BY ROBBIE FERRI
Hi, my name is Robbie Ferri. I’m an Ultra distance cyclist and part of the Jordan lifting club (JLC). In this article, I want to tell you all about how cycling and lifting completely changed my life.
I was lucky enough to start my training when I left school for college; I was on a Level 2 Sport and Fitness course. It was so much fun, and I learned so much helping me to where I am now.
After the course, I didn’t pursue a career in the fitness industry. I ended up floating from job to job, not knowing where I wanted to take my life. I was training a lot myself and found it beneficial to my physical and mental health. I love lifting weights for many reasons, but what I take away from it the most is the feeling of empowerment that it gives me.
I am now 26 years old going from job to job as I did some traveling, basically just enjoying life, and not committing too much. I had flown to Portugal on a family trip and we decided to go mountain biking. I didn’t care much for cycling and, on the day, was very hungover. So, I wasn’t expecting to have as much fun as I did. It gave me a feeling of being free. The views, the hard work you had to put in to go fast, I just loved it. When I got home, all I wanted to do was ride a bike, but I needed a reason to do it.
My Sister’s wedding was coming up, and I needed a gift for her. Jumping from job to job and travelling a lot left me with about £80 for a gift. I had to do something. So, I came up with a plan. I bought an old Mountain bike for £20 and a ferry ticket. I trained for three weeks to get ready, then cycled from London to Paris in 24 hours to put a Padlock on the Pont Des Arts bridge (Love Lock Bridge) for her and her future husband. I videoed the journey and sent it to her after I had done it. It floats around YouTube now somewhere, but it was the start of something extraordinary.
After this experience, I started to ramp up the miles. I was now busy doing lots of trips like London to Brussels in 24 Hours and cycling through 10 Countries in 10 Days, but it just wasn’t enough.
A World Record?
I then started thinking about going for a long-distance cycling World Record. There were two world records I felt confident achieving in my current form. One was most countries visited via bicycle in 24 hours, and the other was the most countries visited via bicycle in seven days.
The 24 Hour record was set at 4 countries, and the 7 Day record was set at 12. On my first attempt, I broke the 24-Hour record comfortably and carried on to try and take the 7 Day record. Unfortunately, this ended two days later with a blown-up knee.
24 hour record broken
Within 2 days, another cyclist had come along and broken my 24-hour record, and easy come easy go was the way that went. It was upsetting, but I knew for me it was more about the 7-day record. My second attempt was full of problems, but I managed to scrape together 13 countries. Suffering from food poisoning, awful weather, and some awful knee issues again. Annoyingly, I finished my second attempt to find out I had only matched another rider’s current record. This had to change, and I needed to find a way to get better and own this record.
So… I started to lift again!
It sounds obvious, but lifting weights is a great way to get better at most sports, for cycling came easy when I was weightlifting. I didn’t get injured. I was faster. I even felt much more efficient on the bike. Studies have shown cyclists who lift can see improvements from 7% - 20% depending on intensity and age. While I trained, my 7 day record went from 12 to 14 Countries, and I knew I had one heck of a challenge ahead of me.
I was a new man, strong from weightlifting and an absolute beast on the bike. When I came to attempt it, I had hit 15 Countries in 6 days. A day earlier than planned. Unfortunately, I couldn’t add another country in time. It took years to get there, but I’m a firm believer that your journey is far more important than the final result, and now, I feel I’ve learned more from the failed attempts than the successful ones.
My record was broken again...
A few months after my world record, I got beaten again, and the record was set at 16 countries. I was left chasing the record, and it still sits at 16 now as far as I know. Maybe one day I will have another go…
When I got home, I went straight back to the gym, trained harder, lifted heavier, and rode further. I was lucky enough to get a job as a Spin Instructor in the legendary Heros Fitness Gym, King’s Lynn, Norfolk. Then later they took me on as permanent staff. From there my career in self-supported Ultra cycling races, often called bikepacking Races.
My distances would range from 700km to 4,000km. I was lucky enough to race all over the World, in places such as Oman, Peru, Taiwan, and even crossed Europe… twice. I started just finishing races, and as I got better, I progressed into the mid-pack, and found myself amongst the top ten finishers of most races I was entering. I finished 4th out of 230 in the Bikingman Ultra cycling competition season 2018, which was a challenging year that had me lost in the Andes mountain range and in a jungle in Taiwan under snakes hanging off trees.
Three years on, and I still race every so often, but I went back to studying and became a Personal Trainer. Now I spend my time teaching others how to lift and to ride long distances. The advantages of adding weightlifting to support other sports are huge, and I can’t believe it isn’t done more commonly. Getting stronger helps prevent injuries, gives you more power, and helps support the weaker links in your body. When it comes to the gym, I have specific equipment that I rate to help improve cycling and many other sports.
When I’m getting ready for a competition or an Ultra Race, I use this equipment.
Ignite Pump X Studio Barbell Set - Shop here
You can’t go wrong with a barbell set. You have endless amounts of exercises to do and can get some real functional and strength work done. Not only has a Jordan Studio Barbell set got me through lockdown, but I also couldn’t imagine doing a workout myself without using one at least once. It won’t be the heaviest thing you have but does fit perfectly between strength and function.
Jungle Gym V3 - Shop here
The most underrated piece of fitness equipment available on the market, the Jungle Gym V3 is such a fantastic bit of kit. It’s incredible, and I mainly use my set to focus on functional work and form of exercises also to cater to a great full-body workout when away traveling.
Half Rack, Barbell, and Plates - Weightlifting collection
Do you want to get super strong? A lifting rack, Olympic Bar, and plates are going to help. This opens you up to heavy squats, deadlifts, and many other big lifting moves. This would normally be seen in a gym but if you have the space having it at home would be amazing.