Global record breaking cyclist Joe Barr fuelled by simple, local food

Joe in action
Joe in action

World record breaker Joe Barr puts his outstanding success in ultra-endurance cycling down to quality “fuel’ from local food companies.

He’s an unsung sporting superstar here, a real inspiration recognised, mainly abroad, for his outstanding achievements on the roads especially in the US, where ultra-endurance cycling is highly regarded and respected.

“My diet is based on whole, unprocessed, wholesome food and preferably grown locally… and lots of it,” says Joe, who holds a string of world extreme cycling records including from Malin Head, Northern Ireland’s most northerly point to Mizen Head in the Republic of Ireland… and back again! He also holds major titles in the US.

In addition, Joe (60), who lives in Limavady, holds the cycling world record from the most easterly to the most westerly points in Ireland and the record cycling around the perimeter of the island.

“There are really no magic bullets. My diet is based on good quality plant and animal based products. It’s 75 percent plant based and the rest features animal protein. We have such a great food that’s readily available in Northern Ireland that I always try to eat local produce. I’ve eaten like this all my life really,” he adds.

The main influencer on Joe’s regime is his partner Jill Mooney, a performance nutritionist. “Jill cooks everything from scratch,” he continues. “She’s a big supporter of quality food from the province’s developing base of local suppliers. Oats, for example, are a staple both on and off the bike. Jill uses foods that are readily available to people here. And my focus during races is more on whole foods for fuel.

“I don’t use gels, supplements or processed bars high in sugar. In fact, my favourite complex carbohydrate on the bike is local oatmeal, which I eat/drink on the road. Jill makes it slightly more soupy for me so I can have it while still pedalling. It is easy to digest, and there’s simply no better fuel.”

His recovery from extremely exacting cycling challenges is based around higher protein and fats. “Jill calculates my body weight and food requirements post-race.

This only lasts for about 10 days and then we are back to my consistent diet. I also use finer oats pre-training both indoors or outdoors,” he says.

His favourite producer is White’s Oats in Tandragee, Ireland’s leading porridge specialist which sources from a network of local growers. White’s, the most popular porridge brand here, recently became a principal sponsor of TeamJoeBarr.

Joe’s already in training for what will be his most ambitious and challenging season yet in ultra-endurance cycling: “We’ve got five World Cup races at home, in Europe and US. I won the World Cup in my age category of 60-69 in 2019 and was placed second overall. My aim is to win the overall World Cup in 2020. This would really prove that age doesn’t count when it comes to endurance performance.”

He’s already won a host of impressive endurance events and cycled around 250,000 miles since 2009. Joe, furthermore, won a bronze medal at the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh. His working life until retirement was based around a local logistics business and he continues to work for this company, completing endurance races in his ‘vacation’ time. He trains around work and is often up very early and on his indoor trainer during winter.

While Joe has been cycling all his life, he started endurance cycling as a fundraiser to help his six-month old son win a battle over cancer and to show appreciation of the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast and those who had helped the baby survive. He subsequently set up TeamJoeBarr with Jill and friends.

His debut was at the exacting Race Around Ireland in September 2009, an exacting challenge of 1,367 miles 75,000ft climb which he won in a stunning 108 hours. He subsequently took part in endurance races in the US, France and Italy and came second in his age category in the exacting June 2014 Race Across in America.

Joe peddled the 3,070 miles and 170,000ft climb that featured the 11,000 ft Wolf Creek Pass in 265 hours. “Closing that finish line was one of the proudest moments of my life,” he remembers. He’s understandably proud of being named World Champion in the 500-miles category by the World Ultra Cycling Association.

“It was a first for an athlete of my age. All the hard years of honing my endurance skills, all the miles of training and the extensive costs of racing, the strict training regime, the failures and the lessons, everything contributed to my 2017 arrival on the top of the podium. It felt humbling and exhilarating,” he adds.

There were further stellar performances last year when he won his categories in the challenging Sebring 24 hours, setting a new course record, then the Race Across

America and the Mid-Atlantic 12/24 event. How does he relax? “I love anything on wheels, especially cycles, and enjoy watching car shows in front of the fire,” he concludes. “I am also fascinated by innovative engineering. Tinkering with my bikes is another past time.”