Kevin Benkenstein recently completed a gruelling six-day journey-with-a-difference from Cape Town to Johannesburg.
In the process he set a world record for the largest GPS drawing, in the shape of a digital ECG heartbeat, by an individual on a bicycle.
“It feels good after finishing the ride and getting through some tough conditions,” said Benkenstein, who added that the record he set was for the largest GPS drawing by an individual at 522km.
The first leg was from Cape Town to Sutherland, starting at Klein Constantia. They cycled through the suburbs, along Voortrekker Road, out to Durbanville, over Bainskloof and into Ceres.
“We then followed some of the dirt roads which, after the first 180km with over 2 000m of climbing, was a reasonable start to the day.
“Then we swapped to our gravel adventure bikes and headed out towards Sutherland. Anyone who has ridden either of the ways that lead there knows that it’s never smooth and there’s lots of wind.”
He said the next 140km, which included a further 2 000m of ascent, was a real slog.
“It was probably the hardest section in my opinion, leaving Sutherland and heading towards Fraserburg.
“Day three, from Victoria West across to Colesberg, was pretty interesting. There were a lot of gates in the beginning and then big open roads. This was also where I was chased by a warthog, so I had to get on the pedals a bit.”
Because of the shape they were trying to draw they went all the way up to De Aar.
Benkenstein added that it was hard going and at the end they had to contend with a headwind as they rode into sunset.
“The sunset was probably one of the most beautiful I’ve seen in the Karoo.”
Day four was the world record day and they travelled from Bloemfontein to Kimberley, Boshof and Hertzogville.
“We made it all the way back to Bloem in the shape of a heart.”
He said the first 160km were just one long block headwind on a flat road where they rode at 27km/h.
“I was fighting as hard as I could and I had no momentum. You’re on a dead straight national highway and because it was the world record there was zero shelter whether I wanted it or not.
“I’m not one to take a pull from a car, but I didn’t really have the option that day either.”
Among the Guinness world record rules was that no car was allowed around him for more than 10 to 15 seconds and no other riders could ride with him.
“Pieter and Dion had to ride ahead, far away from me. They also did the record, but because they unfortunately couldn’t get all the admin side of things done – which I had a crew helping me with – they weren’t recognised for it.”
He added that it was a tough 520km ride and he spent a lot of time on the pedals, sitting in the saddle, with no real variations or climbs.
“It is beautiful, it’s just a bit mentally draining when you’re riding these straights and you can see 10km in front of you the whole time.”
He felt the last leg from Kroonstad to Johannesburg was the highlight for him as the Philips team, who organised the attempt, rode with them.
“We went to their head office and from there to the grand finale at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit. Sharing it with them was really special.”
Benkenstein and the team also undertook the challenge in a bid to raise funds for an automated external defibrillator for The Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa.
“My dad passed away at the end of 2014, so this was a special cause for me and it was easy to be motivated. It felt good to be able to play a small part in trying to raise awareness and funds,” he said.
“If we’re lucky enough to be fit, strong and healthy, we have a duty to use that for some level of good.”
Benkenstein, who also aims to eventually ride across a continent, plans to stage a 3 000km South African ultra-endurance race that will show off the country.
“I’ve got the maps; I just need the riders. So I’ll hopefully get that going in the next year or so.”