BDR title
The path of most resistance

The Big Dumb Ride

Reading time

I'm fixin' to do something dumber than hell, but I'm gonna do it anyways.

Everesting. Triple Crowns. 24-hour solo races. Big Dumb Rides.

By my made-up definition, a Big Dumb Ride has you hovering just above an existential crisis; long hours in the pain cave, emotional fluctuations that have you questioning your purpose in life, and ultimately resulting in at least several hours of unfettered glory-basking.

A surprising number of us are into these misadventures. I recently attempted a BDR that had me wondering out loud, “Why the fuck do I do these things?” When I'm in the saddle for too many hours, fighting sideways rain, overcoming hallucinations, my fingers feel like cold hot dogs, I’m eating literally anything I can keep down, and trying to remember what my taint might feel like if it weren’t numb, it can be tough to remember what dragged me out there in the first place.


Hi, my name is Lacy, and I like Big Dumb Rides. In this photo, I'd just consumed about a pint of pickle juice to try to finish a Rapha Prestige ride that had me in tears. PC Ian Collins

There is a ton of information on the “how” aspect of extreme exertion. Things like lactate threshold, how metabolic rates play into energy production, and VO2 levels make all the difference in elite athlete performances, but none of that really scratched the “why” itch for me. Most people seem to stumble into Big Dumb Rides without realizing they’re stepping into an entire underworld of cycling. With this in mind, I asked a few BDR veterans about their evolution into mega days on the bike. What got them there, what kept them going back for more, and what was their emotional experience?

Most of the people I spoke with found themselves taking on their first BDR by accident. They were curious to link one part of town to another via mountains, or in the case of one friend who only owned a BMX bike as a kid, wanted to visit a friend who moved 30 miles away, and thus his affinity for Big Dumb rides was born. Eric Olsen, no stranger to the BDR got his start by slogging around the Chuckanuts, a notoriously slow-going trail network that requires patience and plenty of wayfinding to achieve big numbers. Now his motivation falls primarily in the realms of exploration and functionality, noting, “I prefer to have a part of the route that is some tenuous connector that might be overgrown but if it works it will open up some new way of connecting two riding areas.” Eric took his affinity for BDR further than most as he rode from stop to stop during the 2022 EDR series in Europe and Tasmania in 2023. “I think the more you do BDR the more you realize that bikes are a very legit mode of transportation, not just a fancy toy that you have to drive to the trailhead.”

When I think of Big Dumb Rides Ben Hildred is the first person that comes to mind. Unlike the others, he did not discover these rides by fluke. In 2018 his curiosity was piqued by the idea of an Everest, where the rider ascends the same amount of vertical distance as Mt. Everest, often on the same loop over and over again without taking any significant breaks. His attempt was a success and, “It sparked a fire and desire to do more,” he recalls. And boy did he ever do more. His accomplishments include one million vertical feet in 200 days, a double Everest, and what he calls, “The Olympus Mons,” a three-day ride where he climbed 21,900 meters/71,850 feet.

His riding astounds me. Every time I’ve attempted a big ride, my emotional journey is all over the map. The other folks I spoke with all mentioned something similar. Euphoria. Tears. Rage. Doubt. Joy. My partner, Ryan Short, is an ex-roadie who has had an ongoing affair with Big Dumb Rides his entire adult life. A couple of years ago he rode from Bellingham to Spokane, WA in 23 hours on his road bike. That one was 350 miles and 17,000 feet of vert. He once Everested up the infamous Repeater Road* and down a technical trail on his XC rig while unknowingly having Covid. To him, Big Dumb Rides are similar to processing grief. There are so many emotional stages including fear, anticipation, the darkness of being not quite halfway through, the light at the end of the tunnel when you've reached beyond the midpoint, and then the ultimate: basking in the glory of the accomplishment. Tyrone Siglos, a Triple Everester from North Van has had a similar experience. “It’s a lot of time spent in your thoughts and reflection,” he says. “Feelings of doubt, imposter syndrome, and loneliness always creep in. But way more often it’s gratitude.”

Ben OM Insta 8-5

Ben Hildred, the master of the Big Dumb Ride.

Ben is cut from a different cloth, which may be why he’s found such incredible success in these endeavors. He doesn’t have emotional fluctuations during the ride but rather maintains a fierce focus. His waves come once the ride is completed. “I’ve always been solid and focused,” he says “I tend to be emotionless and aggravatingly stoic when they end. The emotion comes after when deprivation of food and sleep creates a nutritionally flared-up overwhelm that makes even the simple day-to-day tough. I find this to be a sweet irony as you’ve just proved you can bend your will to painful levels, and then blow out in this sense. It’s interesting.”

My pool of BDR veterans was split pretty evenly among men and women, and one major difference stood out with the women and their “why.” Every female who answered talked about the friendships forged when riding huge days. “The relationships you build while suffering are incredible. Unlocking those parts of the body and brain together is really bonding,” declares Jordan Larson, another BDR fan from Bellingham. “It’s part physical challenge. Part mental challenge. Mostly it’s spending all day outside on an adventure with friends.” Nikki Rohan, a BDR vet from Hood River agrees. “Long days on the bike with people I generally like is key. I do not have the personality or drive to do these rides solo. It feels good being out on bikes with humans who I deeply admire doing something physically hard.”

That wasn’t the case for the majority of the guys. Ryan feels that while having people there is a good support and bonding experience, he tends to hit his objective and push himself harder if he’s alone. Tyrone agrees to an extent, “For the triple-Everesting, arguably my biggest ride, there were a lot of people that dropped in to do a rep or two with me. For the other ones, I went solo. They each have their pros and cons. It was nice to have the company doing hill repeats but in hindsight, more was accomplished when I was riding alone during the night. Solo rides become very reflective after the 5/6 hour mark, and do a lot of internal healing during those efforts.  Most of the solo undertakings are solo because there's only so many people capable and wild enough to also try them,” he recalls.

If there’s one throughline for the Big Dumb Ride, it’s the end. I picture everyone riding across their invisible finish line with Jim Morrisson’s velvety voice floating through their head. The afterglow of completing a BDR is a feeling unlike anything else. “The peace, camaraderie, and ability to surprise myself during the beautiful process of using yourself and your machine further than you have before is so damn simple, but does so much,” Ben says. Exceeding the perceived limits of mind and body, forging deeper relationships, and soaking in the after-ride buzz of doing big stuff feels powerful. “Once you've experienced that feeling of accomplishment of planning a BDR that's on the edge of what you can do, and then pulling it off—it's pretty addicting,” Eric states. “It's the same feeling as mountaineering or other exploration.”

Big dumb snacks

L to R: Finish of the Ride the Long Wander with Katie Holden, one time I saw the actual Lord of the Squirrels, Big Dumb Snacks

Hindsight is always a beautiful thing, and when thinking about advice I’d give myself before my first Big Dumb Ride, it usually comes down to pace and company. Go slow. Zone 2 all day. Ride with people you can stand to be around even when you’re both at your worst. Be ready for things to go wrong. Enduro racer, Ryan Gardner adds his own unique bit of advice, “It's all the mess ups and wrong turns that give you the best stories. Go be underprepared! Be underbiked and exhausted! Drink out of that stream only to later throw up in the shower and fall asleep eating dinner that night! It's good character building.” **

Ultimately, we want to see what our bodies are capable of, and what kind of mental fortitude we have. We want to prove that we can do dumb shit, even when no one is watching and there’s nothing on the line besides our own satisfaction of knowing that we did something big and dumb and awesome. That’s simple enough, but what if it’s actually because we’re stuck in a world where we’re surrounded by noise and the only time to truly cut it off is by forcing yourself into this quiet pain cave, where you’re either alone with your thoughts or with a suffering friend, and you can only rely on your body, your training, and your bike to get you back to comfort? The escape from the false reality of an online world comes to life when find yourself immersed in your breath, heartbeat, and fatiguing legs. Existential crisis and all.

Ben OM Insta 16-20

Ben Hildred's ridiculously Big Dumb Ride. Wow.

Ultimately the, “why,” doesn’t need to matter, and there doesn’t have to be a particular reason. The idea is enough. It’s time to channel your inner Llewelyn Moss and tell yourself, "I'm fixin' to do something dumber than hell, but I'm gonna do it anyways.” Go get after your version of the Big Dumb Ride.

*Repeater Road sucks so much that it became the inspiration for the Transition Repeater.

** Perhaps don’t actually drink out of that stream... just a thought.

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+11 Jotegir Pete Roggeman Lacy Kemp GB Hardlylikely Kos Todd Hellinga Lynx . BarryW Allan Maxwell vunugu

I used to ride with a buddy who would always undersell BDRs to get us to come along. And then (what he always knew was going to be) an epic ride would occur and my internal darkness would take over and my quiet grumbling would be offset by riding in an incredible new spot, victory and defeat and ultimately returning home toasted. These rides were always incredibly memorable and after hundreds and hundreds of everyday rides since, those BDRs stand alone in my memory.


+6 BarryW Karl Fitzpatrick Allan Maxwell Kyle Dixon mtnfriend vunugu

BDR’s seem to be entirely off the menu for me these days and I think I might be ok with that. After 20+ years of BDR and big dumb efforts, including 17 seasons of tree planting, a number of which started in February and ended in October, a few multi month bike tours through foreign lands, a few summers spent living and guiding bikes in the promise land of BRD, and many solo adventures tucked in there, I just don’t give a shit anymore. There is nothing left to learn from them. 

That does not mean I don’t tick off the odd 5-8 hour ride every year to get some place interesting, I just no longer need to find out where my limit is. I know where it is, It’s about 10 years behind me.


+4 Adrian Bostock taprider Cr4w BarryW

BDRs are type III fun; it doesn't even sound fun when you first get the notion to undertake the effort.   Some people --myself included --are just into that.  If you've EVER found yourself complaining out-loud about the suffering and/or misfortunes on a ride then you are not really a type III fun person and probably just getting talked into it by someone else.

I keep telling myself, "no more BDRs ...they do not contribute to your overall physical health!"  Then I do another.


+4 taprider BarryW Allan Maxwell DadStillRides

Me too. Every damn time. And I love it. And hate it. But mostly love it. I think.


+4 Karl Fitzpatrick Allan Maxwell Cam McRae slimchances57

I've done a lot of BDRs and the best thing to come out of them, for me, is the friendships. You start riding with someone you don't know or barely know, and you start talking about anything and everything just because you've been on the bike for 12 hours and you are going out of your gourd. Your friendship accelerates from "hey I'm going to stop and pee here, ride slow and I'll catch up," to "hey I am going to go shit violently behind that tree, can you hold my bike?" overnight.

It's amazing what a little shared trauma can do for a relationship.


+2 Allan Maxwell TristanC

Tristan, I got a good chuckle out of your comment. It’s so, so true. You see all the colors of someone on a BDR. Friendships forged for the long haul.


+3 Pete Roggeman Lacy Kemp Allan Maxwell

me i'm good for a 3 week/ 800KM tour and then I wana go home but there is very small focus group of people riding very long distances and they hang out on , my ski/ paddle/ beer bud did a 55000km ride to/from Tiera del fuego and another one to Tuktoyuktuck and  he has steady stream of warm shower peeps coming thru


+3 BarryW Karl Fitzpatrick Allan Maxwell Jerry Willows dhr999

Lacy, you're hitting out the park again, a great regular addition to the NSMB writings.

As to BDR, well yeah, to do some real BDRs takes a bit of a twisted mind and the first time the emotional roller coaster you'll go through is insane, it also happens on the 2nd. When a visitor I was showing about told me that I seemed to be built to climb and was good at it, should give the LT100 a go, I had no idea what he was pushing me into. 

The precursor of the Laramie Enduro 111km 2 weeks before when I'd never done anything like this, had no real clue of training for it or nutrition was an eye opener, bonked twice during it, just sitting out on what seemed the middle of nowhere just trying to re-fuel after pushing too long without fueling because I was having so much fun. Managed it in 9 hours 15 mins and vowed that there was no way in hell I was going to even attempt LT100 after that as elevation was only up to about 8700ft and it was only 70 miles and 7500ft of climbing, nothing compared to LT100s 10k base altitude and 14k+ feet of climbing up to 12,400ft. 

But my mind changed in those 2 weeks as I slowly moved through CO gaining altitude and acclimatizing and I gave it a shot, unfortunately I pushed too hard after the turn around and paid the price leap frogging a group of guys on the last big climb and didn't fuel, pulled out because I was descending and couldn't catch my breath and knew that there was a nasty 3 miles road climb to come and didn't want to collapse and fall off the side of the road, not to be found and have that relayed to my Mum. When I bailed, I'd been out for 10 hours, 9:40 on the actual bike, did 10k feet of climbing and 87 miles, so I'd easily beaten what I did in Laramie and despite feeling sad I didn't finish, knew I'd given it all and accomplishing that by myself not knowing anyone there, with no friends or family I still felt proud AF. Through both of those events I always kept myself pushing through the pain, reminding myself that pain was just a reminder that I was still alive and others weren't so lucky, including a friend I'd lost earlier that year to cancer and I CANNOT say enough good things about the volunteers at both events, they were absolutely amazing.

I also like to do little "death marches" I guess most others here call them, on bank holidays. It's never less than 5  hours out, about 30 miles and some serious climbing and I always seem to get cussed out at least once by someone who's decided to join and didn't know we were going out for that long or far :-D


+3 Adrian Bostock Lynx . BarryW

Great write up. Shows that motivations for BDRs cut a wide swath. My lifetime BDR was a billion years ago -- Turner RFX, anybody?! --  and probably wouldn't make the cut today. Started on Thrill Me/Kill me, crossed the road, then back into Whistler Village via Comfortably Numb, by which time about an inch of snow had arrived, along with enough thunder and lightning to close the lifts.

Along the way, maybe about 100 yards -- also about 100 metres :-) -- from the summit of CN we picked up an Andorran physical therapist riding solo, almost freezing to death, and WHO HAD DECIDED AT THAT POINT TO BACKTRACK!

We put him in a dry shell and beanie, got him turned around, and we all made it back to The Village, where he sprung for dinner. Still in touch with him, to this day.

All before much interweb, or any smart phones, Trailforks, etc.!


+2 Lynx . Cam McRae

I think it's important to note that, like everything in life, BDRs are also about perception for the individual undertaking them. If a three hour 30km ride is out of their ordinary comfort zone, it's a BDR.

I do enjoy big dumb rides but don't often have the time for them and haven't actually done one in ages (yeah yeah kids life priorities etc etc).

Maybe I need to make a plan.


Well said Karl!

Also - loved this one Lacy!


+1 Allan Maxwell

I wish I had time to do more BDRs.  I don't really care about the numbers and stats of them, but there's something really special about going out in the woods with friends all day and overcoming all the challenges that come along with that.  What I remember from rides like that isn't how many miles or hours it takes, it's stuff like taking a break for lunch at the brewery, having beer & dirty fries for lunch, then rallying to ride until dinner time.  The perception of how hard it was to get up off the bench in the sun to start pedaling, or the mantras of "the cutoff descent should be jussst around this next corner... oh maybe the next one..." are what make them memorable.



I have only done one or two BDRs... probably not even BDR by others standards. Last year I wanted to pedal from my house to Elfin Lakes... it is a terrible trail. But I did it and loved it. 

I have been a regular sufferer of DBYRs (Big Dumb Yacht Races) which is probably the same part of the brain pulling one into the BDR. Usually 20-48 hours of cold, wet, puke inducing, "I'll never do this again if we make it out alive", type conditions. Then the following year you find yourself on the start line again, having spent copious dollars for the privilege.



There is no standard for BDR other than it really sucking and then also being really awesome. Sounds like your BDYR's are excellent and terrible! I love it!


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