It is not long until the Tour de France, the world's most famous bicycling race, returns, and with just under three months until the start of the race, the biggest names in cycling are training hard, gearing themselves up for the sport's toughest competition. Completing the mammoth race, which consists of 21 stages and a daunting 3,664km route that makes the average France road trip look like a short drive, is an epic feat carried out on the most lightweight and high-performance bicycles in the world. But imagine if you were to complete nearly 4,000km on some of France's most challenging terrain not on a racing road bike, but on a children's bicycle--a Raleigh Chopper, to be precise.
That is exactly what Dave Sim, a 36 year-old British cycling enthusiast, plans to do as part of an effort to raise funds for charity and draw attention to a worthy cause. While others may settle for wearing a Superman costume and running a half-marathon, Sim is a different breed, one that doesn't settle for half measures. He has set himself up for a monstrous challenge to raise funds for Help for Heroes, a charity for injured military servicemen and women in the UK. It's a big challenge, but the fact that Dave Sim will also be living out his lifelong dream may make the going a little easier. Sim comes from a long line of cyclists and his childhood trips to watch the Tour de France are a cherished memory.
A Tour De France Route for the Record Books
Hard times and challenges will be unavoidable during his effort because Sim will be traveling the Tour de France alone, with just his friend in a France motorhome to escort him. Because the Tour de France route features major motorways, Sim will have to avoid them and opt for less direct, rural routes. This, in turn, will add kilometers to Sim's route; therefore, it's likely he will end up cycling even more than the original 3,664 kilometers.
Combine this extended Tour de France route with Dave Sim's effort to maintain as many of the original features of his children's bike as possible, and the task begins to seem impossible. Sim has had to concede that the seat post and the tiny arms of his Raleigh Chopper must be adapted so that he can fit on its miniscule frame, and the wheels and brakes have been improved to cope with the perilous descents and rough terrain of the Tour de France route, but overall, the bike is as low-tech as possible, making what is already a world-class challenge even more difficult.
Powerful Perspective in Charitable Causes
Sim may be the first to ride the Tour de France on a children's bike, but there are many before him who have completed similarly demanding, mind-boggling feats. Lloyd Scott completed the London Marathon in 2002 while wearing a 120lb antique deep-sea diving suit in an effort to raise money for Leukemia research. He broke the record for the slowest marathon time on record; it took Scott six days in total to complete the route in the crushing gear. Extreme swimmer Jim Dreyer swam 22 miles across Lake St. Clair in Michigan while towing a ton of bricks as a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity. Tom Denniss ran around the world, running 16,300 miles in 622 days, breaking a world record, and raising vital funds for Oxfam along the way. All of these previous feats hold Sim in good stead for his courageous attempt this July. If you doubt his resolve or the depth and strength of his charitable spirit, look to his predecessors for proof that it can be done.
The Tour de France is edging closer, and come July, cyclists, journalists and cycling fans alike will descend upon France to participate in, draw attention to, and marvel at this famed road race and the athletes that compete for a top finish. But this year, spare a thought for Dave Sim, whose noble fundraising attempt will have him gritting his teeth and enduring the toughest ascents and terrains France has to offer well out of range of the flashing cameras, cheering fans, and yellow jerseys. Sim will be alone, on a Raleigh Chopper, without a crew or massive support team behind him, climbing France's toughest mountains on a children's bike for a worthy cause.