About the Book

3,000 miles. Racing nonstop. If you sleep you lose.

Hell on Two Wheels takes readers inside a harrowing, 3,000-mile long ultra-distance cycling race and follows a handful of courageous competitors who test themselves, each other, and the limits of human endurance.

 

Hell on Two Wheels is a thrilling and remarkably detailed account of their ups and downs, triumphs and tragedies. This is more than just a race—it’s a monster, a crucible, an unforgettable allegory about the human experience of pain, joy, and self-discovery.

Contestants have died, been maimed, and spiraled down into the nightmarish realm of the mad. Half don’t finish this epic race that Outside Magazine calls “the toughest test of endurance in the world.” Despite this, each year the world’s greatest ultra-distance cyclists gather in California, hoping to be the first to reach the East Coast victorious. Along the way, they’ll test themselves, each other, and the limits of human endurance. This is their story.

One winner who also climbed the world’s highest mountain said, “Everest is more dangerous but RAAM is harder.” RAAM—the Race Across America—is a bicycle race like no other. It’s nothing like its more famous cousin, the Tour de France. RAAM is much crazier, more gothic, and even savage. Once the gun goes off on the Pacific Coast, the clock doesn’t stop, so if you sleep, you lose. The first rider to complete the prescribed 3,000-mile route—nine days later at the Atlantic—is the victor. Most racers manage two or three hours of sleep each day while the leaders get by on an hour and a half—or less. Sleep deprivation leads them to hallucinate, often for hours on end. This epic race is the most brutal organized sporting event you’ve never heard of and one of the best kept secrets in the sports world.

With clarity and compassion, Snyder follows a handful of athletes before, during and after the 2009 event—the closest and most controversial in history. Hell on Two Wheels is a thrilling and remarkably detailed account of their ups and downs, triumphs and tragedies. While the action is riveting, the real story involves the racers. As we come to know them we watch with ghoulish fascination as RAAM exacts its vicious toll, hour by hour, day after day. We hope for the best but the opposite is equally compelling.

Who are these people? What drives them to persevere in the face of such staggering punishment? Where is this place they go to where misery and transcendence are so closely intertwined? Contestants may be brutalized by this race, but through it they discover their essential humanity and with this, profound joy and completeness. By experiencing the race from the perspective of the racers themselves, Hell on Two Wheels breaks new ground in helping us appreciate how such a grueling effort can be so cleansing and self-revelatory.

Readers will be forever changed by the story of this race and its contestants. As with the racers themselves, everyone who encounters RAAM says it changes their relationship to their own limiting thoughts and feelings. This is more than just a race—it’s a monster, a crucible, an unforgettable allegory about overcoming personal limitations, self-discovery, and the power of the human spirit… and a story that needs to be told.

Copyright © 2011 by Amy Snyder

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