Sofiane Sehili, the ultracyling man

Sofiane Sehili is a smiling Frenchman, 37 years old, able to win many of the toughest races on the planet, like Silk Road, French Divide, Atlas Mountain Race or Italy Divide, being second or third in many others.  Sofiane is a Miss Grape ambassador and we are proud to have such an athlete on our team and to have the possibility to receive from him ideas and suggestions to improve our products. Few days ago Sofiane visited Miss Grape head quarter and we had the occasione to have a long chat, presenting him the new products –  that we will launch in the next months – and listening to his stories. 

Photo Credit: Alex Luise

Sofiane, everyone is talking about you…who are you and how did you start with ultracyling?

I’m an ultra endurance racer and an adventure cyclist based in Paris. Since 2010 I’ve toured over 100.000 km, visiting more than 40 countries on 5 continents. My first experience with races was the Great Divide: in 2014 I pedaled along the Great Divide Mountain Bike route in the United States. I heard that every year people would gather on this track to race non stop, day and night, with the clock never stopping. Obviously I thought they were crazy, but the idea of taking part in this race made its way into me. Two years later, I came back to the course to race it and finished 3rd. It was much harder than I imagined but I got hooked and my ultracycling career began. 

What’s your favorite bike setup?

I like to race with a hardtail MTB and rigid fork, with 2.25 tires. It’s light and fast and allows me to tackle any terrain. Lately I’ve been racing rougher courses so I’m thinking of maybe adding a front suspension for more comfort. When you spend 18 to 20h a day on your bike, comfort is speed.
I like to use a full frame bag to make the best of the space offered by the front triangle. It’s also very convenient for me as I like to use a water bladder for hydration. I always have a Node top tube bag for my batteries, cables and chargers. I use two Bud food pouches as I like to have easy and fast access to food when I’m riding. Depending on the weather conditions, I use either a Cluster 7 or Cluster 13 waterproof seat pack. For warm weather short adventures, I use the smaller one. When the temperatures are likely to go down and I need more equipment, I use the 13 liters version. 

Photo Credit: FIZIK

You are working with Miss Grape to develop or improve the products, to make them even more efficient: what are your ideas? 

Miss Grape bags are already very well conceived and it’s hard to come up with ways to improve them. They are the sturdiest bags I ever used, which, in my opinion, is the most important quality when you use them as much as I do. I still managed to pitch a few ideas to Michele. What I’d like to see on a seat bag, for example, is a dedicated compartment for a tracker. Things I feel I miss and could be added to the Miss Grape range is an ultralight anti-slip musette, and an ultra-compact and light bag to transport your bicycle on the train. 

Your race strategy is unique: tell us more about it.

What helps me tremendously is my ability to go without (or with very little) sleep. I have a touring background and I have developed a habit of being relentless and efficient, rather than just going fast and then resting. It’s an ability that is both a gift and something acquired with lots of training and experience. 

What is your favourite race?

Silk Road was probably my favorite race ever even though it was also one of, if not, the hardest. I suffered a lot but never asked myself what I was doing here. Kyrgyzstan is such a magnificent place, everyday I kept being amazed by the scenery. I am very proud that I could win the race and I’m looking forward to giving it another go.

Photo Credit: FIZIK

Are you working on a new project?

Next year I will try to break the record of the fastest crossing of Eurasia by bike from Lisbon to Vladivostok. The current record is 64 days. I’d also like to have more opportunities to share my experiences with people. 

The most longest trip you’ve ever done?

In 2017, I rode my bike from my home in Paris to the shore of the south China sea. A 16.624km long trip across 18 countries over the course of 88 days. 

Why did uou start cycling so late?

If I started before, probably I would be a pro. I like cycling without the obsession of performance and ultra cycling is perfect for me, letting me discover places and meet people.  Bike, that’s where I feel happy and alive. 

In your opinion, why people is so attracted by ultracyling and by adventures by bike?

I think as a society we’ve reached a level of comfort that is so high that you can often feel like it’s putting you to sleep. Things are both very complex (all of the choices we have to make daily) and very predictable. When you sign up for an ultracycling race, you give up any kind of comfort and you get a chance to see where your limits are. But you also discover the simplest of life, where there’s very few choices to make and one goal where you can focus all your energy. There’s no meaningless questions anymore. And on top of that, you just can’t predict what’s gonna happen. It’s just the complete opposite of the daily routine that a lot of people are trying to flee because they need to feel alive.

Give some advice to people who wanna try an ultracycling experience.

 I think the most important thing is to make sure you have the right gear for the job. Warm clothes for the cold night, waterproof ones for the rainy days. The capacity to carry enough water, whether it’s in bottles or in a bladder. But also enough space to carry food, especially if you’re cycling in remote areas. If you plan on camping, make sure you have a good enough shelter. 
In terms of bikes, you need a comfy one. One you know you can spend a long time one, with good tires and the appropriate gearing (don’t forget your bike is loaded so it’s harder to get it uphill). 

Photo Credit: FIZIK

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