63-year-old cycles 1700km for Kaiapoi boat project


Kaiapoi cyclist Bruce Milsom in front of the benefactor of his fundraising marathon ride - The...
Kaiapoi cyclist Bruce Milsom in front of the benefactor of his fundraising marathon ride - The Alwyn G Scow restoration project. PHOTO: JOHN COSGROVE
Each morning for a fortnight Kaiapoi cyclist Bruce Milsom rose, donned his one set of riding clothes and prepared his tired 63-year-old body for more hours in the saddle as he cycled 1700km - the length of the South Island.

Cycling from Queen Charlotte Sound to Milford Sound as part of the Sounds 2 Sounds (S2S) challenge was Bruce Milsom’s way to help fundraise for a historical boat renovation.

The Alwyn G Scow restoration project will benefit from Bruce’s endeavours by more than $2700 as of Thursday - and he says he would happily do it again.

His days were at times not leisurely rides through scenic vistas — some days he battled headwinds and cold rain for hours across barren windswept landscapes in Central Otago, or coped with his bike rattling to pieces on coarse back roads, or undertaking 30 river crossings in a day.

But most days were thankfully fine, and once he set off at the tail end of the pack, Bruce found it to be a very pleasant experience.

"I had only ridden a few one-day longdistance events of around 60km, so this was something different. I knew I wasn’t going to be racing up front so I elected to start at the back of the pack of 260 riders taking part in the challenge.’’

The self-supported riders' departures were spread out over a week. The 100 faster ones headed away first then days later the next 100 and finally the last 60 including Bruce.

This was to ease the pressure on accommodations along the trail and not have any overcrowding on the narrow sections of the tracks.

Bruce says he was quickly on his own, but after a couple of days he teamed up with another rider, a doctor, and they travelled together the rest of the way.

The English-born building surveyor says he didn’t start riding until 2017 when he was 57.

"A friend got me riding, but he went home to the UK and I almost didn’t carry on, however, another friend got me interested in longer distance riding.

"I thought I would be so slow at it but on my first Bridge-to-Bridge race I finished with 110 other competitors behind me.’’ Coincidently when Bruce checked into a motel on the Marlborough leg of the S2S he ran into his friend from the UK who was pleased to see him still riding.

"It was great to see him again after so many years, it was all part of the fun of the S2S.’’

Bruce says that the S2S is not a race. It is all about the experience and it had a great social side.

"I would rise at 6am each day. Stretch and warm up the body, ride for two hours then break for lunch, usually with other riders in a cafe somewhere. Then ride for another two to four hours to get to a motel, or to one of my many friend's houses scattered along the way. Rest up and do it all again the next day.’’

"It’s a very satisfying ride, you can go as slow as you want – some are still on it today, and it’s always nice to know there are people behind you who can help if you need it.’’

Bruce’s advice to aspiring entrants in next year's challenge is:

1) Don't over-stretch yourself. Keep each day well within your capabilities, particularly the first few days.

2) Take regular breaks. ‘‘Typically I stopped for about 15 minutes at about 2 hourly intervals, plus photo stops and short stops.’’

3) Just do it! Even if you think you are not ready (like myself) so take longer, and do shorter rides.

"Even if you only ride 50kms per day you will still get there. If some hills are too steep, then walk up.

"It takes a lot less effort to get off and walk up than it does to ride up.

"So don't burn out trying to be a hero, get off and walk up."