Fastest human-powered crossing of Africa… on a race bike

Five-strong team plan to pedal 10,600km into record books

Right now a group of five riders are attempting to make the fastest human-powered crossing of Africa, covering 10,600km from Egypt down to South Africa – on race bikes.

The team will aim to cover 300-350km per day, and hope to arrive at the foot of Cape Town's Table Mountain less than 34 days after leaving Cairo. The UK's Mark Beaumont holds the current record at 41 days 10 hours and 22 minutes.

The journey is being dubbed the CaroCapRace, and is being led by another Brit – Nicholas Bourne – who already holds the world record for running across Africa from Cape Town to Cairo some 12 years ago. He raised over $300,000 for disadvantaged children with that record, and hopes to beat that figure this year.

The CaroCapRace team hope to raise funds for the provision of 1,100 bicycles, supporting the visionary work of World Bicycle Relief (a cause we support) and Qhubeka. Another cause is Safari Simbaz – an initiative to unearth and develop talent in underprivileged children in disadvantaged communities in Kenya.

The team looking rather fresh before the 34 or so days of pain begin : the team looking rather fresh before the 34 or so days of pain begin
The team looking rather fresh before the 34 or so days of pain begin : the team looking rather fresh before the 34 or so days of pain begin

The team looking fresh prior to the clock starting

In addition Nicholas Bourne, the team consists of Mark Blewett (South Africa), David Kinjah (Kenya), David Martin (Zimbabwe) and Adham Mahmoud (Egypt). The group is full of talent, including David Kinjah who was Chris Froome’s first mentor and early training partner.

Initially supporting the cause with equipment sponsorship, former pro Mark Blewett – the owner of carbon bike maker SwiftCarbon – decided to take part in the attempt himself. Given just how rugged some of the roads will be along the way, we were intrigued to know what equipment is being used.

The bike

Mark blewett's bike would look appropiate at the start line of an elite-level criterium, however, it's not what you expect for a distance world record attempt : mark blewett's bike would look appropiate at the start line of an elite-level criterium, however, it's not what you expect for a distance world record attempt
Mark blewett's bike would look appropiate at the start line of an elite-level criterium, however, it's not what you expect for a distance world record attempt : mark blewett's bike would look appropiate at the start line of an elite-level criterium, however, it's not what you expect for a distance world record attempt

Custom painted SwiftCarbon Ultravox Ti bikes for the CaroCapRace team

Interestingly, the bikes being ridden by the team are SwiftCarbon Ultravox Ti road race bikes, the same model used by the Drapac Pro Cycling race team. Doing this sort of distance on a sub-8kg bike is no doubt a testament to the modern race bike.

The frames being used are completely stock, with the paint being only modification. The custom CaroCapRace is the first example out of the brands upcoming ‘Swift ID’ custom paint program.

Blewett’s own ride features a Campagnolo Super Record 11-speed mechanical groupset, with an exception being the Rotor 3D+ crank and 53/39T Q-Rings.

Blewett likens his bike setup to that of one for Paris-Roubaix or similar cobbled classic. As he says, it’ll be a bit like doing a Paris-Roubaix, for 34 days straight.

Double wrapped bar tape with gel inserts beneath - a common choice in paris-roubaix : double wrapped bar tape with gel inserts beneath - a common choice in paris-roubaix
Double wrapped bar tape with gel inserts beneath - a common choice in paris-roubaix : double wrapped bar tape with gel inserts beneath - a common choice in paris-roubaix
 

Comfy bar wrapping for the distance

With this, his Zipp SL handlebars feature double wrapped Zipp bar tape with gel pads hidden beneath. And wrapped around the mid-depth carbon wheels are wide and comfy Vittoria Corsa 28c clinchers.

The Ritchey FlexLogic seat post is another item with the intention on increasing comfort. Here, the 27.2mm carbon post has increased flex built in to lessen the vibrations at the saddle.

Before starting, Mark Blewett said: “We’re confident enough to put our bikes on the line here – this is a true reliability test. When we’re done, we know they’ll survive anything.”

With such extreme conditions, each rider is expected to consume 15-20 litres of water and over 10,000 calories a day, a tall ask given they’ll hardly have time to stop for lunch.

While the team will be sleeping at the side of the roads each night, a full support team will be traveling in support of the guys, preparing food, drinks and a place to rest, making sure they can focus on the job at hand. Blewett expects his bikes to hold out, but predicts that they’ll wear out up to 25 bike chains and 60 tyres. Brake pads? Blewett claims none, which we find surprising given that the route appears to be entirely downhill when looking at a globe of the world (just joking).

How about riding through a 40 degree celcius sand storm? not our idea of a fun bike ride : how about riding through a 40 degree celcius sand storm? not our idea of a fun bike ride
How about riding through a 40 degree celcius sand storm? not our idea of a fun bike ride : how about riding through a 40 degree celcius sand storm? not our idea of a fun bike ride

Sand storm, and 40 Celsius degree heat? Not our idea of fun

The riders are well on the way through their attempt, having started on the 9th of October. Highlights of the route will include riding past the Giza Pyramids and Sphinx, the River Nile, Red Sea Coast, Blue Nile Falls, Mt Kenya, Mt Kilimanjaro, Victoria Falls, Kalahari Desert and, of course, Table Mountain.

For more information, visit www.carocaprace.com

Complete bike specifications

  • Frame: SwiftCarbon Ultravox Ti
, Swift*ID custom paint (Carocap colours)
  • Fork: SwiftCarbon Ultravox Ti (matched to frame)
  • Headset: FSA integrated

  • Stem: Zipp SL Sprint 120mm

  • Handlebar: Zipp SL
  • Tape: Double-wrapped Zipp tape with gel inserts

  • Brakes: Campagnolo Super Record

  • Shift/brake levers: Campagnolo Super Record
  • Rear derailleur: Campagnolo Super Record
  • Front derailleur: Campagnolo Super Record
  • Cassette: Campagnolo Super Record 11-25T
  • Chain: Campagnolo Super Record

  • Crankset: Rotor 3D+ with 53/39 Q-Rings
  • Bottom bracket: Campagnolo Super Record
  • Pedals: Look KÉO Blade 2 CR
  • Wheelset: Vittoria Qurano 46 (Black Inc Thirty C pictured)
  • Tyres: Vittoria Corsa 28C

  • Saddle: Selle San Marco Aspide Superleggera Open
  • Seatpost: Ritchey WCS Carbon Link Flexlogic
  • Bottle cages: Arundel Trident

Critical measurements, Mark Blewett

  • Age: 45
  • Rider's height: 1.78m (5ft 10in)
  • Rider's weight: 68kg (150lbs)

  • Saddle height from BB, c-t: 750mm
  • Seat tube length: 540mm
  • Top tube length: 553mm

  • Saddle-to-bar drop: 110mm (approx)
  • Tip of saddle to handlebar: 580mm
  • Total bike weight: 7.1kg
David Rome

Former Editor, Australia
Dave was the editor of BikeRadar Australia until early 2016.
  • Discipline: Mountain, road and cyclocross
  • Preferred Terrain: Fast and flowing singletrack with the occasional air is the dream. Also happy chasing tarmac bends.
  • Current Bikes: Trek Fuel EX 27.5, SwiftCarbon Detritovore, Salsa Chilli Con Crosso
  • Dream Bike: Custom Independent Fabrications titanium, SRAM Etap and Enve wheels/cockpit
  • Beer of Choice: Gin & tonic
  • Location: Sydney, Australia

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