Strabane cyclist Joe Barr looking forward to doing more 1,000-mile-plus spins

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: record-breaking endurance cyclist Joe Barr from Strabane, Co Tyrone

Joe Barr (62) is itching to begin his run at the World Ultra Cycling Association’s World Cup
Gail Bell

Joe Barr – 'I’ve gotten really good at finding bike parts online in lockdown'


Up and at it – what is your new morning routine? How has it changed?

I have to admit to being a bit slower to get out of bed. I take some extra time to visualise my day, set some daily goals and then I start moving. It’s definitely not because I am getting older...


What might you eat in a typical working day for…Breakfast?

Gotta be White’s oats.


Jill, my partner, who is a performance nutritionist at Team Joe Barr, usually cooks a plant-based gumbo. It’s packed full of veggies, unprocessed beans and grains. She has introduced me to more spice and I love it.

Evening meal?

Again, I’m lucky in that Jill cooks something ‘simple and easy’ but it’s still full of local produce and meats/chicken/fish. I am a spud guy. I can handle grains at lunch-time, but come evening meal, give me spuds.


Have you been able to work from home – if so, how have you found it?

As a cyclist, and an ultra-distance one at that, it’s hard to work from home. I have buckled down and used the indoor trainer more and been super-creative with mileage close to home. I do miss the road, though.


Best/easiest lockdown meal?

Jill’s Gumbo, for sure. Hands down. It’s the perfect lunch to fill you up and keep you moving.


Weekend treat?

Pear and Walnut cake with coffee… a couple of slices.


How have you kept physically and mentally fit during lockdown?

I’ve been riding my bike but not to the level that I really need to be at professionally. That part has been hard. I have to work at not comparing where I am this year to where I have been at other years. It’s about accepting the level of professional fitness I can maintain, given the circumstances. I have run more this year, so I’m curious to see what impact that has when I can start racing again.


What has been your daily outdoor exercise?

I run for an hour in the morning and then I train on the indoor trainer for about two hours in the afternoon. If the weather is good enough, I’ll get outside, maybe, for a long-distance ride.


How do you relax?

I have discovered Netflix for the first time. I know, I’m late to the party. I also tinker on my race bikes as it helps me stay connected to what I love. It’s also meditative.


Teetotal or tipple?



What book are you currently reading?

I have to admit, I am not a reader at all.


Best Netflix?

By far, The Dig with Ralph Fiennes and Carey Mulligan. I tend to love stories that are based on something that really happened in life and this something was an amazing discovery under the ground.


Most surprising thing you've learned about yourself?

How necessary self-compassion is when things get really tough.


On a scale of one to 10, where have you been in relation to cabin fever and where are you now?

I definitely moved from a three to a nine, 10 meaning I am itching like mad to get out on the road and ride as far as I can – in any direction.


What are the three things you missed most during the beginning of lockdown?

Firstly, riding big distances, secondly, racing, and thirdly, racing with my team.


Where will you go and what will you do when restrictions are fully lifted?

I’m itching to begin my run for the World Ultra Cycling Association’s overall World Cup. I’m 62 now and it’s a prize that has eluded my grasp so far, even though I’ve won lots of trophies and medals in different cycling disciplines over a career spanning 48 years. It’s a season-long competition, with cumulative rankings over multiple distances – 12 and 24-hour, 500-miles and 1,000-plus miles. We go to Slovenia in late June for a 24-hour race, then we have Race Across France in August for our 1,000-plus mile race, then it’s back to Reno, Nevada, for an amazing 500-mile race through the desert before finishing with a 12-hour event in Borrego Springs [San Diego County, California]. It’s going to be an exciting season once we get going.


Biggest gripe?

It’s got to be some drivers trying to squeeze past me as the road narrows… I don’t get any smaller when the road narrows!


Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?

Nope, they have just solidified. Health is the most important currency for me. It’s the foundation of everything.


Any new skills or hobbies?

I’ve gotten really good at finding bike parts online. I can also say that I’m really good at doing the washing up too and the odd bit of chainsaw work in the garden.


What would you like to see change for good when this is all over?

Simple pleasures have carried us through, so I’d like to see us continue to appreciate the small things in life.


Has coronavirus changed your attitude towards your own mortality?

Not really, but the pandemic has reinforced my belief that there is no time to be wasted. It’s all about pointing yourself in the direction of your desires and dreams and keeping moving forward. I feel even more committed to that after all that has happened with Covid.

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