Operation Ride reaches North Island
Dave Benfell unintentionally added three metres to his epic 2500km south-to-north bike ride at the start line.
The chain on his purpose built recumbent tandem cycle was wound incorrectly so he and his rear rider could not go forward, only backyards. Which they did for three metres before toppling over.
“It was terrible but it was so funny,” he says. “We had been training for months and there was a real buzz in the air, I thought ‘how on earth did end I up threemetres behind the starting line and on my side’?”
The ex-soldier from Brookfield is riding with a team from Bluff to Cape Reinga to raise money for injured soldiers’ causes. Operation Ride 2018 is the first of its kind and organised by the Pilgrim Bandits (United Kingdom) involving teams of injured soldiers and support team from New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom.
The bike ride kicked off on October 28 in Bluff and the riders have just landed in the North Island this week.
The trip has not been without problems, Dave says. There’s been breakdowns and problems with bikes, bad weather and many stops. The West Coast of the South Island was tough, Dave says, but the locals were very supportive— bringing them food and offering discounted accommodation.
The riders made up for any time lost on good days.
“The guys are amazing, the teams are inspirational. Some of these are really injured guys— how can you give up and have a bad day— when you see the injuries these guys are overcoming, it’s incredible.”
The group is on their way up the North Island which has more traffic. Dave says to drivers to be aware and to be patient if they see them.
“If you are stuck behind us we will pull over whenwe can. We want people to be aware that we are not super fast and please be patient.”
They are on schedule to reach Auckland to take part in Armistice Day celebrations and Cape Reinga on their expected date of November 16.
The Kiwi team is fourstrong. Each cycle has an adapted hand element at the front for amputees and an able-bodied person pedals at the back. In New Zealand, the charity raising money for is Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen’s Association of New Zealand (SSAANZ) which Dave established this year.
Dave doesn’t want soldiers to be forgotten.
“There more contemporary veterans than there has ever been. And we are forgotten. That’s why I started this charity, I want them to know that we appreciate their service. It’s kind of a thank you to them.”
Dave was in the first battalion Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment from 1996-2001. He joined the United Kingdom army and became part of the Parachute Regiment, serving nine years. Dave was injured in 2009 after joining the Red Devils freefall team while part of the parachute regiment.
He broke his back and was paralysed from the waist down for two months and lay in hospital for five months.
Dave says war memorial days are important, but he also wants people to be aware of contemporary soldiers who have risked their lives, and how inspirational these severely injured soldiers are.
Operation Ride is also a fundraiser, check out https:/ /givealittle.co.nz/cause/ operation-ride-2018
A United Kingdom team member carries rider Tyler Christopher to the lookout at Mount Victoria.
Operation Ride riders have just landed in the North Island for the second half of their cycle trip. Pictured, two support riders from Wales help Kiwi teammates Amy Baynes Rolleston from Christchurch and Bill Blakie from Wellington up a big hill.