It’s been awhile since we last did a “meet our fundraisers” post, so we thought we’d introduce you to Graham Spiro, who set out to raise funds for four Qhubeka Bicycles and ended up funding more than 13! Hats off to Graham!
Graham says he’s a typical MAMIL (that’s a middle-aged man in lycra). “I’m in my fifties and obsessed with Strava and carbon fibre, and can often be found wearing lycra, while drinking post-ride coffee,” he says. “I came to cycling quite late in my life. I’d been a runner and done a couple of Comrades in the early 90s, and then then took up golf in my late 30s. I was never very good at it, but loved the social interaction with my mates.”
Six years ago, Graham had fallen out of some of his healthy ways. “I was a 96-kg porker and worked my way through the better part of two packs of cigarettes a day. I’d stopped smoking a few times since I’d first started in the army, with the longest period being nearly seven years. I decided to give quitting another shot. On 11/11/2011, I went off to an Allen Carr Stop Smoking meeting where the penny dropped. I realised that I didn’t want to be a smoker anymore. I left my smokes and lighter behind at the venue and wandered off to Cycle Lab where I bought a bike. I invested the amount that I would have spent on cigarettes in the next six months into that first MTB and have never looked back.”
Now, Graham is a committed roadie. “I have five bikes in my Pain Cave and I’m constantly fighting the urge of n+1,” he admits. “According to Strava I’ve ridden nearly 35,000 km since that first attempt six years ago and cycling is a huge part of my life. I’m a regular rider with Cycle Lab and most Saturdays I can be found riding the roads in the Cradle with my fantastic group of cycling friends. The original shorts I started cycling in were tossed out five years ago as my journey took me to some amazing places and a weight that is now 16kg less than when I first started cycling.”
He is married to Karen, whom he describes as “ever-patient”, although she does roll her eyes every time she sees Graham set the alarm for another early morning ride.
“About two years ago, I built my bike room where I can be found most mornings before work, sweating out my stress and affinity for good Scotch whisky. Indoor training has allowed me to train without needing to brave the early traffic and dark, cold mornings. Late last year, I discovered the completely addictive Zwift platform, which allowed me to ride in a virtual world in the comfort of my own home. Soon I was logging up lots of miles and ticking off the achievements in the program and then there was only one left… Ride 100 miles on Zwift on an indoor trainer.”
Graham couldn’t shake the idea once it was in his head. “I had to find a reason to justify six hours of riding while staring at a laptop and interacting with my imaginary friends in a virtual world,” he jokes. “Around that time, I picked up a post on Facebook about Qhubeka and the connection was made. I fired off an email to Qhubeka and Cycle Lab and both organisations got behind my quest. Before I knew what had happened, a date had been set and the details were posted online, so there was no backing out.”
Graham’s goal was to raise enough money for four Qhubeka Bicycles – an amount of R 11,400. “I planned to ride for about six hours to cover the 100 miles (160 km). I set up my trainer front-and-centre at Cycle Lab Fourways on 24 June, and at 8.00am started turning my pedals. As the day wore on, more and more cyclists came back from their ride and they emptied their pockets into my Sweat Bucket. Five hours and forty-seven minutes later, I stopped pedaling and realised that we had raised over R 34,000 – that was more than 13 bikes to change the lives of people who had never had the chance to cycle. The toughest part of the ride was the position that I rode in, as I spent all day sitting up and chatting to the people around me.”
Graham says he was humbled by the support from friends, family and fellow cyclists. “There were donations ranging from R20 right up to R 5,700 and every single cent has gone towards a programme that I have become passionate about,” he says. “I’ve loved the interaction with Qhubeka. As an organisation they are that great combination of hugely professional while being completely supportive. In the days leading up to the ride, they couldn’t do enough for me and they will remain my charity-of-choice for a long time to come.”
What’s next for Graham? “There is a group of us riding to Durban to race the Amashova in October – 500 km in three days followed by the 100-km race. We will be riding under the Qhubeka and Cycle Lab banner, proudly wearing our Qhubeka shirts on the road. A double-lapper at the 947 Cycle Challenge in November will hopefully get me to my goal of riding 10,000 km during 2017 and raising awareness for Qhubeka. I’m already working on ideas to raise the funds for 20 bicycles next year.”
Thanks, Graham! If you’d like to fundraise for Qhubeka, get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.