This morning, Mike Hall was setting out for the last leg of the Indian Pacific Wheel Race, an unsupported race across Australia, when he was struck and killed by a car outside Canberra. Police say he died at the scene, and organizers called off the race shortly after. He was 35 years old.
For Mike Hall, continents were something to be crossed on your own with nothing but what you can carry on your bicycle. Hall began racing mountain bikes as a youth in England, but quickly took to grueling endurance rides. The first adventure race he signed up for was the 2011 Tour Divide, a weeks-long jaunt traversing the North American spine of the Rockies. Hall sustained a knee injury, but still finished eleventh, completing all 2,745 miles in 19 days and eight hours. Two years later, he came back and won the race in 14 days and 11 hours. When another cyclist broke his record two years after that, he returned in 2016 and became the first person to complete the race in under two weeks.
Hall also holds a number of other world records, including the fastest unsupported ride across the continental United States (just over 17 days) and the fastest ride all the way around the world (91 days not counting transfers, good for an average of over 200 miles a day). He organized the Transcontinental Race, which spans the entirety of Europe and encourages riders to take different routes every year.
Solo adventure riding, or bikepacking, is incredibly difficult feat of endurance, and the brutal nature of the sport is only compounded when you’re racing. Hall never had any help when he biked across North America or Europe or Australia. At times he lived off whatever food he could buy at gas stations and convenience stores and then he kept riding.
You don’t willingly set out on a monastic quest to ride across land masses not meant to be crossed via human power without a near-religious attachment to the bicycle, and Hall was a hardcore acolyte. He understood exactly how hard it was to ride, but it seemed to bring him unparalleled peace:
People who know me know that I get distracted very easily; pretty much by anything and everything. There’s loads of cold cups of tea, and put down pencils, and 5mm Allen keys all over my house. I find that’s difficult when I’m trying to do stuff, but when I’m on the bike, my mind is kind of racing along. I don’t care what it does. That’s one of the things I love: all the time, you’re still riding a bike. All the pain or discomfort, or whatever it is when you’re pushing on a bike and doing long distances, fades into the background and your mind races along and does whatever it wants to do.
Hall was going to finish the Indian Pacific Wheel Race today in second place, behind his friend Allegaert Kristof. He warned fellow riders to be wary of passing cars just a few days ago.
Even though organizers canceled the race, Kristof eventually made it to Sydney and posted a tribute to Hall.
The city will host a ride in Hall’s honor this weekend, and a fellow endurance racer set up a crowd funding page to support the family Hall left behind.