Cystic Fibrosis & My Inspiration
Two years ago I didn’t even own a bike, in fact I probably hadn’t even sat on one for the 15 years before that. I’ve never been a big fan of cycling, partly because bike pants creep me out, but mostly because my legs are more built for sitting in cars. Most girls are jealous of my legs. But for some reason, late in 2015, I found myself unable to sleep and becoming increasingly obsessed with the idea of riding a bike across Europe.
At the time I was nearing the end of my 20’s. While the idea of turning 30 may fill most people with dread, it was a much anticipated occasion for me. Not because I like finding new grey hairs on a daily basis, but because of a Readers’ Digest article I read when I was 12. This particular article was about Cystic Fibrosis and it told me that I could expect to live to 30, if I was lucky. Until that point I don’t think it had dawned on me that what I had was so serious, or permanent. But at that young age I made a decision that, not only was I going to live past 30, I was going to do something significant to mark the occasion.
Cycling Across Europe
I spent the few months after that sleepless night planning, saving and fundraising, and on August 18 2016 I found myself at the start of the Eurovelo 6 cycle trail in Nantes, France. I was feeling very apprehensive on day one, probably because my ‘training’ had consisted of three rides around Broome on a little girls’ bike. This occasionally involved the humiliation of being overtaken by actual little girls on their bikes. But, after a few obligatory selfies, I made a start and after a few hours I had 50km behind me and I’d arrived in Ancenis, stop number one.
On day two I managed 80km before setting up my tent for the night. That was to remain my daily average for the next two months as I followed the Loire River throughout the French countryside, the Rhine through Switzerland, then met up with the Danube in Germany. I stayed alongside the Danube as it grew and lazily twisted through Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and to it’s mouth at the Black Sea in Romania. Eleven countries and 4,000km in all.
I cycled with my 20kg of luggage through major cities such as Vienna, Budapest and Belgrade, through the quaint villages of France, past Europe’s largest waterfall in Switzerland and even picked up a girlfriend in Germany. I rode past thousand year old castles, through stunning river valleys and vast fields of corn. The over seemingly endless hills and across the borders of countries that were not so long ago at war with each other.
I faced challenges such as getting lost on a regular basis (at times cycling up to 20km in the wrong direction), the constantly changing languages and (I’m sorry Europe) awful coffee. Then there were the rough and crazy roads as I got further East, not to mention the crazy drivers! At the beginning of my trip I cramped up in the 40 degree French heat, but later on I froze in the Bulgarian Autumn rain.
Beating Cystic Fibrosis with Exercise
I usually try not to worry so much about Cystic Fibrosis on a daily basis, but I’ll admit that I was nervous at the beginning. I was half expecting a nasty infection somewhere in the back-blocks of Eastern Europe. But I can’t remember a two month period where I’ve had consistently better health. Even on the days I woke up feeling a little rough the fact that I had no choice but to get on the bike meant that I was forced to push through. Within an hour I’d usually forgotten about it and was feeling great again. This, aside from raising over $20,000 for CFWA and the desire for bigger legs, was the real reason for my trip. I wanted to prove, as much to myself as to anyone else, the importance that remaining physically active plays in fighting Cystic Fibrosis. I’m now more convinced than ever.
Total days spent cycling: 50
Total Distance: +/- 4,000km ( my trip computer died for a few days in Germany, so I’m not sure of the exact distance)
Average per day: 80km
Biggest day: 136km – Tata to Budapest, Hungary.
Most physically challenging day: Konstanz – Sigmiragen, Germany.
Average speed: 15.7 km/ph
Max Speed: 61.6 km/ph – racing Maurizio down a hill in Serbia somewhere.
Punctures: 1 – heading in to Belgrade in the rain.
Crashes: 1 – near Dole, France. My front rack collapsed and stopped the front wheel dead. Also I did forget to unclip my shoes and tip over a few times.
Money Raised for Cystic Fibrosis WA: $21,000
Heres a few photos from the trip…