The Unhinged Tandem Captain, The Badger and Brian Toone
I am the Unhinged Tandem Captain and I have known the Unhinged Cyclist for over 20 years. We have shared a number of things during this time including a warped sense of humour, a ‘love’ of chartered accountancy, a passion for cycling and, latterly, an admiration for Brian Toone. More on Brian later.
Whilst the Unhinged Cyclist looks to amuse you with tales of cycling adventures and (moderately) impressive challenges, I take to the hills of Surrey with my faithful stoker on “The Badger” our orange tandem. (I am the one on the left by the way).
The Unhinged Tandem Crew and The Badger
Comment from the Unhinged Cyclist: It looks like the tandem crew are attempting to blend in with the natural habitat (the zebra crossing). Perhaps they are being hunted. Their plan, whilst sound in theory, is likely to be scuppered by the huge bight orange bicycle made for two.
As I helped the Unhinged Cyclist put this blog together, it became clear that “Unhinged” can take many forms. It also became painfully clear that the Unhinged Cyclist is barely scratching the surface where Unhinged behaviour is concerned. For this reason we thought we would start the “Unhinged Hall Of Fame”.
The Unhinged Hall of Fame – The Concept
These pages simply cannot be about the exploits of one rider. There is too much high quality Unhinged behaviour happening out there to be ignored. Such behaviour can be taken from the pro ranks (Mario Cippolini anyone?) or from your mate down the road.
What sort of Unhinged Behaviour are we looking for?
- Bonkers distance
- Crazy climbing
- Ridiculous back to back rides
- An attitude that flies in the face of generally accepted behaviour
- A refusal to be confined to the limits of what is seen to be normal on the bike
With this in mind, let’s take a look at the first person to be inducted into the Unhinged Hall Of Fame.
Step forward Mr Brian Toone.
Brain Toone Unmasked – Who is our Hall of Famer?
Brian Toone is a Cat 1 cyclist from Alabama in the good old U S of A. He is a loving father of two children, and holds down a full time job as a university lecturer. He had a bunny called Fluffy Steve (who, sadly, recently passed away).
Fluffy Steve was a girl.
It would also be fair to say that he is a bit useful on a bike, and despite his other commitments, last year he did manage to get out and ride it a few times.
To be more precise, in 2015 he rode 30,127 miles and climbed a total of 3,323,356ft. For the likes of you and me, that is the equivalent of 114 times up Everest, and 1.2 times around the equator.
He has Everested.
One of those times on Christmas Day.
In 2015 he came 7th in The Race Across America (RAAM).
I guess it is possible that, despite the information above, some of you are still asking why he should be in the Hall Of Fame. To answer that, let me explain how Brian appeared on our radar. I was on Strava one day looking at the monthly climbing challenge, and noticed Brian had already climbed more in the month than I had in the whole year. I was intrigued and thought I would take a closer look at this character, so I went to his page and checked out his stats. That is when I stumbled across this ride:
A 500 miler…
Yes, that is right, he had ridden 516 miles and climbed 36,293ft in just over 30 hours (32 and half elapsed) on his way to winning the “Heart of the South 500”. This blew me away, and I started following Brian on Strava. Then I started to see some real Unhinged behaviour.
Brian Toone: Unhinged Highlights
The Festive 500
Now remember, Toone is an endurance cyclist. Therefore, as you familiarise yourself with the sort of rides these guys do, you do become a bit immune to statistics like the Heart of the South 500. So to set yourself apart, you need to do something really unhinged. I give you the Festive 500.
Now, on paper this is not a difficult challenge. You just have to complete 500km over the festive period (between Christmas and New Year). So how can this lead to an unhinged highlight I hear you ask?
Let me answer that with a question.
Have you ever cycled when it is really cold? No, I don’t just mean when you have to wear base layers, balaclavas, boot covers, winter gloves and you still cannot feel your feet or hands. We have all done that.
Let me phrase the question slightly differently.
Have you ever cycled so much in conditions so cold, that you formed an ice beard?
No, I thought not.
Brian Toone has:
Image courtesy of Brian Toone’s Instagram
You see, over the festive period, Toone has to travel up to the northern states of the US where it is very, very cold (minus 22 anyone?). Now most people would retire inside, light the log fire and nurse a good scotch to warm the insides. However, Brian Toone realised you cannot complete the Festive 500 if you do that, and not completing the Festive 500 was not an option. So instead Toone chose to cycle 500kms.
In the snow.
The Unhinged Tandem Captain is from Yorkshire, and we have a word in Yorkshire : “Nesh”. For those of you unfamiliar with this term, it is defined on Wiki as ‘unusually susceptible to cold weather’. The word comes from Old English “hnesce” meaning feeble, weak, or infirm. When I was a boy in Yorkshire, it meant anybody who wore a coat to school in the winter.
Toone is the anti-nesh.
Race Across America (RAAM)
Although you might argue that ice beards are Toone’s specialism, as this is a cycling blog, we will focus in on his other specialism which is the RAAM. I will not go into too much detail on what RAAM entails, as you can go and read about that if you are really interested. Suffice to say it is a 3,000mile race from the west to the east coast of the United States by bike. Fastest person wins.
Toone entered for the first time in 2015, and finished 7th. You can read about his experience on his blog and if you are a Super-geek you might be interested in his full data analysis from RAAM which can be found here but there are some interesting things to highlight.
Firstly, as every RAAM rider will tell you, it is really about spending as much time on the bike as possible. Obviously any time off the bike means you are not moving. The best riders are able to maximise their time on the bike without adversely impacting the speed they are able to travel at whilst on it. Therefore the most significant problem a RAAM participant will encounter is sleep deprivation. It is not uncommon for riders to fall asleep on their bikes. As you might imagine this is a fairly big problem, and a number of riders have bagged themselves a DNF after falling asleep and crashing.
Secondly, Toone crashed on the first day. Now this was a pure and simple accident, and not down to fatigue. However, it hampered him significantly as the knock on effect meant he hit the desert during the day instead of the night and was forced to spend time off his bike getting out of the blistering heat. So actually this second point only served to illustrate the importance of the first.
So what did RAAM look like for Toone? Again you can read about it on his blog, but below is a summary of his Strava statistics:
Brian Toone: Unhinged Statistics
Statistics speak for themselves, except sometimes you have to convert them into concepts the human brain can picture to convey the message.
Here are some of Toone’s statistics from Strava.
Here are the stats for his trusty steeds:
Both his Scott Addict and his Trek Madone have done more lifetime miles than the average family car. I hate to think how many cassettes he has been through on his Trek. His local bike shop must be dreading the day he retires!
Brian Toone in Focus
It is worth us taking a pictorial look at what Brian Toone’s Unhinged behaviour is all about. (Images courtesy of https://toonecycling.com and https://www.instagram.com/kartoone76/)
How many Garmins?
What would Brain Toone do?
Yep, no stopping Brian
That’s experience showing through right there
One More Ice Beard
Brian Toone – Future Unhinged Behaviour
Brian obviously has unfinished business with RAAM as he is going back to compete in the 2017 race. As well as seeing some awesome rides and photos by following Brian over the last few years, The Unhinged Tandem Captain has learned a lot about RAAM and endurance cycling in general.
Brian is also a thoroughly nice chap, and has responded to questions over Strava when I have contacted him (including to answer questions about Everesting and provided some pretty helpful advice).
So why not follow Brian and track his training as he prepares for the future and RAAM 2017?
A few words from Brian Toone
We thought that it would be polite to notify Brian of his forthcoming induction to the Unhinged Hall of Fame and gain his approval for the article. Generous as ever, Brian was very helpful in sharing some of his thoughts and stories with us. They are simply too good not to pass along.
An Abandoned Road
Thanks for inducting me into the hall of fame first.. .. I’m hoping to write a book some day about all the adventures I’ve had on the bike. Some of them have been insane. Somebody was asking me recently about one of my rides, and I once came down an abandoned road (on a mountain bike) in Colorado came flying around a blind corner and straight into a large herd of elk. These are rather large animals and to see them going from lying down in the middle of the dirt road to standing and scattering every which way was incredible. There was dirt, leaves, elk limbs flying everywhere. I was lucky not to get kicked by any or shot by the rancher whose land I had stumbled into.
Now, I think it is worthwhile pointing out the various elements of Unhinged behaviour in this paragraph:
- “I once came down an abandoned road”. Now we have all been the wrong way down (or up) a one-way street and ignored the odd temporary traffic light. But an abandoned road? Why wouldn’t you?
- When have you ever been on a ride and “come flying around a blind corner and straight into a large herd of elk”? I defy you to read this without smiling. Can you just imagine it..
- “These are rather large animals” – OK there is nothing Unhinged about this factual statement but, in context, I find it very funny.
- “There was dirt, leaves, elk limbs flying everywhere.” – I am also wondering what sort of sounds effects were coming from the herd at this point. What sound does an Elk make?
- “I was lucky not to get kicked by any or shot by the rancher whose land I had stumbled into.” – it is a truly Unhinged ride where you come home feeling lucky that you have not been kicked by an Elk or shot by a rancher. This has never happened to me.
It gets better..
An Abandoned Fire Tower
My fear is that I’m going to forget some of my adventures before I have a chance to write them all down somewhere. Here’s one that I’ve never written down anywhere but told people about on occasion – 1995 or 1996, I was probably a sophomore at Clemson University. Clemson is located in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains – close enough that if you ride about 20-30 miles northwest from town, you start to get into national forests. In these national forests are abandoned fire towers (replaced mostly by helicopters). I climbed all the towers that I could find that were still standing while I was in college. But I managed to knock myself unconscious climbing the Six Mile Mountain one. I made it to the top of the mountain, a dirt road that literally circles the mountain like a cartoon – Google Maps link
Up at the top I found lots of radio equipment all guarded by barbed wire and razor wire fences. In the middle of all that was a fire tower. I started to climb over the razor wire fence at the gate with my bike shoes on. I got up to the very top and couldn’t get my leg over the razor wire to the other side without cutting myself badly so I started to climb back down, which was tricky in the bike shoes. To save time, I figured I’d just jump down the rest of the way once I was low enough. Well, the physics of jumping down with bike shoes on with big cleats that angle your feet back is such that when you hit the ground all of your weight is on the back of your heels. Since I had pushed off the fence to keep from cutting myself, my momentum was also heading backwards – which meant as soon I hit the ground I toppled straight over backwards. Thankfully, I still had my helmet on because my head hit a large rock hard enough to knock me unconscious. I’m not sure how long I was out, it may have only been a few seconds or minutes. But I was disoriented when I got up, and it was almost sunset.
Not to be stopped, though, I tried something that made me laugh out loud. The gate was locked with a chain lock that was loose enough I could simply pull it apart and slide my 120 pound body right through the gate. I was laughing at myself for how stupid I was for not trying that first. I made it up to the top of the tower and decided since it was going to be dark anyway (I didn’t have any lights), I might as well just wait for the sunset and watch it go down before riding an hour back to Clemson in the dark. I spent a long time today looking for pics before realizing that this was before I had a camera and the image in my mind of the sunset isn’t from a picture but from that actual sunset 20 years ago. I got chased by a large dog on the way back down, which I must have snuck past on the way up. I put it in the big chainring and hammered the dirt, leaf-covered road as fast as I could until I felt like I was far enough ahead to go down at a more sane pace. I was 19 or 20 years old at the time to give you some background on my rides.
Ok, lets analyse this a bit:
- “I climbed all the towers that I could find that were still standing while I was in college” – This is fine Unhinged behaviour here. Climbing abandoned fire towers gives a focal point to a long ride. I once set myself the goal of eating oysters in Whitstable as part of a 200 mile effort. Now I am not sure whether Brian Toone is an Oyster man (I’d like to think so) but I am sure he will appreciate the sentiment.
- “I started to climb over the razor wire fence at the gate with my bike shoes on” – Again, hands up any of you that have said that about a bike ride?
- “To save time, I figured I’d just jump down the rest of the way” – I am sure that we would all think of this as a time saving option when climbing down a razor wire fence.
- “Not to be stopped, though” – I absolutely love this. Brian Toone has almost severed a femoral artery on razor wire, knocked himself unconscious on a large rock for an unknown period of time but he was not going to let that get in the way of conquering the fire tower. I totally get this. Brilliant Unhinged behaviour.
- “I made it up to the top of the tower and decided since it was going to be dark anyway (I didn’t have any lights), I might as well just wait for the sunset and watch it go down before riding an hour back to Clemson in the dark.” – Again another quality Unhinged decision
- “I got chased by a large dog on the way back down, which I must have snuck past on the way up. I put it in the big chainring and hammered the dirt, leaf-covered road as fast as I could” – Can you picture this scene? After everything that has gone before, you are being chased by a large dog, going downhill, on a dirt road and the sun has set in the big ring. Quality.
Story of an Ice Beard
New Years Eve 2015
Brian kindly gave us the background on our cover image:
It’s in front of my wife’s family’s house in Shell Lake, Wisconsin on New Year’s eve at the end of a very long day.. ..The nearest place to rent a fat bike is in Hayward, Wisconsin – home of the famous Birkie ski race. So I took this picture at the end of my ride, having started the ride at a restaurant at the base of some of the Birkie trails where the rest of my family was going to ski, crashing hard on some ice on the way to the trails (crash pic in the strava photos), riding the mtb singletrack trails anyway, returning the fat bike by riding it to the ski store and then switching to my mountain bike which I had left with them at the store and riding it back to Shell Lake from the store (about 40 miles away) after waiting in a McDonald’s for a little while because I had gotten confused about when the shop was closing. The owner was super nice, though, and he went back to the shop to get my mtb and brought it to me at the McDonald’s. I was very cold by the end, and it snowed on me almost the whole way back, so I was thankful for the chance to warm up in the McDonald’s before riding the 40 miles back to Shell Lake. Here’s the strava for that ride: https://www.strava.com/activities/460371803
It was -10 degrees celsius.
Chapeau to you Brian for sharing these stories with us. I hope that you do get your Unhinged adventures into a book as they deserve to be aired to the general public.
Conclusions from the Unhinged Cyclist
Big thanks to the Unhinged Tandem Captain for this guest post. It is great fun checking out Brian’s rides on Strava, particularly when training for something like the RAAM.
How can Brain’s exploits help us go faster?
Well, the next time you feel like staying under the covers because it is a ‘bit cold’ outside, think of Brian Toone. He will be out in the deep winter of Wisconsin over the festive period working on some fantastic ice beards and racking up the miles on his fat bike.
We need your help
We would love to hear from you with any nominations for future Unhinged Hall of Famers. As ever, thanks for reading and see you in the comments.