Ridley Kanzo Adventure’s Ultimate Test
Ultra-cycling; a niche that we’ve seen developing and growing over the past years. The fact that ultra races are won by sleeping as little as possible was something that kept us away from these events for quite some time. Until this new kid on the block, called Gran Guanche, showed up …
The event, covering 5 of Spain’s Canary Islands, was something different. In the media building up to the event each island showcased its own characteristics and terrain. Obviously you would have to take ferries to get from one island to the other. The route’s diversity and strange little breaks were the final push we needed to mark Gran Guanche high on our wish list.
While getting to know the event better through their website, we learned more about the course. Recommended bike for the ‘trail’ edition: “a monstercross gravel bike with a minimum of 2.1inch tires and low gearing.”
‘Well, well, well’ we thought as reading this created a very special spark in our minds. A couple of weeks before this spark, we visited Ridley’s R&D department, where we witnessed the development of this exact type of bike.
This was such a match made in heaven, that we just had to start this challenging race.
Lanzarote: 120km - 2.450m+
A 10pm start and a 6am ferry to catch meant that we started off with a big night ride. Quite brutal to ride this sharp lava and volcano-packed island without seeing more than what your headlights show you. We didn’t know what to expect of riding through the mountains in darkness or how our bodies would respond to skipping a night.
We started with about 40 fellow riders, most of them quite experienced with this kind of madness. It was helpful to get some last minute advice during the first paved kilometers after the start: pace it, keep eating, stock water whenever you can. The route soon turned right, onto the first of many unpaved climbs. The ‘peloton’ exploded and we were down to a group of 4 guys. Sandy beaches, rocky black lava fields and high mountains with steep descents. It was challenging, but so cool!
With the milky way showing off high above our helmets, we took the last descent at about 4am at night. That was the first moment it really became tough. Lack of sleep and lack of energy made it difficult to focus, but we arrived in one piece at the port. Together with Soufian and Josh we ordered some snacks at a bar, did an attempt for a power nap and bought tickets for the ferry.
Fuerteventura: 160km - 2.600m+
A 20 minute ferry, a quadruple espresso and some sunscreen later, we were ready to rock the second island. Compared to the more volcanic and therefore Iceland-like Lanzarote, Fuerteventura looked a lot different. Its palm trees, high cliffs, dry plains, rocky deserts and some extremely remote sections, made it look like a mix of the Middle East and Northern Africa. This completely different environment resulted in a new dose of energy.
With an insane drop to the sea on our right and the mountainous desert on our left, the route took us all the way south. It was also this exact desert where we first ran out of water. Therefore the first village we passed (around noon) felt like a much welcomed treat, which we enjoyed to the fullest. At a seaside restaurant we ordered a massive paella and some cokes and coffees. Our aggressive way of consuming took its toll: as the route went straight up the mountains, the first 2 hours after eating felt terrible. But the following long, rolling gravel road along the coast made us happy again.
It was hot, the climbs were tough -hike & bike tough- and the sun went down. With still a couple of hours remaining, we ordered some cooked, salty baby potatoes to finish the remaining part of the route in the dark. Mentally this part was quite challenging, going into the second night without sleeping. As a reward, we decided to book an AirBnB in the port of Fuerteventura in order to get some sleep and take the first ferry to the next island. So after about 28 hours on the bike, covering the first 2 islands, we finally had 3-4 hours of sleep.
Gran Canaria: 140km - 3.950m+
We thought we’d seen it all. And then Gran Canaria appeared. Insane gradients, super sketchy and rocky stretches, but also one of the best golden hours ever and Loek rating his day a 10/10. It was also the first time we experienced what the magic of sleep does to the human body. Even a short night was enough to provide some fresh motivation to conquer Gran Canaria.
The route went up for the first 70km and was mainly downhill for the second half. The plan was to pull hard, in order to make it to the last ferry in the evening. So we pushed and pushed (both on top and next to the bike) to get up this beast as quickly as possible. But after a very long day, with about 50km to go it became clear we wouldn't reach the port in time. Felt terrible to change plans and it got worse when it started to rain. We decided to book a place to sleep, but without any success. As a long shot, we decided to ask the bar owner, where we were having a little resupply, for advice. Besides deep fried everything, he also had a bed and a shower upstairs. Desperate as we were, we said “yes” without hesitation and went for a short night of sleep again.
4-5 hours later we packed our bags and followed the scenic coast road before sunrise. Just in time we got on board. This gave us some time to do repairs and maintenance on the bikes.
Tenerife: 170km - 4.600m+
The most intense day on paper, proved to be the most intense day in reality as well. Besides the mileage and climbing on this island, it was also the accumulation of the previous days that started to take its toll (and mainly the little amount of sleep). But as if the race organizer knew we would have this feeling, the route started with a massive paved climb. After all the rough stuff, this was a very welcoming present.
The vibe changed a little when it seemed that we reached the top of the climb and looked down on our Wahoo. Did 2 hours of climbing and we found out that we were just getting started actually. The tarmac ended and we got an endless rising forest road in return. For the second time, sleep deprived Loek got in a mentally challenging place. He thought of power napping and letting Nol go. But supported by Nols motivational words he concluded that he just had to keep pushing in order to get some more hours of sleep at night. That’s what teamwork is all about.
High above the clouds, we saw El Teide proudly peaking. The view was breathtaking and it gave a huge mental boost to have a clear goal of where we were going. We rode up through a forest when the sun went down and reached the tree line in pitch black darkness. With just your headlight in front of you, there isn’t much to cheer you up. The clear night exposed some mighty stars again, but also a cold breeze. We dressed up with everything we had, Loek took some more caffeine pills and we started on the long descent. Having some light hallucinations due to exhaustion and sleep deprivation, we took it relatively easy in order to stay safe.
With already visualizing our booked hotel, we thought we were nearly there. And then the road stopped… We had a hike and bike down a hiking trail and ended up lost around a dark, cold valley with a river blocking our passage. Both our Wahoo’s and mobile Komoot applications didn’t provide us with the answers we needed. While already discussing sleeping out there, we found our passage after about an hour and a half. This moment was the first one in which we were both on a low at the same time, so without the support of the other Pigeon pulling you through. But we kept going, survived, arrived at the hotel, slept a couple of hours and left before daylight again.
La Palma: 100km - 4.000m+ (in stead of 190km - 6.450m+)
Didn’t have lunch or dinner. Went to bed hungry and woke up hungry. And then we ended up in the bakery of our dreams; all sorts of pastries, fresh juice, Italian Coffee and more pastries. Ordered everything we wanted and got onto the final ferry with an extremely satisfied (and saturated) feeling. But this ferry was different. It was packed! Packed with emergency response people like firefighters and medics. Looking out of the window revealed the reason why: the volcano on the island was erupting, resulting in some dangerous lava flows. The route got shortened, which meant we ‘only’ had 100 remaining kilometers with 4.000m of elevation.
La Palma was -once again- completely different! Red clay, jungle-like forests and black, volcanic walls. Because we were confident enough to finish that day, the vibe was incredibly high. Like Frodo in Lord of the Rings, we were on a mission through this insane landscape. It even had the volcano and lava at the finish line! But we first had to survive the incredible amount of climbing during the day and a proper load of descending at nighttime.
The finish was getting closer and closer. You could tell that from the volcanic dust in the air, the glowing lava against the mist and the smell of sulfur. We picked up fellow rider Julien, who we met on each ferry and rode to the finish together.
This finish was also something different than what we were used to. First of all, it’s not a race finish. So no people cheering, no music, no signs and no sponsors. It’s just your Wahoo, that shows a finish flag. And second: the vibe of finishing this long term goal wasn’t as high as it should be. The volcano, on which we had a clear view and the town very close to the flow of hot lava was something that silenced us. The roaring sound of the mountain, the wind, our black faces full of dust… It all added up to a mindset like: this is some serious stuff. People are losing their houses and we’re here racing bikes. It just put things in perspective and the three of us continued witnessing mother nature’s display of power in silence.
After a good 40 minutes we took our bikes and rode a couple of kilometers to a little shed we booked for the night. Literally the moment we closed the door behind us, hell broke loose. Lightning, severe downpour and strong winds made the organizer decide to cancel the race from that moment onwards.
This made us even more proud, when looking back the next day. We planned to do the whole route in 5 days, but finished it in 4 (and 1 hour). We rode through rock gardens, crossed complete islands at night time, had somewhere between 10-15 hours of sleep and were fully self-supported. Oh and we also shot a video about it, took countless photos and informed our friends & family through Instagram posts. It was madness, but in a good way.
Fatpigeon loves Adventure
We fell in love with proper adventure cycling and more importantly: fell in love with this adventure machine! The race was actually a trail (MTB) event, but Ridley managed to provide us with even better, faster rigs. We dropped some mountain bikers on fast downhills and they tried to hold our wheels on the flatter sections. So compared to an MTB it’s just much faster when the terrain is too challenging for a gravel bike. And compared to a traditional gravel bike, this new Kanzo Adventure provides so much more comfort (and therefore speed) in descents and confidence on technical terrain.
It was also our first experience with a dynamo setup. Neatly integrated cables result in a maintenance-free setup and no hassle when installing bikepacking bags. Not having to worry about draining batteries of your light is really a very calming feeling. And for us, being able to charge camera gear while riding is also something that changes the game. Bye bye power banks!
Some lows made the highs we experienced even higher. Riding Gran Guanche is really something that we recommend to every adventure loving person. This route on this bike is the exact sort of adventure that feeds our adrenaline addiction. And we’re not even ashamed of that.
Ridley really pushed the boundaries to a whole new level with the Kanzo Adventure and we’re super proud to be part of that. On to more next level gravel adventures!