Cycling For Cancer

If you get bored after 30 minutes on a stationary bike, or if you’re looking to put money behind a worthy cause, you have to give props to Chris Gruar, a 25 year old Australian who has lived here for the past year, working as an English teacher in a school in Leeds with an aim to cycle back to Australia over the next 2 years.

(Yes, you read that correctly.)

Taking a mammoth two years via Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, China, South East Asia and finally through to Australia from one short flight, Chris isn’t only cycling for fun, but for cancer, or specifically, to raise £10,000 for the cancer research charity The Association for International Cancer Research (AICR) via www.cycling4cancer.com

(Again, you read that correctly.)

With fundraising already underway for his departure in 4 months, Chris is planning to leave and is already getting ready for his biggest adventure yet. We spoke to Chris about how and why he is keen to do this.
Hi Chris- so firstly, why the cycle trip?

I love both travelling and cycling, so I decided to combine the two and go on a challenging and rewarding adventure across the world. The bicycle also gives me a lot of independence to experience the places I’m lucky enough to visit, as well as expose me to the diverse cultures between England and Australia. It’s really satisfying not relying on the tourist trail for transport, food and shelter.

Why have you chosen AICR in particular?

They are an international charity who chooses the best cancer research around the world. My family has also been directly affected by cancer so it is something that is very important to me.

Tell us about the challenge. Where will you be staying?

I will be completely unsupported throughout the 30 000km trip. All of my gear is squeezed into five bags which are attached to the bike. To keep costs down I will be stealth camping most evenings. I prepare my own meals with my multi-fuel stove, and keep clean with bucket showers or by washing in rivers or beaches. Hopefully I will be lucky enough to stay with locals along the way too. So far on my cycling trips I have slept in a Roman Bathhouse, in wheat and corn fields, next to rivers, on mountain tops, and by the beach.

This isn’t the first time you have done this it?

That’s right. While I was backpacking in Asia a few years ago I twice decided to get myself on a bicycle, and the rice fields of Bangladesh and volcanoes of Indonesia got me hooked on cycle-touring. Earlier this year I cycled about 500km of Northern England along the Hadrian’s Wall, The Lakes District and Yorkshire Dales. In summer I pedaled to Portugal which took me 34 days to cover the 2500km. I stayed over in hostels probably twice, so the rest was camping and being independent!

Have you always been so keen on adventure?

Not really. I think I just believe in experiencing the most out of life, especially on weekends and holidays. It definitely helps being a foreigner, knowing that I have only eighteen months in England to get out and explore the beauty of the countryside.

Have you tried GO Activities?

Since the launch of GO Activities I frequently visit the site with my friends to plan for the weekend. I find it really inspiring reading from other peoples experiences. I think it’s great for those lesser known activities like gorge or ghyll scrambling. Without the push to do more stuff I’d probably just go on cycling forever!

You spend a lot of time cycling out of the UK – what do you like about it here?

I love how close things are. In Australia everything is so spread out, but here you can jump on the train and in twenty minutes you can be surrounded by different landscapes and cultures! Living in Yorkshire I try to get out into The Peak District most weekends for walking, cycling, scrambling, caving or wild swimming. In Australia the roads (and drivers) are not as cycle friendly.

What about the accents here? Have you got used to them?

Oh yeah, because I teach English in Leeds I’m often left just stumped with what they are saying. There’s a lot of ‘I didn’t do owt’ to contend with! But the kids are just as bewildered, with my ‘thongs’, ‘textures’ and ‘mufti days’. I do feel sorry for my classes when they do miserable in the spelling test because of my pronunciation. I am getting there but… at the fish shop I now know what scraps are, and to order a ‘pop’ when I want a drink.

£10,000 is a lot to raise. How do you hope to go about it?

I think it’s a cause plenty of people are passionate about. The staff and pupils in my school have been absolutely fantastic so far, and together we are organising events over the coming months. While on the trip I will be able to raise money and awareness by talking in schools and contacting local radio and newspapers. By having a website I hope to maintain people’s interest throughout the journey.

So, I’m sure every girl will want to know what you are packing for a 2 year trip on the road. What’s in your pack?

(Laughs) I have a picture!

The Luggage!

What about challenges? Any fears of loneliness?

It’s going to be tough going, especially being by myself for such long periods. I hope I’m a strong enough person to get through the difficult times, and with plenty of books and music I should be able to stop my mind from getting the better of me!

I am actually hoping to have other cycle-tourers join me on route… so if you’re reading this and interested in coming along with your bike let me know!

What would you say to people who could only throw in a pound or so?

I know times are hard, but even a pound would make a huge difference. Just Giving makes it really easy to do, and you can read all about me and my journey on my website – www.cycling4cancer.com

So if you, by chance are on Chris’s route and want to meet up, or if you want to donate, you can head to his site here.

What’s the furthest you have cycled? Do you have any tips for Chris?

Comment below!

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