"My name is Chris Gruar, and in April 2012 I will begin my charity cycling trip from England to Australia. This will be my first major cycling adventure, and through doing the journey I plan to raise money for the Association of International Cancer Research (AICR). The ride will take at least 18 months and total over 30 000km, taking me through more than 30 countries. While on the road you will be able to follow my journey through regular blogs, photographs and videos."
Why are you doing this?
Cycling4Cancer, as the name suggests, is an exciting way of raising money and awareness for an important cause. By fundraising for AICR, I hope to contribute to the global fight against cancer. The trip is also about challenging myself and experiencing the world through an epic travel adventure.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain
What made you decide to raise money for AICR?
Days after I returned from my last cycling tour I found out that my cousins wife had been diagnosed with breast cancer. This was not the first time my family had been affected by cancer, and it was then that I decided to ride for a cancer charity. My cycling journey will take me across continents, so I therefore chose a charity that supports international cancer research. For more information on The Association for International Cancer Research please visit the charity page.
Why did you choose to journey on a bicycle?
Traveling with a bicycle provides the best means of experiencing a new destination. From the saddle I’m much more exposed to the places I’m lucky enough to visit, and am therefore more likely to learn from the unique cultures of the world.
″A traveller without observation is a bird without wings.” Moslih Eddin Saadi
Cycling also gives me the freedom to go where I want, when I want. It is pure satisfaction arriving at a new destination knowing it’s my legs that got me there. People who know me also know how much I love to eat a huge meal, and nothing beats binging on a humungous meal at the end of a days riding with no fear of putting on any pounds!
Have you traveled with a bicycle before?
While I was backpacking in Asia a few years ago I twice decided to get myself on a bicycle, and the rice fields of Bangladesh and volcanoes of Indonesia got me hooked on cycle-touring. Since then, I have done a 500km Northern England and 2500km Western Europe trip (I will complete some blogs on these trips soon).
Who inspired you to do such a big cycling trip?
Over the past year I have read many books and followed numerous websites by world cycle tourers. When I came across a retired English woman by the name of Anne Mustoe, who had cycled around the world twice without knowing how to even fix a puncture, I could no longer think of any excuses why I couldn’t do a similar adventure myself. Rob Lilwall’s Cycling Home from Siberia, as well as Al Humphries’ four year trip around the world, both inspired me to start planning. Al and Rob had also decided to put their teaching careers on hold to have many adventurous years on the bike abroad.
Are you doing this alone?
In the summer of 2011 I cycled in Europe for a month and was surprised at the amount of travellers getting on their bikes. On the road, particularly with a bicycle, it is usually quite easy to meet people and have company along the way. I am hoping to have other cycle-tourers join my on route… so if you’re reading this and interested in coming along with your bike let me know!
Where do you sleep?
Freya Stark, the British explorer and travel writer, wrote that, “to awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world”. She really wasn’t far from the truth, and this is especially true when you have to find your own place to sleep every night. So far on my cycling trips I have slept in a Roman Bathhouse, in ricefields and cornfields, next to rivers, on mountain tops, and by the beach. Setting up a tent in a city centre can be quite problematic, so anywhere hidden does the trick! I also try to contact people to host me through hospitality sites like couchsurfing.com.
Is your route set in stone?
“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” Martin Buber
My route is extremely flexible. I will be traveling at my own pace, and each day will no doubt bring countless route choices. I will obviously be asking advice along the way, and much will depend on recommendations I receive from locals. There is also a tendency for cyclers to rush through Europe, but as my route map shows I’m still very drawn to European destinations. After Europe many things will depend on visa applications, not to mention changing political climates. We will have to wait and see!
What is your daily budget?
By camping and preparing my own meals I should be able to keep my daily budget quite low. The less I spend the longer I will be able to ride, so hopefully I can resist any unnecessary luxuriances along the way. As the expedition is primarily for charity, when I do reach my final destination I have decided to donate any remains of my savings to AICR. This will make me even more conscious of my spending, maximising the money raised for charity.
What do you find is the most challenging thing about cycle touring?
I’m not much of an endurance cycler, but I still find the most challenging thing is not letting my mind get the better of me. I plan to have plenty of music and books to keep me entertained, and maintaining this blog and raising money for cancer should provide the focus to keep going. As I endure the long and lonely days I’ll have to keep in mind the words of Al Humphries:
“If you’re not hurting, you’re not riding hard enough. If you’re not hungry, you’ve eaten too much. If you’re not cold, you’re carrying too many clothes. If you know you will succeed, it’s too easy.”
Update - July 2012
We caught up with Chris whilst he was in Helsinki, Finland. Chris was invited along to the University of Helsinki to see the AICR funded research that was being carried out.
You can follow Chris's journey on his website.