Ultradistance cycling in sub-zero temperatures: Interview with Omar Di Felice

Growing up in Rome, where the temperature rarely drops below ten degrees, let alone zero, ultradistance cyclist Omar Di Felice has a surprising passion – cycling really long distances. In sub-zero conditions. He kicked off his cycling career following the traditional road cycling routine of time trials and training schedules but soon realized he was more interested in discovering new places – cycling for the pleasure of it rather than to win. 

Finding himself covering greater and greater distances, and loving the challenge of competing against himself, he decided to take his rides up a notch. Today he’s a professional adventure cyclist known for his penchant for riding in the snow. He’s completed successful expeditions through Norway, Iceland, and most recently Mongolia – all in winter! 

Here we ask him some pressing questions about himself and his experiences on and off the bike.

Describe yourself in three words

Ultracyclist, arctic lover, extreme adventurer

What’s the strangest thing you’ve eaten on a ride?

You need to be ready to eat lots of strange things during an extreme adventure in a remote part of the world, but drinking vodka during my last Gobi desert adventure was definitely crazy.

What’s the weirdest wardrobe malfunction you’ve seen or experienced?

During my first Tour du Mont Blanc race back in 2013 (205 miles, 330 kilometers non-stop) I resorted to a big black garbage bag I found on the road. I was completely freezing in that terrible weather so I tried adding to my wardrobe – definitely not the best!

What motivates you to get outside and explore?

For sure passion, love for nature, and the will to challenge myself, especially in extreme conditions. Extreme cycling and exploration is a way to grow personally, both physically and mentally.

Disc or rim brakes?

Disc! The best option when you’re riding so many kilometers every day, in all kinds of road and weather conditions.

Tell us about your most epic ride yet.

I’m a lucky man and I’ve worked hard to turn my passion into a profession. Now I can organize my extreme adventures as I wish, choosing the most epic places all over the world to ride. It’s impossible to rank these adventures – each one is particularly memorable in my mind; Riding TransAmerica (7000 kilometers non-stop), facing strong winds on a winter bikepacking trip in Iceland, crossing the arctic circle in Canada, Alaska or Lapland. I have specific memories from all my adventures and ultra-cycling races.

Looking forward, what plans do you have for the year?

As you know Covid-19 is still forcing us to reconsider all our plans because travel won’t be so easy, especially crossing national borders. I’m so happy that I was able to do my Mongolia adventure crossing the Gobi desert. I will consider doing something more “Italy-oriented” as I’m lucky to live in one of the most amazing and beautiful countries in the world. We have sea, mountains, historical cities and so on so it won’t be difficult to find new challenges and places to explore.

What is the most unusual item in your toolkit?

I don’t have anything unusual as when I do long-distance, unsupported rides I can only pack essential items. But during my recent adventures I’ve started bringing a drone along to take some nice aerial shots.

What has been the biggest cycling game-changer for you?

When I discovered the “ bikepacking” system I use now, my life changed. I started to do more unsupported rides, using my standard road or gravel bike and bringing just what I need.

Why do you recommend komoot?

There are a lot of platforms if you want to download your ride data and analyze your performance. But for me, someone who likes discovering new routes every day (it doesn’t matter how close or far from home) and who travels a lot for work or cycling, komoot is a real game-changer. I can plan a route wherever I am using my phone and then download the route to my Garmin GPS device. I think it’s the best planning platform as you can find rides from other users, look for local Highlights, check which kind of surface you will have to face and so on…