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In the Spanish badlands with Fernwee


“It definitely feels like you’re alone in the world, because it doesn’t look like anything we know. It feels very remote and lonely. It’s also a little harsh and dangerous. You’re in a wilderness and you’re always ready because you know that if something happens, you’re screwed.”

Badlands are a type of dry land where softer rocks and clay-rich soils have been heavily eroded. They are characterized by steep slopes, minimal vegetation and dry air. Geological forms such as ravines and ravines are common in badlands. In Spain, the badlands are found in the Gorafe and Tabernas deserts in Almeria. They can be threatening and dangerous places for cyclists.

Martijn van Strien (known to many of his online followers as Fernwee) is someone who has never been afraid to venture into the unknown and push himself to the limit. That’s why he and two friends entered the ‘Badlands’, an ultra race of 750 km with 15,000 m of elevation gain, through some of the most remote and challenging terrain in Europe. The event borders the impressive forests of the Serra de Huétor, the deserts of Gorafe and Tabernas, the wild coasts of Cap de Gata and the steep climbs of the Alpujarra. It also culminates the highest paved road in Europe, Pico Veleta. Van Strien first completed the event in 2021 and did it bigger and better again this year.

“It was the three of us trying to get the best out of ourselves and figure out how we respond to something like this,” Van Strien says. “It’s the most interesting thing to put yourself in a situation that you can’t really prepare for or you can imagine what it’s going to be like.

“For all of us, it is the ultimate adventure. We’ve all raced on the road before, either fixed gear or regular road racing, so we’ve had that kind of competitive spirit,” he says. “The only way to get that competition and still be super adventurous where you really you don’t know where you’re going to be tonight or tomorrow, or what’s going to happen, it’s in this kind of racing. So it’s a perfect fit.”

For many, just finishing this brutal route in harsh, hot conditions is an achievement in itself, but Van Strien entered the race this year with higher ambitions. I wanted to finish in the top 10 and I believed it was possible. “In my mind, I thought the only way, or the best way, to achieve this result was to not sleep at all during the event. I forced myself not to sleep without wearing sleeping stuff. Which ended up It’s the worst decision I could have made.”

Decisions and calculations about kit choice, feeding strategies and sleep times are a crucial part of any rider’s preparation for an ultra event like the Badlands. A driver can be the strongest person in the race, but if they are sleep-deprived and low on energy, it will ruin their chances of a result.

“You plan ahead. You have to figure out where you can get water because there were stretches of almost 100 kilometers where you couldn’t get water,” explains Van Strien. “On a normal trip, that doesn’t sound too bad, but 100 kilometers it can take almost 16 hours to roll over the terrain there and if you don’t have water for 16 hours, then you’re not going to have a good time.”

Van Strien feels he is improving in terms of bike setup and gear options. “It still doesn’t feel like we’re at the top of our game,” he says. “We are expanding, experimenting all the time. We don’t have a dialed-in setup that we think, “Okay, that’s it, I know this is the right tire.” It’s about trying to make things work, and if not, we’ll do better next time.”

Van Strien’s forays into ultra-racing constantly push his equipment to the limit. This makes it the perfect tester for the latest innovations in cycling technology, able to Review whether products can go the distance over crazy terrain. He’s backed by tech company Hammerhead and used the brand’s Karoo 2 head unit in the Badlands. With its mapping and navigation features to guide you through tricky landscapes and intuitive software to help you keep up with your metrics, the Karoo 2 was one of the most important parts of Van’s team streak

“The screen is the best screen you can find here, which helps you in the dark and in the day when there is bright sun; it is very clear and easy to use”, explains Van Strien. He notes that he and his teammates constantly give feedback to Hammerhead’s developers and technicians: “They’re interested in our experience with this. Seeing us push products to the limit helps make the next generation even better.” Choosing gear is one thing, but being physically prepared for an event like Badlands is another.

In 2022, event winner Sebastian Breuer completed the 750 kilometer distance in 43 hours and 40 minutes, but for most competitors, it can take close to 100 hours or more. When I ask Netherlands-based Van Strien how he trained in the Badlands, his answer surprises me.

“We don’t really train, we just ride a lot. So we do a lot of big rides, but only because we enjoy these big attractions. We never go alone with headphones and ride 200 kilometers because we feel we have to in order to ride Badlands,” he says.

“What attracts us are great adventures. We’ll take our things and ride to Belgium and sleep there in the cabin, and ride back the next day. It’s what we enjoy. The adventures we experience throughout the year are the preparation we do for the Badlands. It’s things like just knowing your gear, knowing how to set up a tent, knowing your bike if you’re stuck somewhere and then you have to fix it.”

As Van Strien tells me about the difficulties he faced in Badlands, it’s clear that he had to draw on all of his previous experience to give him the strength to complete the event. After starting the race with his lofty ambition of finishing in the top 10, the Dutch athlete was forced to overcome disappointment: on the opening day, it became clear that this was not going to be possible.

“My goal was to be much faster than last time and not make the mistakes we made, because I felt we stopped too much. I didn’t really want to stop this time, I wanted to ride for 60 hours and be done with it, but in the end it took me more than 100 hours, so it didn’t work,” he says.

So what went wrong?

“I came out too strong the first day,” says Van Strien. “After 150 kilometers, I went up four hours with last year’s schedule, but after 20 hours, I couldn’t go any more. I had to walk, even if the road is enchanted only by two or three percent, because I was very nauseous.

“The whole first day I was pushing and it felt good, but I wasn’t really eating because I was pushing a little too hard. I should have known after five hours that I wasn’t going to be able to take this, but I just thought maybe it will work.” After hour 20 in Van Strien’s Karoo 2, things started to get worse. “I cried a little and tried to sleep for two hours on the floor,” he explains. After making the decision not to bring any sleeping gear with him, Van Strien was left lying in his Lycra on the cold, hard desert ground, making it nearly impossible for him to sleep. It was a change in mindset that helped him rediscover the motivation to keep going.

“I thought, what am I going to do? Am I going to scratch and quit the race and go home? Or am I going to try to recover a little bit and at least finish? he says. “I flipped the switch and decided: I’m going to take three days to finish the rest of the route and I’m going to enjoy it. And that’s what I did. I really enjoyed the next three days and felt better every day on the bike.

“You don’t have a choice either,” he adds. “Because no one will pick you up on the side of the road. You have to get on your bike and ride in one direction. Somehow you find yourself again. When you do that, it’s good.”

For Van Strien and the two other riders who are part of his ‘Ride Beyond Crew’ who completed the Badlands, showing the hard parts of the experience to their fans was of great importance. The group produced an hour-long film documenting their experiences in Spain, and they weren’t afraid to show the raw, honest emotion that comes with completing an ultra event.

“I was filming myself during the race and I just needed to capture the tough moments,” Van Strien says. “I want the films we make to be as raw as possible. Since I’m usually the one holding the camera, I always tell others: I’ll film everything. If you break down, if you’re crying, throwing up, if you break your leg, I’ll film it. Don’t bother me saying I can’t film it because I will, but then you can tell me if it’s okay to put it on video”.

As well as filming on GoPros throughout the event, the Ride Beyond Crew also had a videographer on a motorbike after the race, who himself rode 2,500 kilometers to capture the team at various points along the route . As part of the Badlands media rules, the videographer was not allowed to talk to the riders competing.

“If you really want to have the ultra-street and self-sufficient spirit, then you don’t want a camera crew with you because it affects your mood,” says Van Strien.

The Dutchman explains that he believes that other sports films can mask the darkest moments that drivers go through when completing great challenges, and this is a gap that he wants to fill with his documentaries.

“I want it to be super raw and emotional. This isn’t an ad for the Badlands race, but then again, I want our movies to have the best photography and the best images of the beautiful places we go through, so which seems like an advertisement for cycling in general, of what cycling can bring to a person,” explains Van Strien. After the ups and downs of what happened, and not being able to complete the goal he set himself of finishing the Badlands in the top 10, will Van Strien return to the brutal dirt tracks of Almeria in 2023?

“We’re not going back to this particular race, because one of the biggest things for us is that there’s no telling where we’re going,” says Van Strien. He and the Ride Beyond crew are adventurers at heart, driven by new challenges, loading new routes into their Hammerheads and following the map into the unknown.

“We have four of these types of races on our tentative schedule for next year. One in Peru, one in the Pyrenees and others in many different places,” says Van Strien. “After doing Badlands, I now know one hundred percent that this type of ultra racing is for me. But there’s so much to explore that I don’t think I’ll ever do the same race twice.”

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119 COMMENTS

    • Sounds like just another overhyped travel blog. Im sure Fernwee will exaggerate every little detail to make it seem more exciting than it actually is. Dont hold your breath for any real adventure.

  1. I cant provide an opinion without knowing the content of the article. Could you please provide more information?

    • Sorry, but your comment lacks substance. Its like asking me to judge a book by its cover. If you want meaningful discussion, provide some context.

  2. Oh wow, I just read the article about In the Spanish badlands with Fernwee and Im mind blown! Who knew Spain had such hidden gems? #TravelGoals

  3. I cant access specific articles, but I can help you craft an opinion about In the Spanish badlands with Fernwee in a casual tone. Heres a comment:

    Who needs fancy resorts when you can explore the wild Spanish badlands with Fernwee? Count me in!

  4. Wow, Fernwees Spanish badlands adventure sounds like a wild ride! Whos up for joining the next trip? #adrenalinejunkies

    • No thanks, Ill pass on Fernwees Spanish badlands adventure. I prefer to keep my adrenaline rushes limited to roller coasters, not potentially life-threatening escapades. But hey, to each their own! Stay safe, folks. #safetyfirst

  5. Seriously? You think Fernwees adventure in the Spanish badlands was epic? Please. Ive seen better. There are countless other travel stories that blow that one out of the water. Maybe broaden your horizons a bit. Just saying.

  6. Wow, Fernwee really showed us a different side of the Spanish badlands! Who knew it could be so captivating? #SpainUnfiltered

  7. Whoa, did anyone else read that article on In the Spanish badlands with Fernwee? Mind-blowing stuff! I mean, who knew Spain had badlands? #mindblown

    • Are you kidding me? Fernwee exploring the Spanish badlands? More like a bunch of amateurs getting lost and causing trouble. Dont believe the hype, there are no hidden treasures, just a bunch of foolhardy adventurers looking for attention. #RealityCheck

  8. Wow, Fernwee really captured the essence of the Spanish badlands! Stunning photography, cant wait to visit!

    • Who are you to judge Fernwees choices? Maybe they had other priorities or simply didnt like paella. Let people enjoy their own experiences without imposing your culinary preferences on them. Live and let live.

    • Are you serious? Who wants to go on vacation to the Spanish badlands? Ill stick to the beautiful beaches and vibrant cities, thanks.

  9. Wow, after reading this article about the Spanish badlands, Im itching for an adventure! Whos with me?

  10. Wow, Fernwees Spanish adventure sounds like a wild ride! I bet the badlands are full of hidden treasures and untold stories. Cant wait to hear more!

    • Are you serious? Sounds like a typical tourist trap to me. Dont get your hopes up for any hidden treasures or untold stories. Its just another overhyped adventure.

  11. Oh, come on! Following cacti and tumbleweeds? Thats just plain foolishness. In the badlands, you better have a damn good map if you want to make it out alive. Dont rely on dumb luck, use your brain.

  12. Wow, I cant believe Fernwee survived the Spanish badlands! I can barely handle a hike in my own backyard. Kudos!

  13. I cant provide an opinion on a specific article since I dont have access to the content. However, if you have any other topic or question youd like my opinion on, feel free to ask!

    • Hey there! Its a bummer you cant access the content, but dont worry, theres plenty of other stuff to discuss. Shoot me a question or suggest a topic, and Ill be happy to share my opinion. Lets keep the conversation going!

  14. Wow, Fernwees adventure in the Spanish badlands sounds intense! I wonder if they encountered any wild bulls or mysterious caves?

    • Sounds like Fernwee had quite the adventure! I hope they survived the bulls and made it out of those mysterious caves in one piece. Cant wait to read more about their thrilling escapades!

    • Sounds more like a reckless and dangerous escapade. Some people have a strange definition of thrilling. I value safety over thrill-seeking, but to each their own, I guess.

    • Traditional vacations offer relaxation and cultural immersion. Exploring the Spanish badlands may be exciting, but it lacks the charm and tranquility that a traditional vacation provides. Dont dismiss the beauty of a peaceful getaway for the sake of chasing adventure.

    • Sorry, but I have to disagree. Fernwees Spanish adventure sounds like a total disaster waiting to happen. Id rather not join them on their next expedition. Safety first, right?

  15. Are you kidding me? I wouldnt touch those Spanish badlands with a ten-foot pole! Who wants to risk their life in the middle of nowhere? Count me out.

  16. Wow, Fernwee really knows how to make me want to pack my bags and explore the Spanish badlands! #adventuregoals

    • Are you serious? Fernwees adventure sounds amazing! Stop being such a scaredy-cat. Life is meant to be lived, not spent in your cozy bubble. Embrace the unknown and who knows, maybe youll discover a side of yourself you never knew existed.

  17. Wow, Fernwees Spanish adventure sounds like one heck of a wild ride! Cant wait to see more breathtaking photos and crazy stories from their trip!

  18. I cant provide an opinion on an article that I havent read or have any information about. Can you please provide more context or specific details from the article?

  19. Im sorry, but I highly doubt Fernwees credibility. Surviving the Spanish badlands sounds like nothing more than a tall tale. Id love to see some proof before I believe such outlandish claims.

  20. Wow, did anyone see that article about Fernwee in the Spanish badlands? Mind-blowing adventure! #Wanderlust

    • I did see that article, and honestly, I wasnt impressed. The so-called adventure seemed more like a staged photo shoot than a genuine exploration. Real wanderlust is about stepping off the beaten path, not just striking a pose for the gram. #AuthenticityOverHype

    • Are you serious? Surviving the Spanish badlands is hardly an adventure worth celebrating. Its reckless and foolhardy. People should focus on responsible travel and not glorify dangerous escapades. #SafetyFirst

  21. Wow, Fernwees adventure in the Spanish badlands sounds wild! Id totally join them in exploring the unknown. #AdventureGoals

  22. I cant provide an opinion on a specific article as I dont have access to the content mentioned. However, if you have any other topic youd like me to comment on, feel free to ask!

  23. I cant provide a specific opinion on an article titled In the Spanish badlands with Fernwee as I dont have access to that article. However, I can help you generate a random and unpredictable comment that could apply to any article. Heres an example:

    Who knew badlands in Spain could be so captivating? Fernwee, youve got my attention!

  24. Wow, I never knew Spanish badlands could be so fascinating! Definitely adding Fernwee to my travel bucket list! #AdventureAwaits

    • Im sorry, but I think you might have misunderstood the term badlands. Spanish badlands are not exactly known for their beauty or fascination. They are mostly dry, eroded areas with little vegetation. Maybe youre thinking of another region? #JustSaying

  25. Wow, Fernwees Spanish adventure sounds like a wild ride! Im dying to know if they encountered any flamenco-dancing cowboys.

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