He’s that likeable yet rather quirky bloke off the telly, who does a bit of motorcycle racing on the side. But behind the affable, eccentric maverick is a finely honed athlete with a seriously competitive nature, and some hardcore training methods. Guy Martin gives Andy Dukes reason to believe that his best performances are yet to come…
It’s impossible to put Guy Martin in a box, metaphorically speaking. He’s been the high-flying star of five prime-time television shows, yet shies away from the spotlight and prefers to keep his feet on the ground by working long hours as a truck mechanic.
Men aspire to be like him and his story strikes a chord with many because while not exactly a rags-to-riches tale, it does show that sporting success at the highest level can be achieved with hard graft, guts and determination – natural talent aside. His autobiography was the publishing sensation of 2014, becoming the best-selling sports book of the year, but he freely admits that it’s of little interest to him personally.
“I didn’t expect it to be such a success but I’m not really bothered either way. If it had only sold one copy, it wouldn’t bother me, but they (the publishers]) told me a couple of weeks ago that it had sold over 300,000. I don’t know if that’s a lot or not – they’re just numbers – but it means nothing to me.”
Guy is slightly confused by his celebrity status. He has amassed legions of fans due to his exploits over the years at the Isle of Man TT – the world’s most dangerous motorcycle races – and yet he has never won there.
He is, however, the undisputed people’s champion due to his fighting spirit, straight talking and unerring ability to ‘ride it like he stole it’. “I always give 100 per cent effort, no matter what I’m doing but I’m not going to make any stupid predictions for the year ahead,” he commented during the team launch for his forthcoming TT campaign, which he has decided will be his last.
“I wouldn’t even consider turning up if I wasn’t fully prepared. It’s not about money for me, or waving at the crowd and picking up cheques. Stuff that. I go to the TT to try and win.”
Surprisingly, Guy’s true love is cycling and this takes in everything from his daily commute, to 24-hour endurance racing, to what he considers will be his greatest challenge to date – the 4,418 km Tour Divide race traversing the length of the Rocky Mountains, from Canada all the way to the Mexican border.
Fortunately for Guy, he doesn’t need much sleep, as his typical working day starts early with a ride that takes place in all weathers, year round, twice a day.
“It’s a 19-mile ride to work and I set off at 5.30am. There’s not much on the roads then. I’ve done it for years and never had any bother. I’ve got a fixedwheel single speed bike, which is really good for training – for ‘sustainable suffering’. I love a fixed wheel; it makes things a bit more awkward. I use a fairly big gear for a single speed and I’m often coughing a lung up by the time I get to
the top of Caistor bypass. That said, it’s half an hour in the van, so there’s not a lot of difference.”
Guy adds to these 200 miles of road riding every week with some extra mountain bike sessions, often with his young labrador Nigel in tow. His competitive nature also saw him enlist in the 2015 Strathpuffer 24-hour mountain bike endurance event in the Highlands of Scotland in the middle of January. It’s one of the top 10 toughest mountain bike events in the world, with snow, sub-zero temperatures and 17 hours of darkness at that time of the year. Guy finished in second place and is finding the whole extreme mountain bike thing addictive.
“Yep, cycling certainly clears my head, purges the system,” he says.
“I probably race push bikes more than motorbikes now. I did the first British Series round at the end of January – a 24-hour race – and that left me mentally and physically exhausted. Twenty-four hours on a bike is grim, but that’s what makes it so special – it’s good for getting your head sorted out, that is!”
The 33-year-old knows more than most about how extreme sports can punish your body and he has set off a few airport X-ray machines in his time thanks to the various plates and screws inside him.
“You get the odd beep, but it’s not bad. I suppose I’ve spent a bit of time in hospital. I’ve broken both thumbs, wrists, my leg, ankle, back and ribs. That said, I don’t have any niggles and feel
100 per cent fit – unless it’s damp, and then I struggle a bit!”
For Guy’s next challenge, he’s going to need to be 100 per cent fit – and then some. The Tour Divide from Canada to New Mexico is a serious test of endurance, self-reliance and mental toughness, averaging 175 miles (280 kilometres) a day for a fortnight, encountering all kinds of challenge from snowstorms to bears and a total of nearly 200,000 feet of total climb. That’s equivalent to summiting Mount Everest from sea level seven times.
Guy is fascinated by whether his body will be able to withstand the challenges.
“The biggest thing is dealing with this race mentally. You have to go there with the idea that you can win it, but in a race like that your body self-cannibalises and that’s what you have to try and deal with mentally. Your body can only process 20,000 calories in a 24-hour period, but to do that much riding – up to 18 hours a day – it’ll burn 25,000 calories.
“There are a lot of variants, but whatever happens, you’re in deficit so your body starts eating itself. That gives off ammonia so you start stinking of urine and it’s being able to deal with that mentally, because it will break you – but it’s whether it breaks you on day one, day seven, or whatever. It’s how you come out of that. You won’t finish a race like this without being broken.”
Watch Guy Martin riding his bike with Steve Peat and Joe Barnes round Central Scotland, riding in Stirling at Dumyat and Cambusbarron and then up to Ben Lawers near Killin. With some great trails, scenery and contrasting weather along the way!