Arch to Arc penny-farthing challenge complete!
On the morning he set off, Neil was saying he planned to cycle 60 miles per day. This might have sounded over-ambitious to anyone unfamiliar with Neil’s irrepressible determination, but in the end it turned out he was underestimating himself.
“I did 84 miles on the first day – all the way to Rye. I felt strong and was ahead of the bicycle app, averaging 14 miles an hour on the first leg. For the first three days I’d reached my destination by around one o’clock, so I pushed on and got a load more miles in, just to ease my final day and get into Paris earlier.”
Neil was already attracting goodwill from passersby before he’d reached the English Channel. “Someone I passed in Lewisham sponsored me a fiver. One of my team must have handed them a leaflet,” and sure enough – on his Just Giving page – there’s this comment: “Saw you in Lee, Lewisham – great to hear about your challenge… good luck!”
“It was all very positive,” says Neil. On the other side of the Channel “we had all the French motorists giving us a toot as they went past, most of them taking a picture or a film.” Perched up high on his curious vehicle, Neil was a sight to behold and drew interest from locals wherever he went.
“At one point there were some circus kids hollering at the bike, so I stopped and let them have a go on it. I pushed them around on it a bit, then they showed us where they kept the animals and I met this funny little horse.”
You might have thought that the most difficult part of Neil’s journey would be the strain on his legs from powering a giant wheel across two countries, or his arms from propelling a kayak 24 miles across an international body of water. But no.
“I was okay actually. I was a little tired after a couple of days – just shoulders really, from crouching over the penny-farthing. But I think the hardest bit was not drinking alcohol in the evenings. I did succumb once – with a recovery drink which consisted of some lager – but that’s a surefire way to zap your performance.”
Neil deserves to reward himself though, and that’s exactly what he did once he made it to the Arc de Triomphe. “I went for a celebratory supper with my wife and some friends, had a bit of champagne, mooched about Paris and then watched the Tour de France come in. It was great to see Chris Froome win for the third time.”
But it’s not over yet. Neil’s Just Giving page – within sniffing distance of its £5,000 target – stays open for another couple of months, with ambitions to raise even more money for a cause as exceptionally worthy as the Jigsaw School. We’ve sponsored him – we’d love it if you did too.
All that remains is to offer Neil our hearty congratulations. How best to celebrate a man of such distinctive vision and awe-inspiring resolve? Perhaps another comment on Neil’s Just Giving page summed it up perfectly: “Neil – are you merely eccentric or completely insane? Whatever . . . you’re a good bloke doing a good thing.”
Well done Neil – you’re an inspiration to us all, and we couldn’t be prouder of you.