Pushed To The Brink: Dana Ernst’s Extraordinary Suffer-Fest Across Arizona

Dana Ernst's Ride Across Arizona FKT rig is a Binary titanium SSP mountain bike. The SSP is loaded with a bike rack and bikepacking frame bags leaning against a wooden fence.

The formidable Ride Across Arizona gravel route saw a new fastest known time (FKT) for the second time within two weeks. Binary Bicycles Ambassador, Dana Ernst, a 49-year-old mathematics professor at Northern Arizona University, surpassed Tour Divide veteran Daniel Connell’s prior record by an astonishing three-hour margin!

The Numbers

  • Distance: 616.9 miles
  • Time: 2 days, 19 hours, 42 minutes
  • Elevation Min/Max: 468’/9,573′
  • Total Elevation Gain/Loss: 61,256’/-55,335′
  • Average Distance per Day: 217.5 miles

In Dana’s own words, this was an extreme test of mental and physical endurance.

“This one will leave a mark. I’ve been wanting to do the Ride Across Arizona for a few years, but the timing would never work out. … Long story short, I ended up taking 3 hours off Dan’s time and finished in 67 hours, 42 minutes. This was without a doubt the hardest physical thing I’ve ever done.”

The numbers only tell part of the story of Dana’s incredible fastest known time. Yes, the stats are mind-blowing: over 600 miles and 60,000 feet of elevation gain powered by sheer human effort in less than 2 days and 20 hours. But the true magnitude of this feat can’t be captured in figures alone.

Dana Ernst still looking spry on his SSP in the foreground of Greens Peak, the tallest of a series of rounded knolls sitting atop a raised highland north of Mount Baldy and the White Mountains of Eastern Arizona.
~ Photo credit: Eric Pearce

Soldiering On When Body and Mind Screamed Quit

To appreciate what Dana achieved, you have to imagine those agonizing final miles. After almost 3 straight days of perpetual pedaling, with the finish nowhere in sight, he rolled up to the unmarked “finish line” in the middle of the night – utterly alone. No fanfare or crowds, just Dana and his Binary SSP out in the middle of nowhere.

“The ‘finish line’ is somewhat in the middle of nowhere, and in classic bikepack racing fashion, there was no one there to greet me. I finished at roughly 2am, and unfortunately, my wife wasn’t going to be able to meet me until later the next day. After reaching the finish, I flopped my bike down and immediately proceeded to build a fire. My Garmin said it was 29 degrees F and it was really windy. I needed to get my hands warm!”

After Dana’s fire went out, he made an unsuccessful attempt to sleep. His battered body shivered relentlessly from the overwhelming fatigue and freezing temperatures. As they say, no rest for the weary!

The objective the next morning was clear ~ get to the nearby town of Alpine and eat. all. the. food! And, finally, get some rest. The relatively trivial 14-mile spin should have been a cruise for Dana. Instead, it took over 4 excruciating hours alternating between riding for a mile or two and then napping in the warm sun for a few minutes.

The isolated, almost serene beauty of the gravel road stretches out before Dana amidst the rugged Arizona landscape. Yet it conversely captures the incredible perseverance and mental fortitude required to conquer such a vast, unforgiving expanse during his record-setting FKT effort across the state.
~ Photo credit: Dana Ernst

Time For the Body and Mind To Rebuild

“The neuromas in my feet started acting up after only a few hours and things went from bad to worse in a hurry. I was in so much pain for so long. In addition, my left wrist was flared up from all the washboards and I couldn’t put that much weight on it. I thought about throwing in the towel often. But I knew I’d be disappointed in myself if I quit, so I just soldiered on. Maybe this wasn’t the best move, and to be completely honest, I have no idea how I just kept going.”

Now back home recovering, the physical toll is impossible to ignore. The Ride Across Arizona had demanded much. Everything. The damage to Dana’s left foot was so severe that merely walking has been unbearable for him. Yet these “badges of honor” represent the sacrifices required to test the absolute limits. Dana’s boundless determination and perseverance allowed him to etch his name in the record books.

Records are made to be broken, but Dana’s fastest known time effort in the Ride Across Arizona is a reminder that the numbers never tell the full story of extraordinary athletic achievement. Behind every stats line is a profoundly human battle charged with grit, passion, and an unwavering refusal to quit when the mind and body are begging for mercy. That’s the kind of spirit that inspires us, and it’s something we could all use a little more of.

Congratulations to Dana on this incredible accomplishment. Dana honored us by choosing to ride his Binary SSP, and we feel even more honored to share in celebrating this incredible display of what commitment and resilience can achieve when paired with capable gear.