Last week I again had the privilege to ride from Brisbane to Longreach as part of RideWest, a Charity Bike Ride which raises money for the Royal Flying Doctors and the mental health programs that they run in the bush.
Words and Images - Damian Hancock - Founder of a'qto
From a ride perspective, it was fantastic. I got to ride with my dad for 7 days, in warm weather and with favourable winds for the most part. It was a great group of people, with the 22 riders all gelling together very quickly on and off the road, and celebratory/rehydration beers, a great reward at the end of each stage.
However, if all I shared with you was the story of the ride, the efforts and the people, I feel I will have missed the point.
This is a ride and a cause that is close to my heart for a number of reasons.
Firstly, I believe that in Australia, our farmers and people in regional areas are often overlooked by people in the major cities, with regards to the hardship they can face, and the limited services that are on offer to them. As long as consumers still see meat, dairy products and veggies on the shelves of the major supermarkets, there is the perception that everything is all ok. This is not always the case.
We rode through some very dry country that still had ok grass, but on the last day of the ride, we rolled through an area that hasn’t had any meaningful rain in 4 years, and the difference was incredible. It is a brown, barren wasteland with not a blade of grass.
One of the really good things that happens at RideWest is that each night, all riders have the opportunity to tell their story and their reason for why they are on the ride. One of the riders who lives out in the bush told a story of one of his customer's whose property is in the grip of drought and he doesn’t have the grass to feed his cattle, so is having to buy in hay. This guy came in one day to say that he wouldn’t be able to buy the three bales of hay that he had put on hold because his wife had been diagnosed with a brain tumour and was taken to hospital in Brisbane, with a prognosis that is not good. He explained that he couldn’t buy the hay, because he is going to use the money to buy some turf, so that when his wife comes home from hospital, she will have some green grass to look at…. because he doesn’t know how long she has to live.
These are the types of hardships that we don’t even contemplate when we live the busy lives that we do in the city. So, to take the time out to ride for a cause that directly helps the lives of others, is for me such an important part of what I can give through cycling….let alone what we can give and gain from each other as we ride.
I read a quote earlier this year which really struck a chord with me in regards to why I ride. It said “I ride because I come back a better man than when I left.”
If I’m riding on my own, I find the space and solitude a form of mediation, like no other. Or if I'm riding with mates or my dad, I have the opportunity to talk to people I trust about a whole range of things that can affect me through any given week. Talking about different things and listening to another's view, helps give me perspective.
Another story I have heard over the last 6 weeks is that of a guy who without fail, will ride over to his mate’s place at 5am each morning to take him for a ride, because if he didn’t get his mate out onto the bike and have a “chat” about what’s going on in his life, his mate would be a debilitated being, and his day a tangled mess. His mate is an accomplished athlete who you'd assume would be “on top of the world”.
As bike riders, I think we are lucky to be able to be in a space where we have the time to talk, and also the time for our minds to wander and process things.
I believe that at times, we all need to think about riding for a cause or giving something back. Whether it’s a 1200km odyssey that pushes your endurance or a short loop around the suburbs twice a week with a mate who needs someone to listen to them.
Ride with meaning. Happy riding.
For more information about RideWest, go to www.ridewest.com.au