to really go for it on my own Orbit360 Gravel Series. If the Bohemian Border Bash race takes place, I’m definitely up for it. Otherwise we’ll see what comes up in this unplannable year.

8. If you could change one thing about the cycling world, what would it be and why?

Even though I can identify with a large part of the cycling world, I’d like to see less self-promotion – with Instagram etc. there’s an awful lot of superficiality. I see less and less truly important, inspirational stories and more superficiality and ego. 

Apart from that, I’d also like to see cycling opened up to the masses. Most cycling products are simply too expensive – whether it’s bikes, clothes or accessories. On the other hand, it’s very easy to say these things – you have to see the wider picture. 

9. How could cycling be made more accessible to everyone?

Lower prices would help! Inclusion instead of exclusion – that’s what I’m trying to get into the heads of the Orbit360 participants. It should be about fun instead of performance. Each to their own.

10. If you could just cycle for a year without thinking about money or obligations, what would you do?

I did that after I quit my job as a management consultant. I spent almost exactly one year travelling around the world; I met people, connected with other cultures, learned a lot about myself and cycled.

11. What do you do when you’re not on your bike? 

I’m either out with friends or working on my own project, the Orbit360 Gravel Series.

12. What role do you see yourself playing in the VOTEC ENDEAVOR PROJECT? 

I see myself as an ultra-adventure guy. ‘Don’t say you can do it; do it’ is my motto. In just two years I’ve developed into a solid cyclist. Solid, however, is still quite far away from ‘competitive’ cycling.