Student Cycle Challenge 2015: Participant Stories

Many thanks to all of the Student Cycle Challenge participants who shared their stories with us. Here is a sample of the stories that we received. Happy reading!

“So on the Wednesday of the first week of the Student Cycle Challenge I decided to go on a short mountain bike ride with some of my friends up the Dublin Mountains. During the ride up some of us had to wait at the top of a steep part for two of the others. Connie, our cycle challenge captain asked me for a drink and I handed her a water bottle and took the lid off for her to drink from, I suppose to prevent her from touching the mouth piece with her mouth. Then she handed it back to me. I had been talking to my friend Sean behind me and as I received the bottle I lifted it up for a drink dumping the contents down the front of my thermal. It was freezing up in the woods and the water was definitely not a very nice feeling!

I decided not to finish the ride in the dripping wet thermal and sports bra. So I went around the corner behind a few trees in front of us on foot and when I was out of site from my riding buddies I removed my sports bra and thermal to wring the excess water out of them. As I started to twist both I was pleasantly surprised by four young men on an evening hike with two dogs. I think they were about fifteen or sixteen. It was quite surprising for me and them… not being one of many words I simply smiled put my sports bra on and said, “enjoy your hike” half running back to my bike. God, it was actually incredibly embarrassing! Maybe next time I’ll have an action camera to record my many embarrassing cycling moments :)”

Anonymous Cycle Challenge Participant 2015

“I’m an international student in UL. I’m from a city where It’s really hard to cycle. We have almost no cycle paths so people who are brave enough to try cycling there have to face intense traffic and It’s very dangerous. Besides, the topography doesn’t help with It’s many hills. I told you all of this just to explain why I haven’t been cycling for ten years (yes, TEN YEARS, since I was a kid and cycled on my grandma’s farm) before coming to Ireland. So when I bought my bike here I felt extremely insecure and got tired very easily because I was not used to it, my legs and arms would hurt on the next day and I was always worried about falling on being hit by a car or something like that hahahaha . I went to the Cycle Tour Smarter Travel organized here in UL and It already made me feel more confident and also made me start to feel that I really want this change in my life. Cycling Is so awesome! So I decided to participate on the cycle challenge! I go to Aldi for groceries, to the city center… And all this trips for the cycle challenge boosted my confidence, so this week I needed to go to Halfords to buy gloves and a waterproof jacket and f course I cycled there. Than decided to go to the city center… But I got lost. And as realizing I was lost wasn’t enough, a car suddenly came way too close and almost hit me. I had to turn away and as I was between the car and the sidewalk the wheel of my bike hit the curb and I fell. Normally, I would just stand up, get my bike and just keep going walking because I would be too scared to keep cycling, but I didn’t. I got lost and nervous, but I didn’t give up cycling and at some point I found myself near Mary Immaculate College. From there I went do Dealz and than on my way back to the University I stopped at Dunnes. I don’t know exactly the distance I cycled that day because I got lost, but I know it was many kilometers… And when I got home sore, sweating, exhausted and carrying groceries, I felt so proud of myself. It was a challenge and I nailed it! hahahaha I didn’t panic (almost… hahahaha), I didn’t give up! This Is all because of the cycle challenge. So anyway even If my story Is not the best and deserve the prize or anything, I want to share It with you guys anyway and say thank you! To the cycle challenge and to Smarter Travel! This Is really changing my life In so many ways. Not only by going places In a more healthy and sustainable way by cycling, but also by showing me what I can do. Thank you so much, guys”

A very happy new cyclist who took part in the Student Cycle Challenge 2015 from UL

 “Honourable Lords and graceful Ladies, Pull up a chair by the hearth and listen to my tale, the tale of adventure and courage. I am well aware than I am nothing more than a mere wanderer in this realm and my unsatisfactory proficiency in your mother tongue does not allow me to amaze you with my eloquence properly as befits a good bard. Although sometimes I might be cumbersome in expression, mark my words, I assure you that I will do no less than my best to meet your expectations and to entertain you truly royally.

Well-nigh two months have passed since I entered this emerald land of endless pastures and enchanting sceneries as a guardian of Marquise Évelyn des Coptes and Baroness Rebecca von Werner, two virtuous ladies whom I had sworn to protect and whose secure return I had pledged to two valiant knights to whom these charming damsels were promised. Myself, I bear the name Vladimir the Filthy. Two sennights ago, lady Évelyn expressed a wish to enter the cycle challenge about which a good lad named Seán Ó Coileáin working at Limerick Smarter Travel had told her. I felt strongly obliged to fulfil her whim. Not only because of my vow but also because if it were not for culinary arts of the two ladies I would be condemned to feed on bread and instant noodles. On the day before the day of fasting, both ladies decided to visit the centre of the city of Limerick and I accompanied them naturally. We tied those peculiar steeds, so called bicycles, to a fence nearby the Castle of King John, this majestic landmark of the city, and walked calmly to the market where the noble ladies bought finest fabrics and exotic spices.

After this delightful day we embarked on a voyage back to the castle. As we were peacefully approaching the King’s residence, we noticed two gentlemen admiring our horses… bikes. Alas! Those men were trying to break the chains and purloin our means of transport. We raced towards those dastards while screaming, filled with righteous anger, my ladies indistinguishable from two valiant valkyries. Both rogues, distracted from their dishonest conduct, glanced at us and with fear in their eyes cowardly turned their tails. While the ladies stayed at the scene of a foul horse theft guarding remaining steeds… bikes, I boldly continued to pursue the scoundrels deeper to a shady alley to which they had fled, since the sturdier crook was riding one of our thoroughbreds.

Unfortunately, those gallows birds knew well their way around that dodgy neighbourhood and soon I lost their trail. As I returned to the ladies I found them assessing damage and taking care of bruised and startled horses. Much to my surprise, I have found out that the thieves did not manage to snatch nothing more than a saddle from the mare of Baroness and there was much rejoicing. Yaaaaay.

We found out shortly after that riding a bike without a saddle is even more bothersome than riding an unsaddled stallion and a few miles long journey back to our dwelling-place will be etched on our memory forever. But at the end of the day, we proved ourselves to be courageous and resilient to misfortune, our spirit remains unbroken and we are ready to tackle any challenge which is yet to come. After all, we do have a lion in our coats of arms.”


Vladimír Špína, a member of the Student Cycle Challenge 2015 team the Czech Lions, UL

 “’My shoe hadn’t reached the peddle since 1992
In to the shed with such dread
But reacquainted with the high nelly
Was a delight to that chill Autumn night
With a lick of paint and no other complaint
The ruby red bike was waiting to strike
The cycle challenge was drawing near
But Nelly had no fear
Two weeks was the goal
She was ready to rock and roll
Back on the road
And oh how she mowed
Steep hills brought many thrills
With Fifty kilometers completed
Nifty Nelly had not been defeated
The cycling brought pure glee
To both Nelly and me
A custom here to stay
I will now cycle Nelly everyday”

Maria Winters, a participant in the Student Cycle Challenge 2015, NUI Galway

Daniel Diaz, IT Sligo made a fantastic video of his Cycle Challenge experience – check it out on our Facebook page 

“Now I wouldn’t say this would be particularly exciting or cool story for that matter, but it certainly meant a lot to me. On the 2nd Friday of October (16th this year) each year, UCD MedSoc organises a day known as Med Day, where many of the UCD medical students, regardless of which year they are in, goes out all over Dublin to collect for selected charities, this year’s selected charities were LauraLynn Children’s Hospice, Debra Ireland, The Mater Foundation, Berkeley Fund, Helium and St Vincent’s Foundation. Med Day starts bright and early and we start collecting at 7am each year until about 10:30am then we will all gather for breakfast, and another round of collections start again in the afternoon form 1pm – 3:30pm. Finally, the buckets are all gathered at the end of the day and the money compiled before splitting to each charities. We will all head back to UCD for a performance session at the clubhouse before heading out for a night out later on. So that’s very briefly what Med Day is all about, all in all a great day and not in lectures!

Back to my cycle challenge story, for the past 2 years of Med Day that I participated in, I chose to take the first bus into town for collection but this year, I’ve made the decision to cycle into Temple Bar (where I was allocated for collection) from Blackrock. Waking up at 5:30am in the morning certainly isn’t my daily schedule but there was this indescribable exhilaration to it that I quite liked. It was my first time waking up so early and at first, being a sleep-lover, I was snoozing the multiple alarms that I had lined up on my nightstand before deciding to eventually get myself up for the big day. After getting ready with bike lights, gloves, helmet, fluorescent vest and my collection bucket, I stepped out and braced the cold, dark and misty morning. To be honest, it felt like the middle of the night still and very briefly, I reconsidered my choice. Anyway, I stuck with cycling in and started pedalling away through the quiet roads. It felt so different, mysterious even, cycling along the hassle-free streets that would usually be busy in the day, there was virtually no traffic and it took my quicker than I thought I would to get to my destination, which was brilliant! The thrill of speeding through on my bike the in dark roads was extremely elating I must say. So after a 7km cycle to Temple Bar, I was really quite hungry and since I was early anyway I decided to grab coffee and my all-time favourite McDonald’s breakfast muffin. With the energy boost and after meeting with all of my teammates for the collection, we spread ourselves out along College Green and started the first collection of the day. Slowly, the buckets start to fill up and personally I felt wonderful and productive to be doing this, there’s just this sense of satisfaction of being able to do a good deed, you know.

At the end of the day, I found myself a few more cycle buddies as we head on back to UCD for the karaoke session in the clubhouse. While the roads were busier this time, it was nice to be cycling with the others and we sure had great banter on the way back alright! There again another 7km clocked in! My thigh muscles (or more specifically the vasti muscles and biceps femoris – the nerdy side of me couldn’t help it hah!) certainly had a great workout for the day. More importantly, Med Day was an extremely meaningful day and I’m very glad I was part of it. For the future years ahead, I will definitely take part in Med Day again and till then, no more second thoughts on cycling in to my allocated spot for collection! Great exercise, great deed to be doing too!

As you have probably gathered from the above story, yes I’m indeed a medical student, so are the other two of my cycle challenge team mates. Being medical students and with the massive workload, both my teammates and I found it a challenge to fit in many cycle trips in day, besides just cycling to college and back home, especially on days when we have long hours of lectures and practical classes in college. Nevertheless, we had a lot of fun participating in this event and really enjoyed biking that much more. Not only did we get to know each other a little bit better when planning for some extra trips on the bike, we were also had great fun exploring and discovering new places as we cycle to those destinations, Sandymount strand for instance, was a definitely peaceful break from all the studying and textbooks! Even when we were posing for team photos, oh the antics we pulled! One of us even accidentally ripped our pants while trying to pull a ridiculous pose over the bike, clearly skinny jeans wasn’t the best choice for that pose! Unfortunately the photo was taken before class and sadly that person had to walk around with a massive hole on his/her pants for the entire day, good news the ripped pants did not look as awkward as it sounds! Finally, to the Cycle Challenge organisers, me and my teammates would just like to say thanks for organising such an awesome event, cycling awareness was certainly raised to a high level through this challenge. We look forward to taking part in more of the challenges to come! Hope you enjoy the story as it certainly was a pleasure writing it! “

Ning Xuan from The Tofu Bikers, UCD

“My team and I encountered a perhaps not hilarious but amusing story. We all said goodbye to each other at the end of class and assumed our different cycling directions. But I went a different route and was slower to put on flashing lights for safety and luminous jacket.

But sure enough we all reconvened and bumped into each other at a traffic light. So we cycling one by one behind one another. But on this very occasion, a car swerved suddenly and made my team member brake abruptly, thus forcing me and my other team member to crash into one another. We laughed it off as no one was hurt, we all had bike helmets on. Needless to say, we ensured we went our individual routes home the following day.”

Cycle Challenge Participant 2015, DIT

“I would like to share with you an experience which really set the tone for the 2015 Cycle Challenge for me. There I was, it’s Monday morning, 12th October, 9am; the first day of the 2015 Cycle Challenge. I’ve made out a plan to get in as many cycles as possible today.
I’ll cycle to and from college in between classes, I’ll cycle to do my shopping and back to college again in the evening. I was determined to get a good start… ‘tús maith, leath na hoibre’ and all that.  So, I cycle in for my 9 o’clock lecture and log my first trip of the day.  I’m feeling good and am even contemplating squeezing in more trips today than I originally planned today. Class is over and I hop back on my bike – I’ll go home and get my second trip logged.

This time, however, the cycle isn’t as easy. My bike seems sluggish and I have to push extra hard to get up the hill back home. What could possibly be causing the sluggishness?
Then a horrific thought occurs to me… ‘what if my bike is punctured? … that would really ruin my plans’. Being under the constant rule of Murphy’s law, sure enough, my bike had a puncture. After 1 trip!I wasn’t going to let that ruin my hopes of competing however. I decided I’d use the time between classes to walk to Halfords to get my bike fixed.So, on my way I went, a little deflated, but not without hope. It took about 25 minutes to walk to Halfords, but the thought of a fixed bike (and my iPod) keep me motivated and moving on. I give my bike in to Halfords and wait for an hour as they fix it.

An hour later, all is well again. I’ve a fully functioning bike again and I feel relieved that I’ve still plenty of time until my next lecture, and, more importantly, plenty of time to log more trips. With rejuvenated spirits I cycle home again. ‘That’s another trip logged’ I think happily to myself as I mount the footpath outside my house. BANG!
My ears are ringing and my mind is racing. Either the kids next door have played a nasty trick on me, or, God forbid, that’s my tire again. I hesitantly reach down to feel my back tire.  It’s completely flat, and what’s more, it has a huge hole in it. I want to cry.
I ring up Halfords frantically. ‘My tire is gone again! Can you collect me… or do anything?!’ ‘We’ll take another look if you walk out to us again,’ they say. I can’t believe it… I have to walk out again!  I almost give up at this stage… ‘is it really worth it for a cycle challenge,’ I think to myself.

I’m also aware of the ticking clock and that my next lecture is starting in an hour.
It’s either now or never. I go, or I give up. A dejected walk later, I have to laugh when the mechanic tells me why it was my tire went a second time. It was given too much air the first time apparently. Just my luck!  They apologise sincerely and send me on my way with a new tire, but with only 20 minutes to go until my next lecture!

I reached my lecture with 5 minutes to spare and that day I was able to log 8 trips, a start I was quite pleased with.  The circumstances weren’t ideal, but this unfortunate start to the Cycle Challenge was just the boost and inspiration I needed. The determination I had that day hasn’t left and I intend to finish the challenge out as I started it; just this time with air-filled tires hopefully!”

A determined Cycle Challenge 2015 Participant, UL