Leading from the Rear

20 Mar 2019

I’ve done it a few times now, 26 in fact, covering just under 20,000kms on my bike in Thailand riding for Hands. Turns out that is half way around the globe! So what do I take from spending my month of January in Thailand riding 800kms at a time on the Hands Across the Water charity bike rides?

I have to admit that I am not always jumping out of my skin as November rolls around at the thought of spending January riding through Thailand. Part of it has to do with what I sometimes perceive as a lack of choice. As the Founder of the charity I feel obliged to ride each year but that is of course a self imposed obligation, nobody is telling me I have to.

And then I get through Christmas and I am not only ready to ride, but chomping at the bit. I’ve just returned from riding 1600kms with some old friends and happy to say made some new ones along the way and can’t wait to do it all again.

The journey of course starts months before we ever sit on the bike and perhaps the biggest mountain to climb is the first one and its got nothing to do with the bike, but it’s making the commitment. You will always be able to find excuses not to ride. Just find one meaningful reason too ride and that’ll do you.

Our rides are a challenge. Be it the fundraising or the riding itself either or both can be daunting and for some it takes them to the limit of their perceived abilities. But going to the edge of the limits we have imposed or worse, have allowed others to impose upon us is often where the sweetest of victories are found.

The rides are achievable they just take planning, with a good dose of self belief required and then a support crew to prop you up when you get a bit wobbly. For many the ride on the road in Thailand is the reward for the work that has been done long before they arrive in the Kingdom of Thailand.

So what I have learnt riding with hundreds of riders collectively travelling hundreds of thousands of kilometres?

  • If you think you can or if you think you can’t – you’re probably right!
  • When it comes to the fundraising, just because someone has the capacity to donate doesn’t mean they will and those who you think can’t, often do;
  • When you think you’ve maxed out your supporters and ridden just as far as physically possible, go again and go a bit further;
  • Don’t ride the hills before you get there. Often I hear people talking about selecting the ride they want to do or as a deciding factor to ride or not, based on the hills. Don’t let the fear of a climb deprive you from the joy of the downhill on the otherwise;
  • There comes a time when we all need a gentle hand on the back as the road turns upwards and accepting a hand is often for the greater good of the entire team;
  • Taking your turn pushing into the wind is imperative, knowing when to peel away for others to take their turn is just as important to keep maximum momentum.

We share a collective journey, we ride the same roads, we eat the same meals at the same time and we ride the same bikes. But the twelve month journey is very much an individual one that is shared but ultimately the riders will take different things away from the ride.

If this sounds like something you would like to be part of, the first place to visit is the Hands Group page for more information

One of my highlights over the last couple of weeks, which has been repeated year on year is the pleasure that I take watching others have their own journey. Watching them face challenges which they thought were beyond them and celebrate when they succeed. Watching and giving space to those who come close to giving up and then finding it within to go a bit further for a bit longer and then find they’ve climbed the hill, metaphorical or literal. And what I have learnt is that as a leader there is a time to sit at the front of the pack and show the way, there is a time to push into the wind and let others tuck in behind and take a break, but when you really want to understand the challenges your team are facing, how they are travelling, then leading from the back of the pack can be the place to get the best feel of things.

I might not have been jumping out of my skin in November about the rides, but I’m on a high having completed then and can’t wait to get back on my bike and ride the roads of Thailand again.

Give some thought to joining me in 2020, because now is the best time to climb that initial mountain and make the commitment.


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