Couch to 550K: Life advice I picked up from cycling by Annie Louey

Last week I joined a group of 10 riders on the Ride4KIDS event from Byron Bay to Noosa. Together we raised over $20,000 and awareness for the KIDS Foundation, a burns and serious injury charity.

The ride is in honour of a young man named Dalton who had 80% burns and attended many KIDS Foundation camps. Dalton’s dad Scott Diete and brother Declan Diete also did the ride for the first time this year.

Another rider, Brad Foster, survived three brain tumours and came up with the idea to do the ride 10 years ago. He has completed all 10 rides since.

Jess, Tom and Annie stopping for coffee made by Rob ‘the coffee man’ Taylor

Jess, Tom and Annie stopping for coffee made by Rob ‘the coffee man’ Taylor

This year was the final Ride4KIDS. There are more exciting and extreme fundraising events in the works though, so stay tuned. You can read more about Scott, Declan and Brad at the end of this article.

Now, here are the most useful things I learnt from two months’ worth of cycling.

1. It’s never too late to take up a new hobby or skill (even something you once sucked at)

All 10 riders waiting to depart for Day 4 of the ride

All 10 riders waiting to depart for Day 4 of the ride

My earliest memory of bike riding was when I was about 10 and my parents bought my little sister a tiny tricycle thing. It was clearly for someone aged three or four. I would hijack it and ride around in the backyard, with my knees practically touching my ears as I pedalled.

My second experience with bikes was Grade 5 ‘Bike Ed’. I accidentally ran over a teacher’s foot and got removed from the group. I spent the rest of the class with one other kid, riding around in circles with another teacher holding our handlebars.

If that doesn’t sound miserable then there was also Year 7 Bike Ed when I crashed into a fence inside the school grounds. I didn’t get my first real bike until I was 18. You’re shocked, I know.

Despite this, in the last two months I’ve been able to teach myself how to ride a proper road bike with cleats and I’ve ridden nearly 2,000km on my new bike.

2. Be open to redefining success

The route from Byron Bay to Noosa over four days

The route from Byron Bay to Noosa over four days

Before the ride I was adamant that I had to complete the full 550km because that was what success looked like. As the start of the ride loomed closer I realised there are many factors out of your control that could derail your efforts. These include injuries or a nasty saddle sore (or as my doctor calls it, a boil on your genitals. That word is so disgusting I believe it should be censored like this: BO*L).

So let’s say I couldn’t do the full 550km because of a bo*l, does that mean I failed? No. So I developed other ways to measure success regardless of whether or not I could finish the full course.

These included:

  • Riding safely

  • Listening to my body

  • Encouraging others

  • Maintaining group ride etiquette

  • Avoiding injuries, where possible

  • Communicating well with other riders e.g. warning about hazards on the road.

I set goals like this in the lead up to other projects too, like festival shows and leadership camps.

3. Sometimes you have to look after yourself before others

Annie pictured with KIDS Foundation CEO, Susie O’Neill after signing on for Day 3 of the ride

Annie pictured with KIDS Foundation CEO, Susie O’Neill after signing on for Day 3 of the ride

During the ride the men were helping one of the women up the hills by giving her a push. My inner feminist was like, ‘Why does it always have to be the men?’

Anyway, I gave it a shot and nearly caused a ten-bike pile up, so sometimes it’s the thought that counts and that’s more than enough. This would also sabotage the first goal I’d set (see above) to ride safely!

4. You don’t need to wait for someone else to start achieving your dreams

My ex-boyfriend had an expensive road bike that was kept in storage. He had the lycra and the whole shebang but we only went riding once. I wanted him to do the ride with me but then he got cold feet and shortly after that we broke up.

The more I trained the more I became a different person. The person I was in that relationship is not me anymore. That’s the cool thing I realised – the person you were yesterday doesn’t have to be the person you are today. You can wake up and make changes if you want to. 

Initially, I thought I couldn’t do it without my boyfriend by my side. I wondered, who would encourage me and push me up the hills? Now I’ve done the ride and I didn’t even need a single push. It’s kinda sad I didn’t believe in myself. The power was within me all along.

5. Some people will try to door you and take you off your chosen path

There will be haters who yell, ‘F*CK YOU! GET OFF THE F*CKING ROAD YOU STUPID F*CKING CYCLIST!’ Keep cool, focused and resist punching the living daylights out of that person when you’re stopped at the next set of lights. 

When I told my friends about doing the ride and my fundraising goal a few said, ‘That sounds hard and unnecessary. Why are you doing this to yourself?’ Honestly, I don’t want to spend my entire life being comfortable. That’s why I quit my job to try comedy. As the saying goes, nothing worth doing is easy.

Plus, after a few hours of being uncomfortable on a bike, sitting on a couch feels REALLY comfortable. Like on a whole new level I didn’t know existed.

Cyclist profiles

Brad Foster pictured with his wife, Annie,  who helped make delicious meals for all the riders and crew on the ride

Brad Foster pictured with his wife, Annie,
who helped make delicious meals for all the riders and crew on the ride

BRAD FOSTER
Age:
56
Occupation: Founder,
Fulvic Acid Australia
Fast fact: He’s also a KIDS Foundation Ambassador.


Annie: You came up with the idea for the first ride. How did that come about?
Brad: It was a silly idea I had to do a ride from Port Melbourne to Port Macquarie where the Iron Man event was. It was nearly 1,200km and we did it in 10 days. Then five of us did the Iron Man. There’s a tattoo on my back that reminds me every day how stupid I was. But we did raise a lot of money so it was very rewarding.



A: You’re being very humble. Didn’t you raise $140,000?
B: Well, it was over two years but we did raise a bucket load.

Brad after his third major brain tumour operation

Brad after his third major brain tumour operation

A: How did you get involved with the KIDS Foundation?
B: I’ve had three brain tumours. On the third brain tumour I was wandering around the hospital. When they cut your head open from side to side and put staples in it, it’s pretty hard to sleep. I walked past a burns unit one night full of all these kids and the noise and all the screams coming out just horrified me.

Fortunately, the KIDS Foundation were the main charity for the Iron Man. The idea came to do the Iron Man and to raise about $140,000 which is $1,000 for every mile.

A: Do you have any advice for people? Because you’ve done something that most people would think is pretty tough.
B: It’s not about the toughness. It’s about surviving each day and trying to make something better for someone else. The day you wake up and try to help someone else rather than someone else – you’re on a helluva start.

It’s a simple thing but not many people do it. A lot choose to help themselves rather than someone else. If we could all wake up and help someone else, the world would be a lovely place.

Scott Diete (right) pictured with another rider, Don McKill at a rest stop.

Scott Diete (right) pictured with another rider, Don McKill at a rest stop.

SCOTT DIETE
Age:
40
Occupation: Earth mover
Fast fact: He’s been attending KIDS camps for 17 years.

Annie: What was it like to do the ride?
Scott: I was quite scared about it the week before. I put on a brave face for Declan.

A: You mentioned to me this is one of the greatest things you’ve ever done?
S: I think so. As a group event, it’s just been brilliant. Riding with everybody, talking with you lot on the way. I’ve known you for eight or nine years since we’ve been going to camps and we never really spoke much.


A: I’ve only been going to these camps for four years!
S: I thought you’d been doing them for ages. You can edit this right?
A: Yeah…
S: But riding together, you get to know someone a bit better. You can mix it up a bit, talk to some other people then come back beside each other again and talk a bit more.

A: What were you thinking about each day?
S: I was just trying to get to the finish line each day. It got pretty gruelling towards the end of each day. You have to put your head down and keep pushing.

A: There was a moment where you fell off your bike.
S: Yeah I had a little lay down. I was still clipped into my shoes and couldn’t put my foot down [laughs].

A: Do you have any advice for people wanting to do something like this?
S: Just get out there and give it a go. It’s fantastic to give back for what the KIDS Foundation has done for us over the years.

A: This is the last year of the road ride but there’s going to be a mountain bike ride which you’re keen to do?
S: Yeah, super keen.

Declan Diete pictured with Annie Louey at a rest stop.

Declan Diete pictured with Annie Louey at a
rest stop.

DECLAN DIETE
Age:
17
Occupation: Student
Fast fact:
He’s the youngest rider in the group and was given the prestigious ‘white jersey’ for team spirit on Day 2 of the ride.


Annie: How did you get through the day when you were riding?
Declan: I just thought about food.

A: Was there any particular day that was hard for you?
D: Probably the second day, towards the end.

A: What happened after that?
D: We went and got food.

A: You missed out on a day of the ride because you had to go to your school sports carnival. How did that go?
D: I did the 100m sprint and everyone at school was like, ‘Oh you’re going to come first!’ Instead I came fifth. I almost fell over when I got out of the car [because I was so tired from riding].

A: I was thinking today how cool it was that people flew here from other cities for Camp Phoenix but we rode here on a piece of metal.
D: Someone was complaining today about their legs being sore from walking around all day. I was like, ‘You flew here, shut up!'

A: What would you say to people who are your age and wanting to give back to the community?
D: Just give it a crack, that’s all you can do really. There’s no other way other than putting yourself out there and doing it. 

A: What do you want to do next? Do you have any goals?
D: Not really. Finish school.

A: Did you have to do homework on this trip?
D: Yeah.

A: It’s a massive achievement considering you’re so busy. Congratulations on doing something not a lot of people would be able to do. Like I got my first bike at 18—
D: Yeah, it shows.
A: Shut up.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to every single person who donated and helped me raise $4,300 for the KIDS Foundation. Massive shoutout to the support crew on the ride, including KIDS staff and official sponsor Giant Bicycles.

Shaun and Annie on 'New Bike Day’ way back on 4 June 2019

Shaun and Annie on 'New Bike Day’ way back on 4 June 2019

Thank you to Cycles Galleria and Shaun Scource for imparting all of his cycling wisdom. He sold me my bike, installed my cleats and watched me fall on my ass on two separate occasions.

Thanks to Danielle Hendricks and Laura Sullivan for donating items to the silent auction for my comedy fundraiser. If you need your make-up done for a special event, hit up D.Hen MUA. If you’re looking for a killer pair of earrings or a sweet gift idea, check out Ellis Resin on Instagram.

Finally, a massive thanks to everyone who has put up with my social media posts and sent me lovely messages that kept me going during the ride. This has been a bucket list item for me for many years, after I realised I’m terrible at running and will never do a marathon.

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If you would like to continue supporting the KIDS Foundation, please make a donation to the organisation’s website or my Everyday Hero page before it closes.

We are always looking for more volunteers from all backgrounds and skill sets. If you’re interested, feel free to chat with me via my contact form, Facebook, Instagram or carrier pigeon.