Cyclists can be inspiring folk. I know a lot of them and I’ve heard many tales and adventures of LEJOG’s / JOGLE’s, long distance charity rides across France and India, or even just completing a first century ride. Earlier this week I went to listen to a talk by fellow blogger and cyclist Frank Burns, and his ride probably tops the lot.
Frank rode end to end across New Zealand to raise money for Save the Children’s Syria appeal. But that distance wasn’t enough, so he tacked on another 1100km in Australia (well if you’re down that why, I suppose why not). 4000km in total. More impressive than the mileage is that he rode solo and unsupported.Frank has a very minimalist attitude to baggage; his admission that he carried a mere 10kg of clothing and equipment (including tent and sleeping bag) produced stunned silence and gasps of disbelief from the audience. He covered the distance on a venerable and much loved steel Raleigh MTB which predated ubiquitous suspension and disc brakes on such bikes. It got the job done though, and as Frank explained, did it with familiar comfort.
I am under no illusion that riding that far alone is no less psychologically demanding as it is physically, perhaps more so. You only have to imagine yourself 30miles from home bonking into a headwind to appreciate, in a small measure, the mental strength required to complete Frank’s ride. But for me, listening to Frank’s story, it wasn’t the choice of bike, the distance or the self-reliance that made this ride so inspiring, rather, it was the many acts of kindness he encountered on his journey. Whether it was strangers offering unsolicited donations on the road, a free meal or a bed or both, or just the company of other cyclists, I was left with the impression that throughout his journey Frank was never truly alone. As much as it is a story about riding a bike, it is also a story about the goodness in humanity, something we too often forget.