BY JULIA WADE
An intrepid team of injured war veterans, cycling the entire length of Aotearoa on specially designed tandem bicycles, have succeeded in reaching the northern tip of the country after a strenuous 2500-plus kilometre fundraising ride.
Twenty-four New Zealand, Canadian and British defence force personnel took part in the recent Operation R.I.D.E (Recumbent International Distant Event) to raise funds for registered charity organisation Pilgrims Bandits who specialise in encouraging injured ex-servicemen and women to rebuild confidence through extreme challenges.
The group completed the ‘tour of duty’ in Cape Reinga on November 18, 21 days after first pedalling out from Motupohue Scenic Reserve in Bluff on October 29.
Passing through Mangawhai’s streets on November 14, a British rider was assisted by local company Mangawhai Tyres with a wheel malfunction, before the group took on the steep, winding roads towards Waipu, en-route to Whangarei.
Mangawhai Tyres office manager Bee Tipene says it was ‘an absolute pleasure’ to help the riders out.
“Watching people with no legs cycle past our workshop using their upper arms and body was the coolest thing we have seen in ages,” she says. “To say they were an incredible group of people would be an understatement.”
Cyclists were paired on specially-designed tandem hand cycles, allowing for single and double leg amputee riders to peddle in the front while able-bodied riders, either non-amputees or those suffering from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), cycled and steered from the back.
British cyclist Sally Orange who rode as a back-rider, says ‘the entire experience was absolutely phenomenal’.
“Each member of every team overcame both mental and physical challenges on a daily basis and pulled together to help one another. To be in the company of others who had overcome differing life-changing illness and injuries was in itself food for the soul,” she says. “We may have originally come from three different nations but we cycled the length of two islands and finished as one team. The warmth and generosity of New Zealand and its people was also second to none.”
Organised by the British charity Pilgrim Bandits, the ride’s purpose was to raise awareness of both visible and non-visible impairments as well as to deepen the veterans’ appreciation that ‘no matter the injury, they can do anything they put their mind to’.
The ride also highlighted a new charity, SSAANZ (Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen Association of New Zealand), which aims to help re-engage ex-NZ defence force personnel through outdoor activities and has recently teamed up with Pilgrim Bandits UK to create Pilgrim Bandits NZ.
Want to know more? Visit facebook.com/Operation-Ride-2018. To donate, givealittle.co.nz/cause/operation-ride-2018.
“Watching people with no legs cycle past our workshop using their upper arms and body was the coolest thing we have seen in ages. To say they were an incredible group of people would be an understatement.”
-- Bee Tipene
1: From Bluff to the tip of the north: two British, one Canadian and NZ cycling teams, set out on their intrepid journey. (PHOTOS/Supplied)