By Andy Hirst
A cyclist who has battled mental illness for years is to push himself and his bike to the absolute limit by pedalling across the USA alone this summer.
Tom England, 33, will be riding the 4,253 miles coast to coast to raise thousands of pounds for the Milnsbridge-based Streetbikes charity which has provided more than 13,000 recycled bikes to people in need across Kirklees since 2010.
Tom’s epic journey starts in July and is the equivalent of making the trip from Land’s End to John O’Groats FIVE times.
Tom’s going on the gruelling TransAmerica trail which keeps away from main roads. He will be starting in the small city of Florence in Oregon on the west coast next to the Pacific Ocean and will finish in Yorktown, Virginia, on the Atlantic coast.
He aims to do around 50 miles a day but the terrain veers from mountain ranges to flat prairies so his daily mileage will vary.
Tom, of Wooldale, Holmfirth, said: “I’ve set myself three months to do it but hope it will be well under that. I do cycle pretty regularly but it’s rare I do more than 80 to 100 miles in a day. I’ll do a bit of training if I can but I’m sure I’ll get fitter ‘on the job’ when I’m over there.
“There are pros and cons to being alone. I think being able to set my own pace is important and when times are tough the independence of making my own decisions can actually be a benefit. However, being alone most of time during the trip I’m sure there will be moments of home sickness.”
Tom will be mainly camping en route but reckons he may treat himself to the odd bed and breakfast. Around 1,000 people tackle the trail every year, many of them on motorbikes.
Tom is a mechanic at Streetbikes so has seen for himself the way the charity is changing people’s lives. Streetbikes also provides weekly cycling track and greenway rides for people, including many with disabilities, and more than 11,000 have attended these sessions over the years.
Tom said: “It’s very rewarding to see how bikes improve both mental and physical health, providing disabled people with a fun and rewarding activity at our mixed-ability track sessions, improving social mobility for those unable to drive or afford other forms of transport or simply offering no nonsense, safe bikes for free or at extremely affordable prices.
“I decided to challenge myself with the USA coast-to-coast for a few reasons. Working as a staff mechanic at Streetbikes I know how small charities rely heavily on funding from as many places as possible and so wanted to do all I could to help.
“Throughout the pandemic in the UK I rode a few short bike tours while wild camping. This eventually led to the dream of cycling across the USA, solo and unsupported. The country fascinates me and I hope the best way to experience it will be by bicycle.”
Tom added: “I’ve suffered my whole life with clinical depression and chronic insomnia. In the last few years especially, the latter has had a huge negative impact on my life as it is often completely debilitating.
“I have always had a huge thirst for adventure but I want to prove to myself and others that chronic illness does not have to stop you achieving what many see as big things.
“It will certainly make it much harder than it might otherwise be, but I’m determined to overcome it. While many people might not understand it, living every day with a chronic mental illness can sometimes build strength that those without may not have.”
To help Tom go to www.justgiving.com/streetbikesUSA. His epic journey starts in July and people can follow it on both Streetbikes’ instagram @streetbikescic or Tom’s own @england_tom.
His aim is to raise £5,000 and he’s already up to the £2,000 mark.
Streetbikes always needs more bikes. To donate an old bike contact the charity on 01484 654530, mobile 07873 773417 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
* Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR (https://ah-pr.com/) specialising in press releases, blogging and copywriting. Copyright Andy Hirst. Main image: Pixab