Wilson, my noble stead who has taken me 14, 000 kilometres throughout Europe, has sadly got himself a fatal injury. Over the years the road has been treacherous and demanding for us both, travelling along potholed and gravel tracks, sinking sand dunes, epic mountains, sliding through icy and snowy tarmac, withstood all kinds of ferocious weather, dodged careless drivers, and crashed multiple times into unseen cars or animals. The bike has taken me across most European countries on various trips, totalling well over 20, 000 kilometres. But all things unfortunately come to an end…
This week in Greece, as I slogged up the famous mountain slopes beside Thermopylae, I heard a distinct break in the bike as I pushed down on the pedals. I quickly unclipped the bags and flipped Wilson on his back, wiped away the sweat that was dripping into my eyes, and discovered … nothing! So I rode on, but with each descent I felt more unstable, almost as if the frame was bending below me! I reduced myself to a slow speed and waited for the expertise of a bike shop. By the time I reached Patra, as I prepared the bike to enter my couchsurfing hosts car, I saw the fatal break in the aluminium frame of Wilson. At the rear dropout, where the back wheel joins the frame, a five millimetre gap had distinctively emerged to potentially shatter my adventure. It was a true miracle that I had even arrived in Patras, and within just kilometres the bike could no longer be ridden safely.
First of all, a big thank you to everyone who has helped me to reach 75% of my fundraising target. So far I’ve been on the road for over six months, bringing countless challenges to overcome and endure (my latest challenge came this morning in Kosovo with my first case of diarrhea, and adjusting to using squat toilets with no toilet paper!). This week I’ve also traversed northern Albania, with constant steep gradients to climb up, followed by many sketchy descents weaving between the numerous landslides.
Earlier this week I featured in the online Runtastic blog, a company who focuses on ‘building its own ecosystem in health and fitness with both indoor and outdoor fitness apps, its own online community and fitness hardware’. Runtastic have developed some fabulous apps that promote exercise and encourage regular fitness in our hectic lives. Predictably, my favorite is the Runtastic Roadbike app, which integrates heart rate, cadence, and speed sensors to track your ride!
To have a read of my interview just click Cycling Against Cancer – Chris Gruar on his Charity Trip from England to Australia. In the interview I share some of my experiences from the road over the past six months, and give some insight into the immense challenges of cycle touring alone through a diverse range of European countries.
When I was recently in Turku in the southwest of Finland I did an impromptu radio interview with RadioRobinHood. At the time I was kicking the hacky sack (unsuccessfully) around in the rain with friends I had met earlier in the day. We spotted the entrance to a local radio station, and within minutes I was inside the studio with my friend Franseska and our interviewer Thierry Francis. It was a memorable experience being inside my first studio, and after a nervous start I think I got the message across about both my cycling adventure and AICR.
In Helsinki I was lucky enough to do an hour long audio interview with the journalist Lucas Dahlstrom from the Finnish newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet. If you haven’t guessed already, I can’t even begin to pronounce the name of the paper, and thankfully they are happy to call themselves HBL. I was at The University of Helsinki visiting three AICR granted cancer research projects, and it was an experience I found invaluable to both understand and appreciate the types of projects funded by AICR, as well as motivate me on the saddle to struggle through the miles and spread the word about AICR. A big thank you to Dr Gwen Wathne, the Science Communication Manager of AICR, for all her help and support in Helsinki. It was great to finally meet a representative from the association, and her patience through our video interviews was invaluable!
At the university I also saw fascinating presentations by Pipsa Saharinen, Kaisa Lehti, and Kari Alltalo. I then visited the laboratory to be shown where their work on limiting the growth and spread of tumours was being conducted. To read the article from The University of Helsinki about my visit, please click here.
This film captures my 5000km journey through France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway to reach The Arctic Circle. Along the way I faced countless challenges, as well as breathtaking scenery through sand dunes, mountains and fjords. The video also shows my frantic race against my hitchhiking friend Jon Maiden to The Arctic Circle town of Mo i-Rana.
I have now cycled around 7000km, and will begin cycling through The Baltic States next week.
Thank you all for your continued support as I start the next stage of my epic charity ride home to Sydney.
In a couple of weeks Jon Maiden will be hitchhiking from Yorkshire to the Arctic Circle. He is undertaking this challenging charity event to raise money for AICR, as well as race me to the Arctic!
Not much of a cyclist, Jon has spent the last few months thinking of ways in which he can raise money and awareness for The Association for International Cancer Research (AICR). His 2000 mile hitchhiking journey will take him through eight countries, and as much as I want to win our race I am hoping he does not encounter any dangerous characters along the way!
Jon has determined the logistics of our race, and I will no doubt be in hot persuit as I make my way north on the bike:
“We’ll each have 7 days. I’ll need to cover around 300 miles a day thanks only to the goodwill of strangers. Chris will start the race in Dombas south of Trondheim, and will have 400 miles to cover. His 60 miles per day will be extremely difficult given the rough, mountainous terrain and the weight he is carrying on his bike. Just like Chris, I’ll be carrying all I need and camping by the road each night.
As well as raising money for cancer research, and catching up with Chris, I’m hoping my trip will demonstrate that hitchhiking is an excellent way to travel the world. It’s free and environmentally friendly, but more so it’s about gaining a genuine insight into a country, embracing the unknown and maintaining a sense of adventure. This certainly promises to be a journey I’ll never forget.