Mike Nixon is a valued expedition member of the Kingsley Holgate Foundation, a group of explorers that use great adventures to save and improve lives.
Nixon has climbed Mount Everest twice as part of climbing the seven summits of the world and he is also one of only four people to have competed every stage of every edition of the Cape Epic, the world’s toughest mountain bike race. While on expedition with Kingsley Holgate, Nixon has had the opportunity to ride his bicycle in some incredible places including the entire length of the Great African Rift Valley from Djibouti on the horn of Africa to Lake Urema in northern Mozambique and the entire length of the Lebombo Mountains.
How does an event like the Cape Epic appeal to an established adventurer like yourself?
It has the reputation of being the Tour de France of mountain biking and I am so blessed because I live in Cape Town and it is on my doorstep. The Epic is also unique in the fact that anyone can line-up and race against the worlds best professional mountain bikers.
The event is also never the same, it is a lot different to what it was 16 years ago. 51 percent of the field are international riders, so if you love mountain biking like I do, why wouldn’t you do this event while you still can.
What were those first Epics like?
During those first events the guys on the start line were all shapes and sizes, some as big as 140kg, some had big beer bellys and rode 26-inch hardtail mountain bikes. Nowadays it is completely different, by the time the riders get on the start line they are well trained and their equipment is right, it has become and elite event and the event has changed accordingly.
How do you manage to train for the Epic while doing all your extreme journeys with Kingsley?
Instead of riding everyday I have a goal in terms of the amount of hours I need to ride in a month. When on expedition there are some days when you will be able to ride for 5 or 6 hours a day and other days you wont be able to ride at all. But overall I am able to do my hours. On our normal African expeditions we set up camp wherever we find ourselves and depending on how the day is progressing. In the morning I will often head up on the route ahead of the vehicles while they do some humanitarian work. I take a radio with me and blaze the trail or set up a humanitarian project so that the locals are ready when the convoy of vehicles arrive at that village.
You have done every Cape Epic, were there times that you thought you not going to get through this one and that the record is gone?
There are only four last Lions who have done all the events and the last four of us have a huge amount of respect for each other. It is spoken about who will last the longest, but I am the oldest so I am probably due for the chop.
What is the most extreme place you have ridden your bicycle?
I would say just for sheer adventure it would be the heart of Africa, going through the Congo, I will never forget riding along a log cutting road which was as remote as you can get and crossing the road in front of me were five or six mountain gorillas. Security wise it would have to be Somalia where I rode behind a vehicle with a 12mm machine gun strapped to the back that was carrying 8 or 9 AK47 wielding terrorists.
What is your role during the Kingsley expeditions?
I am the expedition cyclist. Cycling is one of the elements of the expedition that we feel is advantageous to the expedition group as it adds the capital A to adventure. Everybody on the team contributes to the ethos of the adventure, which is the humanitarian work and the saving and improving lives through adventure.
Were there times on a Kingsley adventure that you thought, this is it, we are not getting out of here?
That heart of Africa adventure was really tough. Kingsley had recently had a knee operation and there were times when we knew that if this thing goes wrong we wont be able to get him out of there, he is a bull of a man and I have never seen him that broken. We had to have a serious heart to heart with those barker tribesman wading through rivers and the Congo flood plains trying to get our GPS waypoints amidst the trees, in the end we decided to go and fortunately it all came together. We had to put ourselves in that position in order to find the geographic centre point of Africa, something that had never been done before.
How did your association with Land Rover start?
I have a holiday home in Zinkwazi, five doors away from the Holgates. We bumped into each other there as we have this mutual interest in adventure. Kingsley had extended an open invitation for me to join them on an expedition once I was finished climbing. I finally managed to do that 12 years ago and I have never stopped going since.
You have done so much including climbing 7 peaks on 7 continents, what is next?
Unfortunately there are a lot of adventures left but as you increase your experience you start running out of calendar. I am 60 years old now, so I need to start passing on the more extreme events, as your recovery time gets longer as you get older. These days I really enjoy the extreme adventures with Kingsley and team. We add the adventure element to these expeditions, climb a few mountains in Africa and ride my mountain bike.
Are you a petrolhead and what is in your garage?
Old Landies have always been my passion, I am a genuine fan of the brand and its history, which is probably why I own the fleet that I do. And being born in Britain it sort of comes naturally.
I currently own seven Land Rovers and a Jaguar including a Defender Series 1, Series 2 and Series 3. On a daily basis my wife drives a Discovery 4 and I drive a Range Rover. At our holiday home we have a Discovery 3, another Series 2 and a Jaguar MK2 3.8.
- Favourite drink: Captain Morgan
- Food: Italian Food
- Singer/Band: Mike and the Mechanics
- Place on earth: Zinkwazi
- Movie or TV show: Gladiator
Text: Reuben van Niekerk