24 Hours in a Roundabout

Why would anyone ride in circles, and do it for 24 hours? 

In 2019, I was looking for something new, one that would engage more people.  I researched cycling records- Guinness lists 76, and the World Ultracycling Association has many more.  One day, I was driving through the roundabout capital of the United States: bike-friendly Carmel, Indiana.  Suddenly the idea popped into my head: what about distance riding in a roundabout?  Hours of Google research revealed not a single cycling related roundabout record.  How about a new one? 

I connected first with Oran Sands- the holder of a driving roundabout world record- and then with Carmel officials.  Bruce Kimball and Kevin Whited took, in their own words, about 5 seconds to decide they loved the idea of a cycling roundabout world record!  Their enthusiastic support made the ride a reality.  Without that, it never would have happened.  Bikes, roundabouts, community- those are some of the defining features of Carmel- and they all came together for the ride. 

Bruce, a Carmel City Councilor, and Kevin, who leads Bike Carmel, were simply the best.  The roundabout was selected, traffic cones arranged, a portable toilet was reserved, a press release sent, and much more that I didn’t even know about. 

The idea of riding for 24 hours in a roundabout was quirky and crazy enough that virtually everyone who heard about it did a doubletake with a look of, are you serious?!  Exactly the reaction I was aiming for!  But on the serious side, as with all my long rides, I did it for 3 reasons:

  • As a personal challenge,
  • To help others through World Bicycle Relief,
  • To engage the community with some crazy fun on a bike! 

Carmel chose the Friday of National Roundabouts Week for the ride, which ensured plenty of media coverage, including newspaper and TV interviews.  Even the USA Today and the Bob & Tom radio show picked up the story.  Each provided the opportunity to share that the ride wasn’t about a record, but rather about helping others through WBR and Buffalo Bikes.  We ended up raising over $7500 for WBR. 

The scene at the finish from my fellow SRAMmies, family & friends, and the Prairie View neighborhood was far beyond what I had envisioned!  One of my lasting memories is when Bruce announced to the crowd, “Dave, on behalf of the City of Carmel, congratulations on your new world record!”  It gives me goosebumps- but not because of the record.  The crowd inspired me, and that scene continues to be motivation to use ultracycling to help others.

Although the record was new, I took the approach of striving for as big a number as possible.  Records are meant to be broken.  If someone else wants to try, let them take their best shot.  I prepared with several long rides- and over 5000 roundabout laps.  The chosen roundabout, Carmel’s first at River Road and Main Street, could not have been better.  Scenic, large (just over 1/10 of a mile around), and plenty of room for spectators.  Perfect! 

The experience of the roundabout ride itself was unbelievable, as I playfully chatted with the encouraging crowd as I rode.  The banter both kept my mind occupied and was simply fun!  My Conquest/Christian Cycling buddies served as support crew (even camping out overnight), reminding me to drink and eat, prepping energy drinks, massaging sore muscles at stops, and offering sound advice.  They were nothing short of spectacular- professionals in every way throughout the ride.  It truly was a team effort.  I just happened to be the guy on the bike.

You might think that the story of the ride was “Ride a lap.  Repeat 3000 times”, but far from it.  There are so many moments I remember, it’s impossible to tell them all.  Here are some:

  • Friends and coworkers coming out to set up cones and tents, SRAM’s van, a co-worker David Morse with no experience setting up a GoPro (on the roof of the van- perfect view!), the crowd starting to gather, and the nervous anticipation that I felt.
  • The enthusiastic Prairie View neighborhood, who moved their Friday evening get-together to the roundabout, cheering and drinking wine. And the sound of them ringing a cowbell well into the night as I passed by on each lap!
  • A few tough hours around 3-5am when I could barely stay awake.
  • John Wright and Eric Carlton setting up tents and along with Pete Griffin and others, ensuring someone was awake with me all night. 

  • A coworker’s daughter with the cutest cheers I’ve ever heard:  Eleanor on YouTube
  • More coworkers coming out to volunteer and encourage WBR donations. Over $1200 was received on-site.
  • My former boss coming out in his Tesla on Saturday afternoon, driving alongside and chatting for a couple laps.
  • Struggling with being able to eat as much as I wanted. I never got intestinal distress, but felt for much of the ride that I was close.  This is just part of the deal with endurance events.  You can plan and test, but how you feel is not always predictable.
  • Playfully yelling “faster than a Tesla” as I passed several others! Ditto for golf carts.
  • Dan Lee, SRAM and Zipp’s PR manager who lives nearby, coming out to ride and take a couple videos. He posted them to Zipp’s Instagram feed- which quickly garnered thousands of likes and dozens of encouraging comments.
  • A group of 3-4 guys, some of whom had no idea of the event and just happened by, riding with me for the last 2-3 hours. I asked them to ride along as the finish approached, but they continued to drop back, insisting that this was “your moment”.  I’m so glad that they appear in many of the photos- this was a team event.

So many people came out, I know I left out many individuals- local neighbors for one.  Thanks to everyone who participated and joined, whether riding, cheering, or following along virtually!

The final results: 3065 laps, completing 376.4 miles (the shortest of 3 GPS trackers I carried).  And then hopped on a Buffalo Bike for a victory lap, as kids ran alongside me- what a thrill!  Thanks to the media coverage, the ride summary on Strava 24 hours in a roundabout garnered over 600 kudos (many from Europe)- about 20 times as many as a typical ride.

Time lapse video of roundabout ride

I am so thankful for everyone who came out, especially all the kids who heard the message- “if I can do it, anyone can!”  It’s true.

The world record remains unofficial.  Guinness turned it down (“too personal”), the website I planned to use went out of business, and other sites require pre-certification.  Fine.  I have the data, prove I’m wrong and I’ll give up my world record claim! 

For anyone who does desire to best the unofficial record for cycling 24 hours in a roundabout, here are the rules I set up: Roundabout World Record Rules

More photos from the ride:

Here are answers to some of the other questions I received about the ride.

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