Emma’s 8,000km ElliptiGO Ride Across Australia

November 25, 2017

An Interview By Idai Makaya

On 25th August 2017 Emma Timmis, an endurance adventure athlete from Britain, started an 8,000km (4,970 miles) ElliptiGO ride across Australia. Her aim was to ride from the furthest point accessible in Western Australia to the furthest point on the Eastern coast of Australia – following the southern coastline, as much as possible.

Among other things, Emma aimed to raise $10,000 for One Girl (a charity which educates girls in Africa) and she also hoped to extend the Guinness World Record for the longest elliptical bike journey in a single country, which stood at 5,001km and had been set by British adventure cyclist Glen Burmeister (who also rode through Australia, between 20th September 2014 and 8th November 2014).

Emma had no ElliptiGO experience when she first set herself this goal, but she did train on an ElliptiGO for a couple of weeks before making the journey (to develop her riding fitness, bike-handling skills and bike maintenance skills).

I caught up with Emma at the end of her trip to find out more about her motivations, her experiences during the actual journey, her thoughts and emotions before, during and after the journey – and its eventual outcomes.

Here’s the Q & A session I had with Emma – covering pretty much everything you’d want to know about an 8,000km ElliptiGO ride! If reading this interview doesn’t make you want to GO out on a very long ride, nothing will…

Q. How old are you? 

33

Q. Where do you live?

I currently live in Queenstown, New Zealand but spend a lot of time in the UK (where I’m from) and travel around the world regularly.

Q. What do you do for a living?

I work as a rock-climbing instructor.

Q. What is your sporting background?

I began running at the age of twelve and this is something that has stuck with me throughout life. I’ve had many gaps away from running, when I’ve been traveling, but I always come back to it.  I’m also very passionate about most outdoor activities and love to be in the mountains.

Q. What gave you the idea of crossing Australia on an ElliptiGO?

It had been three years since my last big adventure and I really wanted to do something huge.  I hadn’t ever really explored a coastline, so this was something I was keen to fulfill.  Having recently put a lot of energy into ultra-running I didn’t want to lose my running fitness by taking on a cycling challenge.  The ElliptiGO seemed a perfect option to have a self-sufficient adventure, while being able to maintain my running fitness.

Q. What was the best moment of your journey?

While planning this adventure I did lots of research on the Nullabor (a vast stretch of empty road about 1,300km between West and South Australia).  I knew it would be a challenge so I wanted to be prepared.  The more I learned, the more excited I got.  And when the time came to ride there I wasn’t disappointed.  The emptiness and solitude was something I really embraced and maybe at that point in my life it was something I needed.  Time alone, with little distraction from my thoughts.  As there are no towns and shops, no people rushing around and no neon lights etc you notice beautiful, subtle changes in your environment.  Moving at the gentle pace I had on the ElliptiGO meant I was able to see wildlife that people in their vehicles would whiz straight past.  This was my favourite experience of the journey.

Q. What was the worst moment of your journey?

There’s one day that stands out to me as being one of my hardest days.  After two weeks of being hot, sweaty, grubby – and not having a wash – there was the offer of a shower in Port Lincoln.  A radio presenter had offered that I could stay in her house for the night, after doing an interview.  I knew it was about 150km away (which is achievable on a day with no wind, or a gentle wind).  But on this day I had the strongest headwind I’d ever encountered.  I was so desperate to get to her house, but it was just impossible.  I battled and battled all day – and finally got within 30km of her house – but it was getting dark, so I set up camp in a forest.  It was soul destroying, trying to stay positive and fight against the wind.  At many points I was only traveling at about 5km per hour (3mph).  But, the next day, when I did get that shower, it was the best reward ever!

Q. What surprised you the most during your journey?

The kindness and generosity of the people in Australia was the biggest surprise – and one of the best things about the whole journey.  From refilling my water to offering to pay for accommodation, people were unbelievably thoughtful.

Q. What were the biggest challenges of the journey?

The wind!!!!  Mostly the wind, but in fact all weather conditions present some kind of challenge in Australia.  There were lots of areas that had little shade available, so the sun was a problem then.  The first few weeks I experienced a lot of rain, which often came with strong wind.  As I crossed huge empty expanses of land whatever the weather forecast, it was always intensified.

Q. What went considerably easier than expected?

Motivation to get back on the ElliptiGO, day after day, was never a problem.  I thought there may have been days where I’d wake up and dread getting back on, but that never happened.  Every day I woke up excited to get back on and spend all day on the ‘GO.

Q. Did you have any injuries, accidents or health problems along the way?

No

Q. What was your ‘diet’ like during this trip?

I pretty much ate everything I could!!  After being so restricted for food as I crossed the Nullabor, once I got back into civilisation, with unlimited options in supermarkets, I got a bit greedy!  I had a huge appetite in the middle section of the adventure and it seems whatever I ate I was never full.  The main meals of my day were porridge for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and noodles for dinner.  When supermarkets were more frequent I could have much more options – and I craved sugar so badly that I ate more biscuits than anyone would ever need!

Q. What is your diet like after the trip?

Since the trip has finished I’ve definitely been eating much more fresh foods and getting far more vitamins and minerals into my body.  I am generally a very healthy person and I enjoy putting good nutrition into my body.

Q. What went exactly as planned?

The route I planned was almost exactly how I thought.  I just had to miss out one peninsula that I was going to ride down.  This was at the time when the arm of the trailer snapped, so I had to ride without my trailer.  Not having the trailer makes everything far more expensive, as I didn’t have my tent and cooking equipment etc.  I simply didn’t have the budget for three days without the trailer, so I had to cut out that section.

Q. What plans fell out of the window?

I hoped to give talks in schools throughout the journey, but I found that trying to arrange dates with schools in advance was impossible (with the unpredictable nature of the journey).  I couldn’t predict what distance I could cover per day, as the weather made such a difference to my day.  I also enjoyed the freedom of being able to stop and explore whenever I came to an interesting place, and making commitments would prevent this.

Q. Which was your best whole day of the journey?

This is an impossible question to answer, purely because pretty much everyday was amazing.  This whole journey was filled with days where I would think how lucky I was to be doing something so amazing.  Many adventures are miserable and grueling at the time (but when you look back they are fun).  Everyday on ElliptigOz I had fun, it felt fun at the time and I felt privileged to be there.  I felt I was possibly the happiest person in Australia!

Q. Which was your worst whole day of the journey?

This sounds a bit daft, but it was probably the last day, as I was so sad it was over!  I felt so emotional (and almost a bit scared) as I had become so accustomed to my life on the road.

Q. What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in this trip (about yourself and about other people)?

The energy that you give out to the world somehow comes back to you.  98% of the time I was happy and showed this through my expressions, body language and words.  On the few occasions when I wasn’t feeling so positive, I thought the whole world was having a bad day.  I noticed people weren’t smiling at me, or waving.  When I was beaming with happiness it seemed to bounce back at me from everyone I encountered.  Great experiences came to me whenever I gave my energy to the world.

Q. Was there a sense of anticlimax after the trip, suddenly having whole days to yourself again, or have you found ways to stay busy (or relax) after the trip?

Honestly, I haven’t had a minute to relax since the journey finished.  I had to get a job straight away, as I used pretty much all my money in Australia.  Putting together all of the evidence for Guinness World Records is also a huge job, which has taken up my time – and I’ve had problems with my laptop (which has literally taken days trying to fix).  I still haven’t unpacked my kit since returning from Australia.  One day I would like to sit still and reflect upon such an important experience.  Reflection is something I really value as a way of moving forwards.

And to round off the interview, here are some additional interview questions which were sourced from ElliptiGO riders who had followed Emma’s journey on social media:

Q. How many Monte Carlo biscuits did you eat on your trip – and can you convert it to total calories?

Ha ha – great question!

I’m not really sure how many I ate, but the funny thing is that I only ever paid for one packet of Monte Carlos myself. I bought one packet – and mentioned something in a video I posted about splashing out on a luxury biscuit (compared to the discount variety I had regularly bought) and then people started buying them for me. I probably had about 25 packets in total.

Q. Could you ask if Emma found eating and diet difficult to manage. She was camping a lot also, so did she struggle with poor/unhealthy foods?

I did struggle a little, but it wasn’t too much of a problem. Having to carry all of my food in the trailer, which got pretty hot during the day, meant that I couldn’t carry much fresh food. This was more of a problem in the areas where towns were far apart. I would mostly eat food that was relatively lightweight (and had to be re-hydrated). The main meals were porridge, pasta and couscous, none of which particularly agree with my stomach.

Q. Where do you get your motivation from?

If I ever struggled with motivation there were two main thoughts that spurred me on. The first was to consider if I would rather be doing this right now, or sitting in an office 9-5 everyday. I’d always choose a physical or mental struggle in the outdoors over sitting at a desk. If that doesn’t work then I think about the girls in Africa that the donations are coming in for. I think how they would love an opportunity to do something like this, but don’t have the chance, and I consider who has the biggest struggle. I usually end up pretty motivated again.

Q. Do you get lonely – if you do how do you cope with it?

I don’t think I ever really became lonely. I quite enjoy spending time alone and having no distractions. I like to allow my mind to wander and contemplate anything and everything. People were often surprised that I didn’t listen to music or podcasts while I was riding, but I always had something interesting to think about.

Q. How do you get your videos uploaded (and so ‘professional’ looking & sounding – so quickly – from the middle of nowhere)?

Well, I guess its opinion as to whether or not they looked ‘professional’, I didn’t think they were! They were often pretty rushed, as I was falling asleep in my tent at night. I didn’t need an internet connection to make the videos, only to upload them, so I could always create the video wherever I was (but then I would often have to wait till I could get signal to share it with the world). I found a signal every day as I crossed Australia, so I never had to wait too long.

Q. What do you prefer… A flat road with a headwind – or an evil climb?

I think I’d have to chose an evil climb. I actually really love hills when I’m running or cycling. It was really just the trailer that made hills so difficult on this journey.

Q. Do you want to do another long distance ElliptiGO ride – if so – where, why and when?

Yes, I would love to. I was actually thinking about riding the length of New Zealand, but I’m just not sure about the roads. The roads in NZ are not that ‘cyclist friendly’ (very thin, windy and lots of tourists on them).

Q. Would you like to ride down the coast of Southern California with your ‘fan club’?

That would be right up my street. It kinda sounds similar to my journey in Australia. Hot and sunny, with friendly people!!

Q. What do you want to do next?

Next year I’m planning on running the length of the UK.

Well, there you have it! Thanks for sharing your journey and your insights Emma!

Emma completed her journey in 74 days and has hit all her targets! She’s raised well over $10,000 for the charity One Girl and, pending ratification, she’s also set a new Guinness World Record (7,951.9km/4,941 miles) for the longest journey ever undertaken on an elliptical bicycle, in one country! Readers can continue to keep tabs on Emma, as she takes her next steps, by following her updates on her website and blog. We hope you enjoyed reading this article…

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