Cycle for Life is without any doubt my greatest adventure yet. It was a journey that took me 91 days to complete, and involved me riding a homemade bicycle, that towed a homemade trailer, a total of 6237kms around the entire coast of New Zealand, and I raised awareness for children’s charities whilst doing it.
I started in Picton, at the top of the South Island, on the 1st of February 2010, and rode my bike down the east coast to Bluff, at the bottom. I then continued riding my bike up South Island’s famous West Coast back to Picton, and after crossing the Cook Strait to Wellington on the Interislander ferry, I cycled up the length of west coast of the North Island, all the way to Cape Reinga at the top. I finished by riding down the entire east coast of the North Island back to Wellington, completing my adventure a little over 3 months after I had begun in Picton.
I have never done anything like this before, and on the first day of my Cycle for Life I ventured further on a push bike than I had ever been previously. I had not done any training, and weighed a massive 142kg’s prior to getting on my bike. I did not have a support crew, and so I had to arrange everything myself as I went. Some days I struggled to make the required distance, and every single day presented a different challenge, challenges that ensured this became a huge personal achievement.
‘Cycle for Life’ was not about me though, it was about the thousands of children all over New Zealand who at some point in their lives need help, and in particular the organizations here in New Zealand which offer that help.
I believe that one person can make a difference in the life of many, and this was my chance to positively do just that. I actually considered myself lucky to possibly help someone else, and I hope that my efforts may in the future inspire someone else who is better equipped to do more than I have been able to do on my own, but regardless of what happens tomorrow, I know that this journey has already helped, which in itself is a really good feeling to take away from what ‘Cycle for Life’ has done, and I did it with the support of so many wonderful people I meet all over New Zealand.
I loosely set out to increase awareness of the variety of services that are available to the youth of New Zealand, to remind the people in those services that we appreciate all that they do, and regardless of the size of their organization, that they make our communities a better place. My only goal was to promote the services that assist, serve, protect and inspire young people in their lives, and I definitely achieved that, and so much more.
I started by encouraging people to look at my website, something that I originally created specifically for this adventure, to show who I am, what I am doing, and why. I then asked people to offer their support via txt message, and email, as they followed the progress of ‘Cycle for Life’, and that support not only helped me complete each challenge I faced within my journey, but more importantly it encouraged people to think about organizations that had helped them, or someone they knew, in some way, and for people to then want to discover more about what those organizations do within their community, and to then share that information with other people.
I asked people to contact any organization they wanted to directly, and simply say thank you for the work that they do. Where possible offer to help as a volunteer, and to physically become a part of something that actually helps real people. And only then did I suggest to people that if they wanted to donate financially, to do so directly to the charity of their choice. My journey was not about raising money, just awareness.
I did try to be as ready as I possibly could be as far as equipment went. I prepared my own bike, and sorted out the trailer which I used to carry all my stuff, including my camera gear, sleeping stuff, cooker and food. I went for a couple of longish rides on my bike (without the trailer), but ‘Cycle for Life’ took three months to complete, I did at least 60km every day with no scheduled rest days, and a lot of variables meant I never really knew what would happen next, until it had happened.
I had tried to get support for what I was doing by writing to businesses, and by letting people know what I was doing at my job, via friends, and using the internet etc., but it seemed most people were more interested in their own lives, than what I was up to. My biggest challenge initially was building up enough motivation to want to first start, and then complete this journey on my own. To not only believe in my ability to do this all by myself (which I guess I knew I had or I wouldn’t have begun the entire process to begin with) but also the belief that this was all for more than just myself.
I hoped that even if my efforts failed completely that someone out there might see me and become motivated to believe in them self, and that what I was doing may just be enough for them to do something more than I could. I hoped that I did something that showed even though bad things happen to good people, good people still do good things for other people, and that life does not always have to be about ourselves, but it should be about those around us as well.
It was not long until things began to gain momentum, but there were always moments where it seemed like the only person ant of this mattered to was me, and at those moments I just worked just a little harder to show others that this journey was one worth sharing, one that anyone could get involved with, and when I look back now I see that so many people helped me make a difference, and without that help at the moments it was really needed, my journey would never have been completed.
With only a couple of days to go before I left Wellington to begin my ‘Cycle for Life’ journey, I have to be honest with you, I was a little bit nervous about the whole thing.
A few people had commented that New Zealand has one of the highest rates of Car vs. Push Bike accidents in the world due to the combination of our small roads, and the careless manor in which some people drive, which often ends very badly for the cyclist, but that was not something that I thought about too much. I was not afraid that I would be killed, in fact I was a little bit surprised I wasn’t, because I knew all I could do was be as careful as possible, and the rest would have to take care of itself.
I had also not done a massive amount of training either, actually I had not really done any training except for a few rehearsal rides to check that the bike actually worked, and they were done with an empty trailer, so the first day of ‘Cycle for Life’, when I rode 50+ km’s from Picton to Seddon, it was the biggest ride I had ever done in a single day. Again that was something that I had not really thought a lot about, because I knew that as much as I was looking forward to the adventure, I was also stubborn enough to push myself to complete each day, regardless of what happened, and so I believed on the job training was the best way to go. I knew was gone for just over 3 months, and that I would figure it out.
I didn’t have much money either, because some asshole had stolen the money I had raised by selling cards at Christmas, and the donations I had received, from the container I made up and had given to the staff at the job I was doing, prior to beginning ‘Cycle for Life’. It was something I only discovered a few minutes before I finished working there, when I went to collect it, and that momentarily had me question why I would do something for others when it seemed others were only interested in helping themselves. What made me more annoyed was the fact that my donation container had logos from a variety of children’s charities on it, and a ‘thank you from me’ letter to everyone I had worked with, so the thief through their actions made me VERY angry, but strangely more, and not less, determined. Not having any money to do this trip did not bother me, the reason I didn’t have any money did, but that wasn’t a reason to stop me.
I built my bike, and then to be sure there were no hiccups, I pulled it apart and rebuilt it again, as I did with the trailer, and so apart from the occasional puncture, I was not expecting to have too many dramas with either of these things. I had brought spare parts with my pay each week when I could afford them, and by the time I left I had so much stuff that I ended up leaving some of it behind, as I could not fit it all into the trailer. I had everything I needed including a tent, a sleeping bag, an air mattress and pump, a butane cooker, a large first aid kit, all my food (porridge and soup) for the entire trip, spare tires, spare parts, spare clothes, hundreds of flyers to hand out, all my camera gear, and a range of things that I did not need, like a selection of books, and magazines that were completely unnecessary, but I was as prepared as I felt I needed to be, and quickly learnt where I went wrong.
The thought of being on my own for 3 months did not bother me either, well no more than it has done at any other stage in my life. Remembering my life includes separately meeting my birth mother, and then a year later my birth father, going to Australia and having everything stolen the first day I was there, and loosing contact with everyone I had ever known. I had bounced from place to place in Australia, then given it all up to come home to start relationships with both sides of my birth family, and for the very first time have an on-
What bothered and made me nervous was a single thought that kept asking myself, what if I did not raise any awareness for the charities I was trying to promote? Was I prepared to put in a massive effort to complete this journey I had invested so much time and money in to create, knowing that because it was something I was doing, on my own, it might not do anything to help anyone, and I decided that the answer to that was yes.
It was worth trying simply because if it did help even just one person I would have done something more than if I had not done anything at all, and the only way to help that one person was to do what I set out to do. However as the time got closer to departing I became VERY nervous that all this effort may not make any difference to anyone but me, but I quickly realised that wanting to help others was still a very good reason to begin any journey, and that by trying I would be doing a lot more than if I didn’t.
I thought about this a lot prior to leaving, I thought about how some people go out of their way to rebel against a system, to be seen to not live by the set of rules that most other people live by, and how that effects other people. I thought about how when I was younger I didn’t fully appreciate the freedom I had to be naughty, or nice, and that it was not until I got older that I learnt what a different world we would live in if there were no rules, morals, or even religion, and I became grateful for the opportunity I had to remind people that our children, and their children’s children deserve the right to learn, and grow in the same way that we have, regardless of who we are, because we all have a responsibility to do our part not only today, but also tomorrow, and that included me.
So on the day I left Wellington for Picton, where I would began my 6000 kilometre adventure, the only thing that I was really nervous about was that I had not doing enough, so I began to ask people I met to help me make that difference by letting other people know about what I was doing, and it worked, because I achieved far more than I ever expected.
I left Picton at 7.30am on the 1st of February, and day one was a huge challenge, with a massive hill near the end of the day that took me inland towards the east coast of the South Island, and there I discovered three major problems, which were the weight of the trailer, my shoes, and my bike seat.
The trailer was ok on the flat in a straight line, but as it was so heavy, any variation in road surface meant it would magnify significantly the resulting roll of the trailer, meaning it moved differently each time. So at the end of day one I pulled everything out of the trailer, sorted out what I didn't need and left it for someone more deserving of its intended purpose, then reorganised the weight distribution, which is something I had to play around with a little bit over the following weeks until I found an even-
Next it was my shoes that caused me drama, so much so that I did not think I would be able to continue on the third day. My feet were so swollen and blistered that by this point I had already used nearly a whole box of plasters. However a little kiwi ingenuity eventually paid off. The problem was that underneath the innersole of each shoe there was a patterned sole, and because the innersole was so thin and all the pressure was in one place (where I was standing on the peddle), it was effectively like standing on a patterned solid plastic milk create for long periods of time, and once my feet had blistered and started to bleed, I was simply making things worse by continuing to cycle on them.
The fix was to cut out new innersoles from 2 litre milk containers and insert the flat pieces of plastic on top of the rough surface, glue them in place, and get good quality innersoles to go on top, which I finally managed to do on my way through Christchurch. The other option would have to been not buy such cheap shoes originally, but I couldn’t afford to do that.
The third, and only on-
The distances I travelled each day were ok, sure they were hard to complete when I first began, and a few days I struggled to finish the days intended stop, but that was to be expected. I had goals to complete each day, and to accomplish them made each day more satisfying once it was completed, and knowing the next day I would have a new challenge made it more exciting, much better than re-
I was spending 6 hours a day pushing my bike up hills instead of riding it, dragging myself and bike up places like Summit Road in Akaroa, a road that indicated its nature simply in its name, and this was something I did not really enjoy, it was something I finished never less with a huge sense of satisfaction, even if I was somewhat exhausted by the end of each day.
I did the South Island on a shoe string budget, carrying almost everything with me that I needed to use on that half on the journey, literally giving no thought to the next day, as I tried to simply complete each day as it came, learning a lot as I went. I reloaded in Wellington, adjusting my things slightly from what I had learnt in the South Island, and did the North Island a little bit easier, enjoying it more and more each day, and even though the terrain in the North Island was harder, and the distances further, I never again questioned my ability, silently celebrating every day by looking forward to the next.
For the North Island I took less food with me so I didn’t have to carry as much weight in the trailer, which I’d had strengthened along the way for reliability, along with the bike, after a series of breakdowns around the South Island. In the South Island I took what I thought I might need, but in the North I made sure I only carried what I actually needed, so I was much more comfortable. I was also much healthier than before I started, all of which meant that I was enjoying it more and more.
Every day was part of this amazing experience! The massive learning curve now has me believing in myself more than ever, and regardless of what happens from now on, I think I did amazingly well when all things are considered. As with life, each day presented a different challenge and each day I overcame that challenge to complete Cycle for Life as planned. I proved to myself that I can do anything I want to, even something as crazy as dragging a 50+ kg trailer around the entire coast of New Zealand on a push bike I built from spare parts … .. .
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