Any punter of the peloton serious about the power of the pedal has sacrificed personal glory and comfort for the greater good at some point in time. There are very few amongst true lovers of lycra who have not crunched the cranks for cancer research or sat down with the bunch to seriously consider riding mono-cycles across the Simpson Desert to raise money for some young tacker with Tourette’s from Tumbarumba who plays the harmonica and wants nothing more than to enter the ‘effing’ busker’s competition at the Tamworth Country Music Festival.
Clearly folks, the revolution will not be motorised. Cyclists have broken away in the mountaintop finish of general ‘do-gooding’ and social change. And it’s not just the punters. Examples of charitable and progressive behaviour amongst our elite carbon jockeys abound.
Exhibit A: Cadel Evans.
In addition to plugging the Amy Gillett Foundation, Cadel promotes Tibetan independence and gets behind the Foundation for Youth, which provides books and literacy programs for Aboriginal children in remote communities. And then there’s Mearesy. When she’s not tearing up the floorboards of an Olympic velodrome, our Anna is as an Ambassador for the National Breast Cancer Foundation and occasionally rides the River 2 Reef to raise money for local charities up north.
A bit further afield, track cycling champ Sarah Kent rode 1500 kilometres across Africa for World Bicycle Relief which provides bicicletas to folks who need transport to access education, health and employment opportunities. And just as it was over a hundred years ago when the mass production of bicycles began, social equality for women was the big winner. If you want to end world poverty, improve educational outcomes for women in developing countries. To improve educational outcomes, provide young girls with greater mobility and safer passage to school.
That’s right folks, give a girl a bike and you’ll reduce socioeconomic disadvantage on a global scale … at least until she turns pro, but that’s a fight for another day.
Of course, it is well known in the people’s peloton that our most philanthropic pedal pusher is Richie Porte. Few in the professional ranks demonstrate his compassion and selflessness. Porte can often be found hand-feeding British cyclists who have drifted beyond the feed zone and, yellow in colour and too weak to carry a musette, are suffering from a severe depletion of glycogen stores in their liver and muscles.
He literally takes food out of his own pocket! What a lad. There’s nothing that young Richie wouldn’t do to help those poor sods.
At the other end of the spectrum, riding for a reason has become a bone of contention amongst my bunch; the Old Cranks. Some have a limited understanding of what it means to ride with greater purpose.
My recent effort to unleash pedal power was unsupported by the Old Cranks and nearly failed to raise a single cent for Stewart House on Sydney’s northern beaches. Each year, Stewart House provides short-term respite care, educational programs and health services to 1800 public school kiddies in need from across New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.
The challenge was initially uncomplicated: I would ride the 100 kilometres from the gravesite of Sir Henry Parkes in the Blue Mountains to the doorstep of Stewart House at Curl Curl. The distance was spot on. The symbolism moving. But the trouble began when I started looking for ways to attract more sponsorship and wider media attention.
Having been warned against nudity, I eventually found a giant blue dolphin suit that matched the Stewart House logo and, through a process of trial and error, managed to manipulate the dorsal fin and tail flukes to ensure a reasonably comfortable ride. That should have been enough, but I had one more trick tucked under my flipper.
Stored deep in my muscle memory was the adolescent experience of riding a BMX while seated back-to-front on the padded crossbar. In my enthusiasm to deliver more dinero to los niños, I ditched the Hillbrick Boneshaker for a rusty Redline that had been banished to the garden shed long ago.
Compare this commitment to the petty pedal power of my nemesis, Miguelito ‘El Dingo Loco’ de Pared, who started a petition to move the health food shop out of the main street. Currently, it is located next to the cake shop where the Old Cranks finish our Sunday bunch ride and enjoy cream buns and a ‘Springwood Bucket’ – a Mugaccino that, dollar per pint, is the best value coffee in Macquarie Road. In short, Miguelito finds it difficult to enjoy his brew and bun while there is an endless procession of assorted health nuts lugging barrels of vitamins, organic supplements and protein powders.
“It’s all me, me, me with these people,” he says.
The Stewart House venture started well but the task of regulating my speed with back-pedal brakes became more difficult when I reached Lapstone Hill at the edge of the mountains. The support vehicle reckons I peaked at 70 miles per hour on the steep descent before hitting a railing on the expressway bridge and hurtling into the middle of the Nepean River. The plastic tuff wheels splintered into lethal wedges and it was only the thickly padded dolphin suit that saved me from serious injury. All was not lost though. As it turns out, a giant dolphin in the Nepean River on a Saturday morning is enough to get the front page of the Penrith Press and I reached my fundraising target with ease.