The Huffington Post – Friends Like These

I write this post over a week after we completed The Big Bad Ride, a 460-mile endurance cycle from Edinburgh to London in aid of Harrison’s Fund, a small charity working hard to find a cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a fatal disease which affects my two young sons, Theo and Oskar.

I am indebted to my fellow riders: Nick Rucker, Mike Barnard, Dan Croft, Luke Bordewich, Dave Morrison and Chin Nicholson. All of them kept me going in very different ways, from Nick’s infectious energy and wonderful madcap silliness, to Mike’s quiet strength and resilience, to Dan’s steadfast determination and humour, to Luke’s willingness to lead the charge from the front, to Dave’s infinite wisdom and experience in all matters cycling, to Chin’s ever-present and indispensable care and support.

Old friends and new, they trucked along with me as we followed the A1 all the way down: getting lost, windswept and drenched in Northumberland; battling delirium and unimaginable fatigue as we climbed yet another bloody Pennine; racing across the flat lands of Lincolnshire, high on Haribos and energy gels, sure that we were finally pro-cyclists; and pushing through, on the last day, from Cambridge to London, our final destination Dulwich College, where half of us had gone to school. It was there where we ultimately collapsed, after we had crossed the line, in one giant saddle-sore heap.

Beyond the training we’d all done, what really kept us going, however, was the love and affection we have for one another, and our shared purpose, which at times I could see etched very clearly on my friends’ pained faces: Nick determined to keep on going in spite of his failing knees, Mike in spite of his sciatica, Dan in spite of the growing number of pustules accumulating on his arse, Dave in spite of his exhaustion after riding the first two days in one, Luke in spite of the demands of his new job and the fact that he has done one-too-many long charity rides already, and Chin in spite of not knowing any of us before this whole insane endeavour began. All of them did it in spite of the pain and discomfort they had to endure along the way, because of Theo and Oskar, and other boys with Duchenne, this cruel disease.

Humour, more than anything else, sustained us, and there was plenty of it, which Mike captured so well in a post-ride email. Moments of understatement included me announcing on the first day in Edinburgh, five minutes into the ride, “Don’t worry, the Garmin (a favoured GPS navigation device for cyclists) will show us the way!” It transpired that I couldn’t actually work the thing, this becoming all too clear when, just ten minutes later, we found ourselves on the motorway, definitely not on the designated route, dodging high speed juggernauts. Moments of genius included Chin making each of us a perfect espresso in Consett, from the support car, to accompany our Lidl lunch.

Lowlights included cyclocross care of Google Maps in Bishop Auckland, where we ended up on a road not even fit for livestock let alone MAMILs in lycra with their precious bikes petrified of getting punctures. Highlights included Nick’s guide to the different dialects of Scotland and Northern England, normally at high volume and in local company to test authenticity of accent.

Moments of stupidity, as Mike rightly observed, included preparation for a long day’s cycling with curry tapas and four pints of Kingfisher each the night before. It’s no wonder Dan ended up standing in a public park in Holbeach with his hands down his shorts smothering Sudocrem all over his arse while two young girls looked on, considering whether or not to inform the nearest policeman and have him arrested.

As the days went on, Nick and I, the two Nicks, regressed, remembering every single slightly mad gesture, sound and phrase we’d cooked up at school, with the rest of the team forced to endure this dual insanity, which expressed itself even when we were halfway up a hill, and in considerable pain. It’s lucky that the sanity of the majority prevailed, this spirit of reason captured best by Chin – in every respect a dead ringer for the wonderful Jim Broadbent but for the fact that he’s a redhead and at least a quarter of a century younger.

We received a special welcome at the finish line, our loved ones there to greet us along with supporters from the College including the Master Joe Spence, and when I knelt down to hug Theo, while Klara and Oskar looked on, I could sense his gratitude and appreciation, as he looked at all of us exhausted and started to piece together quite why we’d done what we just did, cycle the length of the land, to help his “weak muscles”, in Theo’s words.

We got there, we made it – God knows how – and I am indebted to all of you: Nick, Mike, Dan, Luke, Dave and Chin. Thank you, Gentlemen. You are good men. And perhaps, we shall do it again next year.

There’s still time to donate here: TheBigBadRide. Please do.

About Nick Taussig

Nick Taussig is the author of four critically acclaimed novels: Love and Mayhem, Don Don, Gorilla Guerrilla and The Distinguished Assassin. He has also written for a number of publications including The Guardian, The Independent and The Huffington Post. Marcel Berlins, writing in The Times, called The Distinguished Assassin “gripping, passionate, political and emotional.” Love and Mayhem was described by Alain de Botton as “full of insight and genuine innovation in form and content…capturing brilliantly all the nuances of passion.” Matt Munday of The Sunday Times referred to Don Don as “a great book.” While Gorilla Guerrilla, according to Natasha Harding of The Sun, is a “thought-provoking tale…beautifully told.” He is also a film producer. His recent credits include producer of Peter Williams’ The Challenge, Jane Preston’s Gascoigne, Ron Scalpello’s Offender and Nirpal Bhogal’s Sket (Official Selection at the 55th BFI London Film Festival with two award nominations), and executive producer of Ben Drew aka Plan B’s highly praised BIFA-nominated debut feature iLL Manors and the BAFTA-nominated documentary film Taking Liberties. In January 2013, he set up Salon Pictures with fellow producer Paul Van Carter. Before his career in book and film, Nick studied literature and philosophy at Durham University, where he obtained a First, then went on to acquire a Master’s in Russian literature from the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies. He is also co-founder of Mtaala Foundation, an education partnership and sponsorship programme to create and support a school for vulnerable children and at-risk youth in Uganda; and a trustee of Harrison’s Fund, which fights Duchenne muscular dystrophy, getting as much money as possible into the hands of the world’s best researchers, who are working to find a cure for this horrible disease.

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