Over Yonder: Dan talks stupid adventure riding, endless dirt trails and exploring Germany

In Berlin, Interviews by Claire

On Dan’s portfolio it mentions that he has: ‘Ridden past the cumulative elevation of Mount Everest in 16 hours and 344km with a fractured hand.’ He lists this in the ‘extra curricular fun’ department and adds that he always reaches the end with the grin – despite the number of broken bones. He likes bike adventures that other people like to call stupid and together with Australian teammates at Over Yonder, takes some ridiculous photos whilst doing it. He’s done some excellently mad rides. Now he’s living in Berlin and I asked him about his interest in eating dirt.

Hey Dan, who are you and what are you up to on an average day?

I’m Daniel (Speedy) Campbell-Williams, I’m trying out life on the other side of the world and trying to enjoy as much of it on two wheels as possible – maximum amount of time pulling wheelies and ripping skids.

What brought you to Berlin?

I came to Berlin after a weird couple of years in Sydney and decided that Barcelona would be too hot and London would be too easy with friends and a common language.

You didn’t come here directly – you had a bit of a detour doing some hectic driving and photography first. How did that come about and what was it like?

Before I left Sydney for Berlin, my teammate, good friend and professional photographer Beardy McBeard (Marcus Enno) asked me to assist him in shooting Le Tour de France. As I soon found out, this was actually a much larger job than I had originally thought.

My daily tasks were driving our little car as fast as legally possible, getting breakfast & coffee ready, sussing out where to eat dinner, taking my own photos of the race as well as photos of ‘The Beard’ in action for the story about the day which I would write for beardyscaravan.com. At the end of the 3.5 weeks, we were both knackered but loved everything about it.

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Some days were crazier and longer than others since we were usually leap-frogging the riders and convoy, trying to get to the next photo spot before the French police stopped us from getting back onto the course.

What kind of cycling were you doing back home? Tell me about your group and how it came about.
Back in Sydney I started cycling with a little fixie crew and gradually grew to want more distance and more speed so moved to a road bike. My enthusiasm in bunch riding didn’t go unnoticed and I was invited to be part of an adventure/racing team which was to be supported by Giant Bikes and POC. With team backing, I started racing cyclocross, road races and criteriums. I had already tried racing on the velodrome with my fixie origins, however the logistics of it weren’t viable.

I was also a Rapha Cycle Club ride leader in Sydney a couple of days of the week, while the other days were spent training with mates or heading off on awesome long rides every weekend.

You used the word ‘adventure’ to describe your group. Can you tell me a bit about that mentality?

Our team wasn’t created with the idea of winning races, but going out for long rides on our cyclocross bikes. Sometimes these adventures are a day, sometimes they’re a week of camping/staying in pubs, but every time there is some drama and someone who hears the story will say that it’s crazy/stupid.

What are the four big adventures?

Some of the big adventures have been riding the Tasmanian trail from the Southern tip of Tasmania to the North primarily off road, riding through rough 4wd trails in the Daintree Rainforest in Queensland with kilometres of 30% climbs, riding off-road from Orange to Lithgow with gnarly rocky-descents and a trip just South of Sydney with so much mud that we had to cancel the second day of adventure.

”We were sitting on our top-tubes and digging our feet into the ground to slow down on the kilometres of descents”
What went wrong?

The Tassie trail was relatively tame apart from running out of food and water on the hottest day, people getting grumpy with each other and poorly timed flat tyres. The only thing which really went wrong on the Daintree and Gold-Rush trips were a flat or two and some water-logged bottom brackets.

The Mudawangs adventure was awful and despite the short length, was the most harrowing and expensive trip. It had rained night before the ride and given that the trail was a popular 4wd route, the surface closely resembled a curry in texture and colour. Andy (Quadzilla) and I found out that this type of mud was especially abrasive for our brake pad compound and we lost all braking 40km into a 110km ride. This meant that we were sitting on our top-tubes and digging our feet into the ground to slow down on the kilometres of descents. On top of bike dramas, we all ran out of food and water and had to replenish our bottles in the thankfully-clean creek. Once we all got back to Sydney, everyone had to spend several hundred dollars in servicing – all of the bottom brackets had been ruined, shoes destroyed and there was some questionable shifting going on.

What were some of the best moments?

I think the best experience overall is how great it feels to be riding in less-than-ideal conditions with mates for several days end to end, and remaining great mates even at the end of the trip. The amount of bonding you do with restricted company and experiencing the same hardships is amazing. On the bike, perhaps it was riding through opium fields or fanging down a loose gravel descent at 70km/h plus with a loaded bike which weighs close to 23kg. On a daily basis, it is always the hearty pub meal and beers at the end.

Are they getting bigger and more ambitious? What’s next?

The guys back in Australia did an adventure around the NSW/QLD border ranges and I couldn’t do anything but be jealous from Berlin! Maybe I can convince them to come to Bavaria next year once it starts to heat up again.

What kind of cycling have you been doing since you got to Berlin?

I’ve spent a lot of time on solo rides since I had had trouble finding bunches to ride with until I’ve not had a road bike here. I’ve also ridden the Fixed 42 race and the 8Bar Crit, both of these were massive learning experiences. Fixed 42 was terrifying with 500 guys of varying ability riding along with no brakes. I saw quite a few crashes unfold but I managed to stay upright and finish in a decent enough position.

Grunewald, Berlin

Where did you start and how are you finding the scene?

Before I left Australia I started putting feelers out for who to ride with however it’s been hard not having a road bike and only a fixie. I’ve been training with the 8Bar guys and I’ve met some nice boys and girls to ride with occasionally on weekends but no morning bunches. It’s a strange scene for me since most people ride bikes to get around here, Sydney is far more polarised with those who ride, being much more serious and dedicated to training and riding together.

Golden hour x #berlin #fixedgear #fixie #8barbikes #8barrookies #trackbike #sotb #overyonderracing

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Where’s your favourite place to ride here?

For a morning roll with minimal traffic stress, I like riding from home in Neukölln to Schönefeld Airport. There are large bike paths for most of it and the time on the road out at the airport itself has almost no traffic on it at all.

For a more scenic ride, I like going through Grunewald, however there’s a bit more traffic on the way there and it all depends on how bothered I am. My only complaint for riding here is that it’s too flat and I’m missing the short, sharp pinches of the Sydney beaches or the long, winding descents outside of the city.

It seems like you’ve mostly been racing so far in Berlin. Are you eyeing up any other European adventures?

Now that I have a road bike and a job here, I’m planning lots of alpine adventures for when it starts to warm up this year. A friend of mine has also promised to take me adventuring through the Black Forest and wherever else there are plenty of hills.

Find Dan and Over Yonder on Instagram, and adventures on Over Yonder.

ClaireOver Yonder: Dan talks stupid adventure riding, endless dirt trails and exploring Germany