2018 has seen many changes in my life and plans to travel. I missed this years Horizons
Unlimited (HUBB) meeting in Wales as my bike (DJ) the XR400 was still in bits at various stages of rebuild. My original plan was to ride to Wales and then head from there to Russia for the Russian HUBB meeting a week later. I did buy another bike but wasn’t really ready to
ride that to Russia, plus I had changed my job and was in the early stages of learning what
they required. It’s now August and in 6 weeks it will be the first HUBB meeting ever held in Italy. Firenzoula is not far from Florence and about 1000miles from home. I have booked a place at the event, what comes next is something special for me. I have currently 5 modes of transport, excluding public transport. I have a good pair of feet, a bicycle, Dubless the VW Polo that took me to the Sahara last year, DJ the Honda XR400 and Angry Bird the Honda VTR1000cc road bike. So Im not walking to Italy, nor using public transport. My bicycle is a ten years old mountain bike. DJ remains in various workshops being cleaned and powder
coated. That leaves Angry Bird, 1000cc of 1990’s sports bike with a bright yellow colour
scheme and exhausts that sound like thunder. She wheelies like its going out of fashion and pulls your arms out of their sockets under acceleration. It’s a thousand miles to Italy, comprising of some amazing roads, mountains and countryside. At Horizons Unlimited they
say the adventure bike you need is the adventure bike you have, so taking that advice I’m
cycling to Italy, no really I’m cycling. Many off you, if not all of you are asking the same questions about now, unfortunately I don’t
know what the questions are. But thankfully every situation can be addressed using the 5WH system. The five W’s Who, What, Where, When and Why added to How will pretty much
clear everything up.
What? Cycle to Italy.
When? Right now, I’m on my way right now.
Why? Let’s come back to that….
How? On my bicycle
There, see it’s all as clear as mud. As for the ‘Why?’ element. A few years ago I was in a dark place and my life seemed somewhat irrecoverable, however I knew it had to be recovered as the other option was for it to decline to a point where I wasn’t going to carry on.
I was working on dragging myself, kicking and screaming if necessary, back to normal,
whatever that is. I had nothing, but needed a plan. Well not exactly nothing, I had my home
(just) and my bicycle. My home was in danger but they wouldn’t repossess my bicycle. My mind was active and needed to be kept active with encouraging things, whilst I got on with saving myself and my home. Finances were a mess and the reality was that it would be years before all the debt was cleared. I couldn’t allow my mind to rest because that brought on the realisation that pretty much everyone would be better off without me. Don’t be misguided here I was seeking help and I was hugely lucky to have a wonderful family and a few close friends that helped so much to get me back on my feet. In the time I waited patiently to get my life back I planned two things, maybe three but two definite ones. One was the wish to ride a motorbike in the Sahara and the second was to plan a long cycle and that cycle ride turned out to be to Italy. Nothing much came of the plans and eventually I
believe I sorted out my issues and got back into work. I bought a motorbike and tried to ride
it to the Sahara. It didn’t quite happen the way I expected but I made it to the sand. If you want to read that story you can find it under ‘Chronicles of 2017’ on the home page and for
the 2016 adventure, I will try to create a link to that as well. If you’ve read both you will be
wondering why on earth I would leave the house for fear of something going wrong! As for Italy that was filed under, never to be done.
Anyway whilst almost on track, I was lucky enough to be invited to a charity event in aid of Teenage Cancer Trust. The Stephen Sutton charity ride out happens every year from
Lichfield in the Midlands. I went along with my good friend, who also offered huge support to me. Some of you may remember Stephen Sutton, at 19 he died from cancer but not before becoming a huge social media and all forms of media hero for his attitude to his terminal illness and the desire to get the most out of his short life. His signature thumbs up sign remains a prominent feature of all the support events. Before he died in May 2014 he raised over £3.2 million for Teenage Cancer Trust and continues to do so with his inspired events
orchestrated by various groups and attended regularly by his mother, Jane. It was at that
event I realised not only was I getting back to normal but actually I owed it to myself to move
on. Stephen had endured a torrid time and died way too early, but he had filled his short life
and left a legacy that continues to draw attention to the trust and raise funds for a massively
worthy cause. I try to go every year, 2018 was proving a issue as I didn’t have a bike, but at
the last minute I got hold of a bright yellow Honda VTR1000 and rode that. It was a huge
honour for me to be chosen out of hundreds of bikes to take Stephen as the posthumous
pillion. My bike was adorned with more yellow ribbons and a laminated sheet taped to the
back with pictures of Stephen and some of his quotes. I have kept that and it is mounted on
the wall at home to remind and encourage me to do my best in all walks of life.
So there it is, a trip I thought of long ago never got completed. This year sees the first ever
Horizons Unlimited overland traveller meeting in Italy. I wanted to go and decided I would go, having missed the UK one. It was much later that I considered cycling and much much later before I put that plan into action. As I type this there are just 14 days until I set off and I am woefully ill prepared. As for cycling long distances, I did cycle to Birmingham from my home
in Hampshire in a day. 158miles, however I was 14 at the time!
As mentioned, in the overland community they say that the vehicle you need to complete
any adventure is the vehicle you have. This is born out by so many revered travelling gods.
Nathan Millward rode a 125cc postal bike from Australia to England, Ed March regularly
takes his little Honda C90 on epic adventures all over the world, Lois Pryce rode a small
250cc Yamaha from Alaska to Tierra Del Fuego. Sjacc Lucasson rides his Yamaha R1
superbike across deserts, through forests, and next he intends to tackle the North Pole. So with that in mind the bike I have is a ten year old Cannondale SL5 mountain bike. I have used it infrequently but when it gets used it gets put through its paces. I had a trailer that I
would attach to it so I could tow my disabled son and his wheelchair, we did a lot of miles like that. It had minor amounts of maintenance and then for the last two years it has sat rotting in a greenhouse awaiting the inspiration to get back on it again. Suffice to say it has been stripped and rebuilt with new chain, rear cassette (gears), tyres and tubes. Oh and a gel saddle.