You’ve never met a rider like him before // Ben Hildred

We can confidently state that there is no other human on planet earth quite like Ben. Sure, the list of impossibly challenging rides that he’s attempted and conquered beggars belief, but as you’re about to discover in this article, his accomplishments on a bike is only a small part of what makes Ben so remarkably unique.

Prepare to have your mind blown by quite possibly the most incredible, and modest, bloke to every ride a mountain bike. And, if you’d like to learn more about some of the INSANE rides that Ben has cooked up over the years then check out his website over at

Words // JT   Images // Callum Wood

[R]: Ben, I don’t even know where to begin this interview because I have so, so many things that I’m curious about you and what makes you tick. Okay, so most riders reluctantly pedal up hills purely so that they’re then able to bomb back down a trail. But in your case, it almost seems as if you flip that on its head and riding downhill is more just a means to an end to allow you to then ascend once again… Is there some truth in that?

Ben: Haha, it would almost seem that way wouldn’t it! To be totally honest I think simply that I enjoy the bike ride and earning your turns genuinely makes the descents that bit sweeter. I enjoy the descents as much as the next person, although riding a bicycle can offer you so much more than just the buzz and stoke of going downhill. Doing a day of uplifts and just descents gets me pretty agitated, like tasting your favourite food while pinching your nose, it’s not the full flavour. Climbing offers a calm and metronomic mediative state of contemplation, a time to consider the descent and everything else in your world and to appreciate where you are.

What’s funny is the emphasis is always on the climbing aspect of these rides I do, many forget, I did just as much descending, which is pretty fun too!

It makes perfect sense when you put it like that mate. The challenges that you set yourself seem unfathomable. For instance, how did you arrive at a point where you woke up one morning and decided to see if you could climb one million vertical feet, over three thousand vertical metres, within 200 days!?

These ponderings of possibility and attainability when you factor in the humble bicycle really get to me, using a simple tool to achieve the seemingly unachievable is magic. I’ve never seen Everest, but I can look up at my closest mountain, stack it four times on top of itself, crank your neck into the clouds, then look at your pedals, imagine using those to get up there, it’s an exciting idea to me. 

What is the motivation that fuels you to come up with these challenges – the feeling of satisfaction that you’ll feel at the end when you’ve achieved it, or is it some of the process of each ride as you’re grinding away out there in the saddle, or a curiosity to see how far you can push yourself before you give up, or is it something else altogether?

Oddly, when you get to the end of these big rides and goals, there isn’t a satisfaction you’re probably imagining, it’s actually quite a hollow and empty feeling ha, without trying to sound too morbid, the end is always quite sad for me.  The real enjoyment is in the execution, when you’re deep in it and feeling alive. I’ve not given up yet on any of these tasks, maybe I’m trying to find my limit, but the mind is a powerful thing. With the spikes in determination, come troughs of doubt and pain. Like climbing and descending, you don’t get one without the other.

Staying on the subject of those mega rides such as the How much of the battle is mental ‘vs physical?

You can accomplish anything with enough proper training, the way I see it is, if you invest the time before hand, the physical aspect of any mission is done, the work happens there, the mission itself is simply proving it doable. The battle is all mental. If you imagine your bodies absolute energy decanted into three cups, physical, mental and emotional, accomplishing a big bike ride requires you to constantly drink from a cup, but none of the three can ever get empty, you instead have to sip from each in turn, that’s how my mind focusses on a big pedal. If you’re feeling physically spent, you need more control and mental focus, when mental focus dwindles you need to remind yourself of your investment, and it’s worth to you, how it feels to be going through it, this for me is your emotional cup. The wonderful thing is these energy cups do fill back up again, and using one helps the others recover, it’s a balancing game, a meditation to go further.

It’s fascinating to hear you describe it like this. Let’s keep diving a little deeper if we may into the physical side, can you give us an idea of how much pain you experience during those epic rides?

Physically, honestly, it’s never been that bad, although you never really remember how bad it was, haha! You have to look after yourself, listen to your body, never let it hurt. Sure you ache, muscles feels heavy, being tall my back burns intensely, your head becomes heavy and hard to support, palms become numb, holding onto your bars is a task. It’s never too much though, there is always a descent waiting for you if you’re climbing, and there is always a nice climb ahead ready for you to ‘recover’ on. 

What kind of fuel do you have to put into your body to keep going when you’re in that zone of riding quite literally all day and all night long?

You have to eat constantly, constantly, even when you feel sick because you’re that full. I’m plant based and have been for 8 years, I don’t know whether it’d be easier if I wasn’t, but it works just fine for me. I’ll be at salted nuts, chips, dried mango, none stop. Food is generally divided into two categories, sugar and salt, you’ll be craving one or the other.

When shit gets real bad there will only be a couple of things you can stomach, for me, boiled potatoes and oranges.

That is quite the diet that you’ve come to employ over the years for your bike rides. Let’s shift direction now – every time we’ve seen you conquer one of your mind-blowing challenges the one thing that always stands out the most, and is so hard to believe and at the same time is so f*king cool, is the bike that you choose to ride… Like, surely if you’re crazy enough to attempt to pedal the height of Mt Everest in one go then you’d need to be sane enough to select the most efficient pedalling bike possible, like some sort of World Cup XC hardtail. Not you though, instead you set off on a freaking regular SantaCruz dually! What’s your mindset behind the bikes you choose to ride?

Well yeah that is very true, it’d be a lot easier and more efficient probably, but would it be more fun that way? Probably not. Especially not on the descents! The bike I’ve used the most for these missions is my Santa Cruz Tallboy, it’s my favourite bike ever, comfortable, efficient enough, and is incredible when pointing down. Simply, I know if I’m off out for a big day on the bike riding the Tallboy, it’s going to be a good time ha!

You’re supported by some of the very best brands in the scene, which must be comforting considering how much wear and tear you must put your bike through on a daily basis. If you had to guesstimate a tally of the number of chains and brake pads and tyres, and bottles of lube etc, that you grind though in a year what would it be?

I honestly feel super fortunate for the support I get with riding a bike! It’s crazy and cool people can see a value in telling the stories and have me run their product, humbling. In terms of my bike set-up I’m actually pretty useless to be honest. Right before I head out the door I might give my tyres a pinch test every now and again, but that’s about it. I couldn’t even tell you how much air is in my suspension haha, but it all feels great. 

What!? I don’t know if we can believe that. What about for those really big rides – surely you have to prepare your bike thoroughly and make sure it’s running A1 or it would likely never make it though? 

Mmm for the really big days I do like know that I’m running relatively new tyres so that they’re running good and I will check suspension sag is aptly ball park. Ever since I started riding SRAM’s T-Type gear I only now tend to ride a single chain all season long, which is mad. Prior to that I’d get through three, that stuff is really good. A good saddle tilt for climbing, 760mm bars, soft grips and a saddle that fits, this is important, a lot of shops can measure your sit bones now, that is a game changer for so many people!

Surely its not true that you prefer to use flat pedals rather than clipping in?

Ha, I always run flat pedals! People always seem to find that really surprising. I run flats because they are just so much more fun when you’re descending! Sure there is an argument I’m not getting the most out of my pedalling when going uphill, although I feel pedalling technique is more important than tugging on an upstroke when you’re charging, pedal with your glutes.

So you’re an Englishman who resides in beautiful Queenstown NZ, and it seems that pretty much all of your mega rides have taken place in and around where you live. Is that because, in your mind, it is the ultimate location on earth to attempt such massive rides or is it just convenient because it’s where you’re based?

That’s right, I’m originally from Lincolnshire, England, and lived there for 26 years before seeking out the mountains, first Whistler, then Queenstown, New Zealand. Queenstown has it all, honestly, have you been? It’s only fitting that the mountains that inspire are also the canvas for the big missions. I lived in the flattest county in the country back in the UK, we hardly had hills let alone mountains, maybe I’m just making up for it now haha. Queenstown is such a heavy influence, the local scene, the community is wildly driven and encouraging, pushing and excelling each other. I don’t think there’s anywhere else in the world like it.  Every year there are half a dozen new Everest’s ticked off locally. 

Meanwhile, on another hill in town the world’s biggest public jumps are being hit and above them, some of the best technical trails you can find are being ridden on daily, it’s such a progressive space. I love it here!

Yeah, we’re pretty jealous of anyone who gets to spend time over in Queenstown – that place is epic! Alright next topic – besides the style of bike that you choose to ride, the other really striking thing when we see you out there doing these mega challenges is that you wear regular baggy ‘trail’ clothes. Can you tell us a little about your preference for attire when you ride and is it ever tempting just to wear lycra like most people wear when their focus is on riding for as far and long as humanly possible?

My main focus with clothing is on comfort and ease. True story I’ve never worn a chamois, not even with the Olympus Mons ride, which was 60 hours straight, or the double Everest, I’ve just never needed it, or felt particularly sore when riding. I enjoy keeping it as casual as possible, it helps to remind you it’s only a damned bike ride, don’t take it too seriously. It’s also nice to finish a ride and not be head to toe in smart materials and glossy fabrics when sitting down for some chippys in town. One of the brands that supports me a lot is Rapha, I love their gear, and recently they launched a new ‘cotton classics range’ which has become my instant favorite ‘go to’ clothing. 

The fact that you’re the only bloke on the planet who is able to conquer these mega, mega riding challenges that you keep setting yourself is so cool and it is a real honour to feature you in the mag this edition. Final question to wrap this all up; you’ve clearly spent countless days and hours riding, and when you’re not out on the trails you work as a fulltime bike mechanic – do you ever get sick of bikes?

Ah man that’s very kind to say, thank you! Haha will I get sick of bikes though? Honestly, I doubt it. I’m the biggest MTB fan. Honestly ever since I was a kid all of the money that I’d earn from doing my paper delivery rounds I’d straight away spend on buying bike mags. I would pour over the pages of those mags for countless hours. And now, all these years later to be featured in bike mags is the most surreal experience! I’m just a guy who likes riding bikes and doesn’t particularly know when to stop. Sure, some bike rides require more effort than others, some are considerably more fun, but I’ll never get sick of bikes! They’ve afforded me a great life in a beautiful part of the world, I don’t know what I’d do without them. Finally, I’d just like to say thank you so much for inviting me to be a part of this article and appear in [R]evo JT!