2wheels: The Return
Edward Genochio's bicycle expedition from China to England
September 2005 - November 2006
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Horseman Stole My Bicycle!
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FORCE Cancer Care, in memory of Richard Mallett
If you ever had the good fortune to meet Richard Mallett, you'll know that his death in 2004 robbed the world of one of its good people.
You'll also know that we're lucky to have memories of him.
Richard was 30 years old when he died of cancer in Exeter, Devon (England). He had been married for just over a year.
I first met Richard at the Bike Shed, Exeter, not long before he married. I was just starting to plan the original 2wheels expedition, from England to China, and came to the Bike Shed looking for a bicycle.
Richard worked at the Bike Shed as a cycle mechanic. He was not just pretty good with the allen keys, tyre levers and bottom bracket tools - he was an inspired mechanic and rightly took particular pride in his bodging skills - fixing unfixable things with with whatever bits and pieces with whatever comes to hand. Richard was a master bodger, and bike-bodging is an essential skill in any long-distance biking expedition.
I used to come in to the Bike Shed one day a week and work with and learn from Richard up on his eagle's nest mechanic's platform, and I was lucky to get to know him not just as a bike genius, but also as one of the best human beings I have met. He seemed always good-humoured, generous, and ready to listen to and spend time with those around him (whether it was colleagues, customers, or friends).
I was a real klutz. I remember one time I was fiddling in the shop with the bike he had almost finished building for me. I was spinning the pedals and heard an unhealthy-sounding clicking noise. "Richard," I said, "can you hear that unhealthy-sounding clicking noise?"
Richard suggested that since I was about to set off on a 20,000 kilometre solo bike journey, I should have a go at identifying - and eliminating - the source of the sound myself - but, as a starter, he suggested I might check the brake pads, the rear derailleur, the front derailleur, and so on.
I checked as he suggested, but the clicking was still there.
"Right," said Richard, looking down at me and my bike from his mechanic's platform. "Here's another idea. Try moving the bike about 3 inches south."
I was used to Richard coming up with some pretty innovative ways of sorting out seemingly unfixable bike problems, but this one sounded a little weird. Still, I was the apprentice, he was the master, so I did as he suggested.
Miracle. The clicking stopped.
Richard was ready to meet my querying upward glance.
"When you're half way across Siberia," he said, "it might be worth stopping from time to time to check that your left pedal isn't catching on a wooden staircase each time it turns."
He said it with a smile, that also said, "Blimey, mate, I wouldn't put a fiver on you getting past Dover" - but in the nicest possible way.
(centre, with arms crossed) with his Bike Shed colleagues (right) seeing me
(left, with bike) off at the start of the original 2wheels expedition in March
I think it is fair to say that without Richard's incredible enthusiasm, support, mechanical ingenuity, good humour, knowledge about everything bike-related, and patience when dealing with someone who knew virtually nothing about bikes, the expedition would never have got off the ground. As it was, Richard not only built me a first-class bicycle on which to undertake the expedition, but also passed on his knowledge, experience and an endless stream of tips, know-how, and anecdotes, which helped get me out of any number of tight-spots during the ride.
Bikes were Richard's passion, at work and play - plenty of people who knew him better than I did will tell you that. But I think everybody who met him, even those who knew him only slightly, as I did, will remember him as one of the best people in town, the sort of person we wish there were more of, the sort of person we wish we ourselves were more like. He was generous, patient, witty, and, it seemed, always smiling.
I remember when Richard came back from his honeymoon the year before, I've never heard any who seemed so happy, with so much to look forward to, and his happiness was the sort that he shared easily with others. Spending time with Richard, up in his "eagle's nest"at the Bike Shed, was always a pleasure, full of stories and jokes and anecdotes and cycling tips.
In March 2004, I was ready to leave Exeter, bound for China, on "The Bike that Richard Built". At the time, Richard was waiting for the results of some hospital tests. He put a brave face on it and even laughed if off as "a spot of appendicitis", but in retrospect now I think he must have known that it was something serious. In spite of that, he came to see me off, and was smiling then as he always seemed to be.
Not long after, Richard was diagnosed with cancer. He died in August 2004, at the age of thirty, a year after marrying Kim. I was half way across the Gobi desert in Mongolia at the time, and didn't hear the news until a few weeks later.
Having been on my bicycle for six months, I hadn't known his diagnosis, and the news of his death came as more than a shock to me - it really left me feeling totally knocked out. Because I had been riding "the bike that Richard built", and because he had given me the confidence to undertake the expedition, and because he had taught me virtually all I knew about bicycles, I had thought about him every day during the ride. Remembering his advice on how to avoid pedal-strike on wooden staircases brought a smile to my face even on the hardest, mosquito-plagued Siberian days.
I am sure that Richard has have touched the lives of hundreds of people who, like me, knew him slightly, but still felt they knew him as a friend. Kim, his family, friends and colleagues must still miss him daily. Although his early death last year was a terrible loss, a great many of us are privileged that we can still keep the memories.
Richard's "home" cycling club, Sid Valley Cycling Club, has inaugurated Mallett's Bash, an annual mountain-bike event in Richard's memory, to raise money for FORCE Cancer Care.
Mallett's Bash will, I am sure, be a fine way of keeping memories of Richard alive, and a fine tribute to Richard, a fine man.
FORCE Cancer Care provides counselling and care for people affected by cancer in and around Exeter. Richard's widow Kim wrote to me to say "FORCE was very good to the both of us during Richards illness and it is not until times like these that you actually know who is out there to help and support you during horrendous times."
Kim also said: "I believe awareness of a charity is sometimes a lot more beneficial than monies raised. We were not aware of FORCE before Richard was diagnosed and I think highlighting such a worthy charity will benefit them more in the long run, but if money can be raised then even better.
"Richard would be proud to be associated with your achievement."
Donate to FORCE online here.
You can find out more about FORCE, including other ways of donating, at their website: www.forcecancercharity.co.uk
You can help raise money for FORCE, and have a good day out on your bike too, by taking part in Mallett's Bash, which I think will become an annual event. Details are available from the Sid Valley Cycling Club.
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|Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005 Edward Genochio
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