At 17 years old none of us had been away from our family’s for a trip like this.
When Jack saw The Cycle Against Suicide advertised he literally ran straight up to me and Nicky telling us that he had a great “plan” for our first adventure.
Jack and Nicky are two friends, that have been since primary school. I was the extra for that six days. Afterwards though, it was like we had been friends for years.
The three of us had been cycling for around two years at this stage. We all started off on heavy aluminium road bikes that weighed around 14 kilograms. At 15 we were out cycling in traffic, down tractor infested back roads and sprinting for every stop sign we saw.
We caused our parents quite a bit of concern as we would disappear for up to five hours nearly every Sunday exploring the beautiful countryside of Wexford.
Two years later we were riding 7-kilogram carbon fibre racers. Still to this day that bike cost more than my first car but it is a true passion.
We set off on a warm springs morning. The students in the school including some teachers came along for the first day. They had organised to go out for one stage of the cycle. Our 600 kilometre epic from County Carlow all the way along the coast to Ennis in County Clare had begun.
We rode at a slow pace of 20 km/h for the whole six days. This meant that we all stuck together. The first day was only 84 kilometres. The feeling among the bunch was something I had never before experienced. There was a feeling of openness and sincerity, the type where you could talk to the person beside you about anything.
Throughout the trip we pulled into secondary schools for lunch. Students would line the drive way in and the hall ways would be full of students looking at over 1000 cyclists dressed in lycra, young and old.
This is where the cycle really made a difference. In the school, talking to the students about suicide awareness, the speakers always did an amazing job and would often leave a lump in your throat. The schools and students would always have an amazing spread of food and no one would leave hungry.
Been the youngest cyclist to do this meant we got some attention from the other students that were our age. Jack was never shy when telling them all about our “adventure of a lifetime” and Nicky playing the ever faithful wingman.
Jim Breen, the man behind the cycle would host talks in all of these schools about mental health and the issues surrounding suicide. What always amazed me was that each talk was different from the last one. They were not rehearsed. You could tell it all came from the heart and everyone would have an overwhelming sense of love and joy leaving.
Jim always started his speeches with the song ‘Intro’ by the XX and then a massive group hug followed by a one song long dance. Not everyone participated, I certainly didn’t but Jack and Nicky really were in their element.
That was the thing though, whether you were up dancing and signing it didn’t matter as long as you were there wearing orange standing “Shoulder to shoulder” to break the cycle of suicide in Ireland.
The slogan of the cycle is “It’s ok not to feel ok and it’s absolutely ok to ask for help.”
Jim also liked to end some of his speeches with, “You’re lovely, you’re lovable and you’re loved.”
The second day of the our cycle has always stuck with me. It was the longest day of the trip, around 130 kilometres from Waterford to Cork. We got up from our beds sore and cramped after the first 84 kilometres, got dressed, headed downstairs in the B&B, walked out side and threw our legs over the top bar of our bikes.
Ten minutes later we were soaked through and it remained that way for the next nine hours. Throughout this whole day I never once felt cold or thought that I wouldn’t make it. People were encouraging you and talking to you the whole way keeping your mind off of the Irish weather.
You sheltered the person behind you and you were sheltered by the person in front. Everyone had a purpose that day and the point was made at lunch time that problems shared really are halved.
By Nick Moloney