PUSHING uphill, into the wind and on bumpy roads on a bike doesn’t sound like the most appealing to spend a week.
But there was no doubting the drive of the 2017 Ride for the Chopper peloton who trundled more than 650km from the seaside setting of Woolgoolga, over the Great Dividing Range back to a hot and windy welcome in Tamworth.
The ride raised more than $84,000 for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service.
It drew a mix of youth and maturity, a slew of veteran charity cyclists, as well as first-timers.
But the experience was the same across the board.
Tamworth woman, Deborah Sadleir, was a relative novice heading into the ride, only drawing on about 12 months worth of cycling experience.
Setting off from Woopi towards Grafton was one of the biggest challenges of the ride.
“There were very, very steep hills and they were very rocky,” Mrs Sadleir said.
“I thought if this is the path, because I have a cycle-cross bike … I just thought, ‘my gosh, this is going to be a lot harder than what I thought.’”
Even the more experienced riders recalled the uphill climb from the coast in reverential tones, but the camaraderie and support within the group were just as helpful as a tailwind.
“Coming up next to other riders and and they ask you how you’re going and they tell you to jump on behind them and get navigated through the hard bits,” she said.
Cycling with her husband, Matthew, the Sadleirs raised $4635 on their first ride for the chopper.
But it’s not the first time Mr Sadleir has cracked a sweat for the chopper, working for Best Practice Constructions, he helped build some of the buildings at the Tamworth base.
Despite the gruelling 650 kilometre ride, Mrs Sadleir said it only made her more keen to keep riding.
Dalene Pretorius, a veteran of five charity chopper rides, told The Leader the Woolgoolga to Tamworth was the hardest.
Ms Pretorius’ first rescue chopper ride was back in 2008 and said the camaraderie kept her coming back for more.
“It was a huge challenge this one coming through the diving range,” Ms Pretorius said.
“It was definitely the hardest one.
“The uphills from Grafton probably those two days, just uphill, headwind and corrugation.”