A former Royal Marine plans to ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats on a butcher’s bike that is nearly 70 years old, to raise money for charity – and to pay tribute to the man whom he credits with having helped turn his life around when he was a teenager.
Nigel Thomas from Llangain, Carmartenshire, will set out on the end-to-end journey next month, reports Wales Online.
He will be riding a butcher’s bike made in 1947, carrying a tent and supplies in the front basket, and aims to camp overnight in fields and lay-bys along the route.
Mr Thomas said that getting a job with a butcher as a teenager helped put him on the straight and narrow when he was in his teens, when he was having trouble coping with caring for his mother, who suffered from multiple sclerosis, as well as his father’s alcoholism.
“I was certainly a bit of tearaway when I was younger and just that initial chance being given to me by Philip Hughes, the butcher in St Clears got me on track,” explained Mr Thomas, who during his time there won a number of awards.
“If it wasn’t for that boost I don’t think I would achieved much of what I have,” continued the 51-year-old.
He will be raising money for the charities Hire A Hero, Team Army, Ray Gravell Trust and Walk on Wales.
“The idea is to raise the profile of these fairly new charities, all of which overlap in helping soldiers in some way,” he went on.
“I think it is very important that we look after these guys and girls now, otherwise we are banking up a lot of problems for the future.”
Mr Thomas, who served with the special forces after his time in the Royal Marines, said that many military personnel come from difficult backgrounds similar to his own.
“That does make it harder when people leave, they are essentially saying goodbye to a family and a way of life. It’s not always easy to readjust,” he said.
“There’s so much we can do, really simple things to take control of our lives, to be happier through getting fitter, eating more healthily and to generally help others – this is my passion.
“I have more reasons than most to truly appreciate what it means to be happy.”
He added: “I’m just very practical. Life isn’t a walk in the park but staying motivated, happy and healthy is essential. Life needn’t be a battle.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.