What are we truly capable of? Most of us never come close to finding out.
For 75-year-old international endurance legend, Bob Faulkner, it is climbing Grouse Mountain in Vancouver, Canada three times a week before work, scheduling his weekends and annual calendar with extreme events including heli-biking, running or cycling a 310-mile multi-day event in Alaska and many other five to ten day extreme endurance events around the globe regularly. Why? “The mountains are calling and I MUST go,” says Bob in his beautiful Scottish accent, a big smile lighting up his face.
In April 2022, I had the pleasure to sit down with Bob at the Sea Otter bike festival in Monterey, California to find out what started his remarkable lifestyle and to present him with the HEAD Bike USA legend ambassador jersey. The brand is proud to have an endurance athlete of Bob's caliber represent its bikes not only in North America, but also during events around the world.
For Bob the HEAD brand is “World renowned. When you mention the name HEAD it is top of the line skis, so when it comes to bikes, I can only imagine that they are going to be a leader in bikes too. And with the new advent of the eBike, I can see that business going right off the walls too.” See full interview here (YouTube).
It all started when 17-year-old Bob arrived on a boat in Canada, assisted passage for $30 and $190 in his pocket. His first job was sweeping floors at the largest advertising studio in Canada, just thrilled to be working. He had found a business he could get passionate about! Very quickly, he worked himself up and was making money that his family in the East End of Glasgow, Scotland, could only dream of!
The years flew by and at 44, after building a very successful business, Bob realized that his health was not keeping up with his newfound lifestyle. He discovered his true passion when he assisted a friend during an Ironman event. The next year Bob participated, beating the time of his friend, who would go on to become his endurance sports mentor and best man. Bob went on to compete in five more Ironmen events, including the World Championship in Hawaii. Next, Bob convinced his mentor friend to enter a team for the inaugural Eco-Challenge non-stop 310-mile race in Utah – a race Bob would go on to do seven more times around the world! To round out their annual schedule, they would run the 350-mile Iditarod ultra-marathon in Alaska in February on the famous dogsled course – five times.
Bob agrees that we find out what we are truly capable of when we surround ourselves with likeminded achievers. The group of friends that Bob has built up over the years, include several Olympic athletes, other extreme athletes, gym owners and even an adventurous billionaire.
Living and mountain-biking in Vancouver is for Bob the equal of Hawaii's North Shore for surfers. He soon entered more cycling and mountain biking events with his group, among others the scenic British Columbia Bike Race which covers 80% single track trails over six days of riding. It is hailed the ultimate single-track experience and truly a life-changing event.
In a way, Bob’s immersion in extreme endurance events is similar to big wave pioneer Laird Hamilton’s ascent to the top of the surfing world by surrounding himself with an elite group of kindred spirits experimenting with various ways to pull each other onto giant waves, using hydra foils and other creative ways that raised the bar for the entire surfing world.
Bob and his group took their passion for MTB endurance events international with races such as the Trans Andes, a five-day race with 62-mile days, the Mongolian Bike Challenge, and the Trans Portugal which Bob did four times! This race is 683 miles over seven days, with some days up to 105 miles.
Bob adds that his dad, who was a tough individual and always demanded the best, may have had some influence on his endurance spirit as well. His orphaned dad who ran away to sea at age 12, rose to the rank of Colonel in the Scots Guards and was awarded the Military Cross, the second highest military decoration of the British Armed Forces.
“During these extreme endurance events, the fourth day is the toughest,” says Bob without hesitation. "It is almost as if these events are designed to take participants beyond that point where their hope is crushed. The team is forced to learn how to support each other during some of the most demanding days. They learn how to work efficiently as a team and how to deal with people – a skill which easily applies to business." Recently, with the help of Bob’s company, one of his clients won the Creative Director’s award in Tokyo with a half million dollar print job. "It all about the chase, the challenge and delivering a good outcome that all can be proud of – just like crossing the finish line at an endurance event halfway down the pack," explains Bob. "The satisfaction makes it all worthwhile!"
Bob recalls a non-stop Eco-Challenge event in Australia, which exhausted him to the point of falling asleep on his horse and consequently falling off! Still, he calls it the "Disneyland for athletes" because the environment is "just spectacular”. He often feels like he just wants to scream out to his mom who would never have believed the places and events that he got to see.
Kobus van der Zel, a Certified Turnaround Professional (CTP), tells Bob how he once observed the marked difference in size and ferocity between wild cheetahs and those bred in captivity. He asks what advice Bob has for his fellow CTPs on how to transform a group of underperforming people in an underperforming company. Bob jokes that entering them in an endurance team event would be a good start as some CEOs have done through programs like Outward Bound in Scotland. A good general rule that Bob recommends is to push the people to the point where they can do their best work while "criticizing gently" and leading by example.
What advice does Bob have for others who want to live a full if not legendary life? He is very clear: “Carpe Diem – seize the day. If you have an opportunity to be part of a great team or event, take it every time!” Such simple advice and yet so hard to follow. We know many will take his advice and start saying to their friends: “The Mountains are calling, and I MUST go!”
About Cycle Force Group: Messingschlager USA LLC, doing business as Cycle Force Group is an importer of bicycles and accessories based in Ames, Iowa, handling logistics, QC, and sourcing, and using North America Cycles as their premium sales platform catering to Independent Retail.
For more information, please email email@example.com or (844) 622-2453 by phone. View HEAD Bikes at www.HEADBikeUSA.com.
About HEAD: HEAD UK is a leading global manufacturer and marketer of premium sports equipment and apparel. The business is organized into five divisions: Winter Sports, Racquet Sports, Diving, Sportswear and Licensing. Products are sold under the HEAD (alpine skis, ski bindings, ski boots, snowboard and protection products, tennis, racquetball, paddle and squash racquets, tennis balls and tennis footwear, sportswear and swimming products), Penn (tennis balls and racquetball balls), Tyrolia (ski bindings) and Mares (diving equipment) brands.
The Company's key products have attained leading market positions based on sales and reputation and have gained high visibility through their use by many of today's top athletes.
For more information: https://www.head.com/en/