The Badlands 2020

Self-supported ultracycling through Spain

720 kilometres and 15.000 metres of elevation in a maximum of seven days. No checkpoints, no warm hotel bed waiting for you at the end of a long day. Just you, your bike, and your equipment. Through the rough, vast landscape of Spain’s BADLANDS. Through the only European desert and up steep gravel passes. Incredible views far away from civilisation as the motivation, unforgettable impressions as the reward.

The unsupported, ultracycling gravel series Transibérica is an adventure of a lifetime. An adventure, Karl and Nis set off for in early September.
In a short interview the two report about the their trip (which they finished in only 132 hours and 39 minutes), what they experienced, and their pro-tips for all bikepacking newbies.

A few cyclists riding through the heat of the desert by day.

“Moin moin, we are Nis and Karl. We both came to our bike passion via BMX. Before the Badlands, we toured through Europe and Brazil on track bikes with our friends of @hardbrakers.”

What was your motivation to join this event?

“We both love to spend time in nature and far away from civilisation. Self-supported bikepacking events combine this perfectly with our passion for bikes.”

How did you feel during the race?

“Fantastic! Without exaggerating, it was probably the best thing we ever experienced on two wheels. We had problems with our tubeless setup at one point, but apart from that it went just great. The route is breathtaking, in terms of fitness and aesthetics. Super varied! From Granada we went up into the Sierra Nevada, through the Gorafe Desert, the Tabernas Desert down to the coast through the Cabo de Gata Nature Reserve and over the 3200 metres high Veleta Pass. We also met a lot of great people and the organisers did an incredible job. Shoutout to @transiberica!”

What was your bike setup like?

“Ortlieb bags, Nordisk camping gear and two turbo fast, featherlight and incredibly comfortable Rose Bikes. We equipped them with five FIDLOCK bases, three on or under the frame and two on the fork. This setup not only looks sexy, but is also incredibly variable. The TWIST uni connector could be equipped according to our needs. Before the long desert section, we filled these with water, or the Aero Press, olive oil, and dry bags. Now after the tour, it is also perfect to take a bluetooth speaker on the tour.
Under the frame, we both had the practical FIDLOCK toolbox mounted. Here’s a little tip if the zip gets dirty with mud: a few drops of chain oil will do wonders.”

Bike packed with a few bags, two TWIST bottles and the TWIST toolbox - perfectly prepared for their adventure.

How did you spend the nights?

“Always under the stars, wrapped in our Nordisk sleeping bags. In the desert, on the coast right on a steep cliff, and one night in the rain at the foot of the mountain.”

What were your highlights? And were there any lowlights?

“The highlights are almost uncountable! Every hillbomb, whether MTB trails, smooth serpentines, or the ski slope after the Veleta Pass. The unbelievable variety of flora and fauna, the nice people, the great avocados, the encounters with herding dogs, goats and sheep, enjoying fine home-brewed coffee at sunrise, the starry sky every night and and and and…
We actually only had one lowlight – we had too much confidence in the tubeless setup and went a bit too crazy the first days down the rough hills. The result was three big dents in the rims, broken tires and a lot of tubeless milk everywhere it wasn’t supposed to be. But that’s also part of it!”

Karl cycling though the rough vegetation of the desert.

What did you eat on the tour?

“We mainly looked after ourselves in supermarkets or tiendas. There were mostly avocados, nuts, dates, olive oil and other fruits and vegetables on the menu.
Only for one section through the desert we had to plan ahead, because there was no supply for about 180 km. But apart from that we could stuff our bellies and pockets in every small village.”

Did the Corona pandemic have any influence on the event?

“Hardly, since we were far away from any civilisation most of the time. Only the obligatory masks in markets reminded us of the pandemic.”

Did you practice for the event? What tips do you have for future participants?

“Not really, we both generally ride our bikes a lot. But because it was our first event like that, we didn’t really know what to expect.
Most important tip: Everyone should register for the Badlands 2021 without thinking about it!
The Transiberica gives a detailed briefing the day before the start, which prepares the participants perfectly. So all worries are unnecessary.”

Do you have any pro tips for people who would love to do a trip like this but are still scared?

“Since it was the first event like this for us as well, we would describe ourselves more as absolute beginners – we are no pros by all means.
But one tip would be to ride your bike carefully and take some speed out of the rough downhills. Pay attention to your nutrition – resist the temptation of stuffing yourself with junk food when you get to a shopping opportunity after a time without food or drinks. At first, a cucumber and water may not be as attractive as chocolate bars or a coke. But after the next hard climb you are really glad about it.
We also had Zechstein Magnesium oil for the legs, electrolytes, spirulina/chlorella tabs, and Vaay CBD sports cream with us.
And during hard and long climbs, Wim Hof breathing helps incredibly. The stopping phases are naturally very short, but it generates power!“

Do you have any tips for bikepacking newbies?

“Just do short trips or overnighters as often as possible. Each time you get more experienced in what you pack, how to pack, and where to pack it.”

What could you take home from the event? What did you learn?

“There has been a latent addiction to events like the Badlands. We cannot wait to start somewhere again. It is an incredibly efficient reset for body, mind, and soul. The technological development of our society has led to a very high level of comfort in everyday life. However, we are biologically designed to go beyond our limits from time to time.
Similar to therapeutic fasting, sauna, ice bathing or pushing yourself to physical limits. All these things really do an incredible amount of good once you get used to them.”

Bike on a hill in the desert.