If you've ridden in Surrey, are on Strava or follow endurance cycling events you have probably heard of Bruce Berkeley. A local legend, clocking up over 50,000 kilometres a year and tackling some of the sport's most gruelling endurance records, we sat down with the Kiwi to discuss challenges, bikes and cafe stops.
So Bruce, let's start at with where it all began. What made you take up cycling?
It all began when I moved to London, over 20 years ago now. I needed a job and started working as a truck driver, but did not enjoy it, so looked into becoming a cycle courier. Although not a cyclist at the time, after moving from New Zealand, I was keen to explore the city and with my bike I had the opportunity to meet the late Ray Eaden, a former British time trial record holder, who suggested I tried racing. Based on the amount of riding I was doing as a cycling courier it seemed the logical next step and before long I was starting to see promising results.
A successful road racing cyclist, can you tell us a little about your racing history?
Racing took me around the UK as well as further afield in Belgium as well as tackling the iconic Ras in Ireland. This was also where I first began my relationship with Sigma Sports, racing for their outfit in the late 90’s and early 2000’s with the likes of Matt Stephens and Chris Lillywhite. Winning the divisional championships and a string of races gave me confidence and respect amongst my peers, it was an enjoyable chapter in my life and one I look back on with fond memories.
Post racing, what challenges have you undertaken?
After running a successful business for a number of years, things took a turn as my business partners were arrested and charged with fraud, meaning the business had to close. This difficult time affected me both emotionally and financially, so when my friend introduced me to the Strava this gave me the opportunity to get back on the bike and provide me with the focus I needed. I found it both motivational and it meant I could set goals and challenges to work towards. The first of these challenges was the Bordeaux-Paris, a 600km endurance event.
Invited by former England footballer, Lee Dixon, the format of this event is to ride it as a team. The only issue, I had no team! Undeterred, I rode the event solo and finished in 2nd place. This result left me with a new found confidence and I thought this was quite a cool and really a quirky, new opportunity, which up to then hadn’t really been in the mainstream public eye. Endurance cycling events have really grown in popularity over the last few years and I’d like to think I have played a part in this growth.
I feel the real draw for cyclists is how aspirational and relatable these challenges are. No, we cannot all ride the Tour de France but we can all challenge ourselves with a long ride or a tough day in the saddle.
I hope these events and challenges inspire people to get out and test themselves on the bike.
What are your future plans?
I’ve had the week record and month record and I attempted the LEJOGLE record last year, which I pretty much had it sewn up had it not been for a logistical error on the last day. This is definitely a goal for 2018, as well as the week-long record, which I held until my friend, James Golding, took it from me this year. I am heading out this winter to Thailand where I plan to attempt this record again. Although it will take some time to adapt to the climate, the warm weather should make things more comfortable at least. I want to increase it by a decent number, not just 10 or 15 kilometres. I have got a number in mind, so watch this space.
So we're looking to do our first endurance event, what are your top tips for preparing for such a ride?
Put in the hard work in your training. I prioritise my time for riding, so fitting in the miles is not an issue. If you are scheduling riding around work, I’d recommend using your time wisely. If you’re training for an endurance event you need to get used to riding a little bit fatigued. If you’ve got a weekend when you can do 80 miles one day and 100 miles the other this really helps increase strength and resilience.
Another thing to be aware of is your pacing. Put simply, do not go off too hard. It is worth remembering you do not have any recovery time, so pace yourself and avoid going into the red.
Where is your favourite place to ride a bike?
Bushy Park, no in all seriousness, anywhere the sun is shining and the roads are good. I’ve been to Australia, and although the weather and roads are good, the motorists aren’t too accommodating to cyclists. Colorado is amazing, as I like the mountains. It may not have an illustrious cycling history but the riding is fantastic out there. There are something like 38 climbs around Boulder that go over 3,000 metres in elevation. The roads are stunning, and the weather and the scenery does not disappoint either.
Racking up these huge miles is hungry work, what's your 'go-to' cafe stop?
A small cafe in Ascot is one of my favourite places for a mid-ride stop. It’s a good wholesome place and the food is not too expensive. When it comes to winter, keeping warm is key, so the Cinnamon Cafe in Windsor is my pick for the colder months. I’ve got plenty to choose from to be fair.
What inspires you to ride?
It’s therapeutic. I enjoy doing it, full stop. When I don’t ride I end up doing things I shouldn’t be doing. When I am riding I get my work done, I am focused and it gives me some sort of routine. I like the order.
What piece of cycling kit could you not live without?
The Garmin. It gives you the numbers, statistics and information as to where you’ve been. I find it is a great motivational tool. I went out with a group the other weekend and ended up turning home slightly earlier. When I got home, I looked at their ride and thought that was a cool looking route. I uploaded the route file and my plan is now to go out and follow it and hopefully explore new roads and have a good ride off the back of it. It is an essential piece of kit for me. When I go on holiday the phone goes in one pocket and the Garmin goes in the other.
How are you finding the Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL6 Road Bike?
What a machine. I have had good bikes for a number of years and I have been looked after well. I am very particular about my bikes as I spend so much time on them. Changing over to Specialized as a brand, I wasn’t sure what to expect, as I had never ridden one before. Hoping it would be equivalent to what I have ridden in the past; if anything I have found it to be even better. It’s the best bike I have ever ridden.
It’s really re-motivated me and in 2 weeks I have already clocked up 2,000 kilometres on it. I have enjoyed every second on it.
The Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL6 has Shimano's Dura-Ace 9150 Di2 Electronic Groupset, which offers smooth, reliable shifting. The bike is incredibly comfortable and super lightweight. I am over the moon with it.
You are rolling on Knight Composite Wheels, what are your impressions of them?
When I heard I would be riding on Knight Composite Wheels I was looking forward to giving them a try and seeing if they lived up too the hype that I had heard and read about in reviews.
I have been supplied with a set of 65 Carbon Clincher Chris King R45 Wheels in the interim, while I’m waiting on a 35 millimetre and a 50 millimetre deep set of rims, to ride and give feedback on. It's always a good day when you get given a new set of top end wheels to ride and test, and these certainly made the bike look even better. For my riding and amount of miles I clock up the shallower rims are definitely a better option, but I love the look and feel of deeper wheels as it just makes you feel like you want to push on the pedals a bit harder.
After one week and 1050 kilometres later I’ve put them through there paces in various riding conditions and have been nothing short of impressed with the quality, stability, and the way that they roll. They are confident in the wind, the carbon braking track works well in all conditions and once you have them up to speed they are without question the fastest wheels i have ridden. They have a real feel of quality about them and for a 65 millimetre deep wheel there is a real minimal weight penalty.
For 2018 I will be running these wheels in 35 millimetre and 50 millimetre rim depths paired with Sapim CX Ray Spokes. If the first week of riding with the 65 millimetre wheels is anything to go by, I’m really looking forward to getting the rims built and on the road.
Tell us about your favourite race and professional rider?
I have always had an affinity to Liege Bastogne Liege. I think I would have enjoyed the parcours when I was racing. It’s long, hilly, but not mountainous. The winner always is a worthy one, I like this tough kind of racing. Lombardia is a similar course and always provides a scintillating result.
My favourite professional rider changes from time to time but I do not think you can look past Peter Sagan. For the last five years, he’s added character to the sport, he’s humble and he wins the big races when he has too.
What makes him a true champion is his level-headed attitude and his sportsmanship. Without doubt, he’s good for cycling.