RIDING 500 or 600km in a week isn’t many people’s idea of fun. It wasn’t mine, either.
That was until I first signed up to the Westpac Rescue Helicopter’s Ride for the Chopper in 2015. Since then, I haven’t looked back.
I’ve taken up cycling, road and mountain bike, not competitively, but more for the camaraderie – something the annual September ride is all about.
Riding all those kilometres in a matter of days, you get to know complete strangers, and why it is they decided to take on a gruelling bike ride – even those that come from afar, like Wollongong, past the chopper’s boundaries.
Whether it’s pushing a grown man up a bloody big hill, or watching one of the new riders earn their straps and pull off a PB – cycling 100-and-something kilometres in a day (that was me in 2015) – the ride is worth it just to see this.
Despite the personal, and at times gruelling challenge on the bike, learning the stories of how the riders, or their close friends or family, got to where they are because of the chopper, is pretty special.
In my job as the crime journalist, everyday I see the alerts of the region’s helicopter tasked to accidents, emergencies and rescues.
It was this constant reminder in my inbox, or hearing it fly over home, that prompted me to do something to give back to the service that saves the lives of so many.
Nowadays, people stop you or send you a message and say ‘thank you for what you do’ or ‘I don’t know how you do it, but I’m glad you do because the chopper saved my grandfather, or mother or friend’ etc.
That is why I ride for the chopper. Because I never know when I or one of my loved ones will need it.
This year I’ve roped a few of my best buddies in, and for me it’s what I look forward to every year. And now I want them to see this too, and share in some of that.
They’re no strangers to the bike – even racing professionally themselves – but this is something different. This is no race.
For me, I’ll get to see the mates that I’ve made, catch up on what I’ve missed with them, and create a whole new chapter of memories, while raising money so no one ever has to pay. They’re the stories, both on and off the bike, that I won’t forget.
The next installment of this adventure starts today. Bring it on!
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