In March 2019, the Hairy Handlebars set off from our London HQ, marking the start of our #BreakTheCycle campaign and an epic 6,000-mile journey – all to raise £30,000 for charities Movember and the Ian Williams Foundation and help stop men dying too young.
We caught up with the magnificently moustachioed duo ahead of their arrival in Tokyo to hear how their travels have treated them and what they’ve learnt.
How far has the experience matched your expectations?
Ben: “There’s two things that I wasn’t expecting. The first is to see just how populated the world is – I thought that we’d be alone for long periods of time but that hasn’t been the case. As a result, I’ve also learnt that you can always find help. From helping to fix the bike, to being offered food and a place to stay, we’ve found that people are always on hand. I didn’t think that this sort of kindness was so widespread.”
George: “I think that I was more focused on the physical side of things before we set off, but we’ve both come to realise that our bodies are far more able than we give them credit for.”
“So, rather than being the grinding physical challenge that we anticipated, it’s been much more of a mental trial. There’s been some really tough days where we’ve had to get up and ride through endless, monotonous terrain, and that’s posed challenges that we hadn’t expected.”
Tell us about some of the people you’ve met
Ben: “In Bulgaria, we met a refugee from Afghanistan. He decided to cycle with us for about 10km, sharing his story and how he’d come to Europe. It was an inspiring experience and really motivated us to keep going and make the most of the opportunities that we encounter on the trip.”
What’s been your most memorable moment?
George: “One moment that jumps out is our first night in Georgia – we were climbing up through the hills looking for somewhere to camp and were taken in by a family. They gave us food, took us to a nearby waterfall and then proceeded to get us exceedingly drunk on their homemade cognac! They didn’t have a lot to give, but they gave us everything they could. It was an experience that I’ll never forget.”
Ben: “The Uzbek wedding has to be a key highlight! We were walking down a street in Bukhara, Uzbekistan one evening and were swept up by a passing parade of men. This turned out be the ‘Stag do’ element of a wedding! We were then invited to the ceremonial breakfast the next morning and the official wedding party later that night.”
“It was an incredible experience. Where else in the world would you be swept up and invited to a wedding off the street?!”