I awoke the same as any other day on 31 March 2017, grabbed a cup of coffee and sat down at my desk to start work. First things first: record my weight for the day, and check social media for any new cat photos … up popped an unexpected and unwelcome post: "RIP Mike Hall". WTF?!
Mike Hall was a pioneering adventure/endurance cyclist, who pushed the boundaries of mind, body, kit and equipment to win races and set records globally for feats of distance and speed that will seem mind-boggling for some time to come. Mike had only just started to come onto my radar as I felt the need to add more adventure to my cycling, in the past few months.
TCR — the Trans-Continental Race — was his baby, but I didn't know much about it, except what I'd learned from following Emily Chappell at the 2016 event, after chatting to her in the Port of Dover, when we pulled alongside in the next lane, and then following her progress and ultimately her pulling out due to health issues.
But TCR was just a sideshow for him — he won The Tour Divide a couple of times, the inaugural round-the-world race, set a record for the TransAm, and was within hours of completing the Pacific Wheel Race when he was run down by a motorist. As of May 2017 no specifics have been given of the incident and apparently nobody has been arrested.
When you read more about Mike's undertakings, achievements and his persona, you begin to realise how remarkable he was — dedicated and single-minded in his pursuits, and yet uniquely humble about his achievements. He set a shining example for cyclists all over the world to just get on and ride, and while doing that he also set a shining example for human beings all over the world to just get on.
It's a small world, though — I recognised that bridge Mike's standing on in the photo above immediately I saw it, even though I've only ever been there once, and it was raining when I got there. It's just below the Devil's Staircase on the lane between Beulah and Tregaron in mid-Wales. And typical of the cycling world, I know many people who knew Mike personally or in passing, and also knew Anna, his partner. Audax isn't that far removed from the ultra-ultra-distance riding that Mike revelled in.
I had already decided to try my hand at bikepacking and self-supported endurance riding before Mike's untimely demise, but his life — illuminated by his death — makes that something I want to do even more. To be even just a little more like Mike Hall will make me a better cyclist and a better person.
RIP Mike Hall. I never knew you until after-the-fact, but I wish I had known you then, if only be a little more like you.