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The ‘Furry Handlebars’ Biked 9,000 Miles Simply to Watch England Play Rugby

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Sports activities followers are recognized for his or her devotion. They’ll paint their our bodies and stand shirtless in for hours in freezing stadiums, and proudly put on blocks of fake cheese on their heads. Simply two Sundays in the past, a Philadelphia Eagles fan assaulted a 6-foot-Eight skilled athlete for carrying the unsuitable jersey to a tailgate.

However that’s American soccer. A pair of English rugby followers have taken their fandom to a different stage, biking greater than 9,000 miles from London to Japan for the Rugby World Cup, which kicks off Friday.

Ben Cook dinner and George Cullen began their experience on March 21, 2019, braving parched deserts, excessive mountains, camel cheese and the “tunnel of dying” as they journeyed by way of 21 nations. Alongside the best way they’ve raised practically £30,000 ($37,500) for males’s well being by way of the Movember motion, aided, little doubt, by their touring identify—the Furry Handlebars—and their hirsute attraction.

They’re at present driving east alongside the Japanese coast towards Tokyo, which they plan to succeed in Friday in time for England’s opening match towards Tonga. The mustachioed duo caught up with Journey Journal from a wifi hotspot in a Household Mart exterior Nagoya.

AJ: The place did you get the thought to do one thing like this?
Ben Cook dinner: Initially it was simply us eager to go on a giant journey, and biking all the time appealed. It’s sooner than strolling, however you’re extra within the setting than if you happen to had been in a automotive. It’s an effective way to go to see the world.

We didn’t say outright we wished to go from London to Tokyo. We simply wished to go and do a giant experience. The rugby world cup in Japan gave us a superb objective, and a incredible route.

You weren’t large cyclists earlier than you began, although?
BC: This was our first journey. We did do one heat up experience from London to Paris, which was solely three days.

What stunned you alongside the best way?
George Cullen: All the things. That’s the great thing about it. You don’t know something about what’s in retailer. In the beginning there have been some anxieties and apprehensions, like what if my bike’s going to interrupt, what if this, what if that. You begin to consider so many issues that may go unsuitable however really you kind of shock your self, as a result of on the journey these are fairly simply handled. Issues like that aren’t essentially detrimental. They’re really fairly optimistic as a result of they’re a studying expertise.

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Magnificence is the place you discover it. Xinjiang, China. Courtesy Furry Handlebars

Do you’ve an instance?
BC: Nicely, a great deal of damaged bikes and damaged bike elements. As a result of we weren’t cyclists, in the course of the begin of the experience George and I might identify completely different elements of the bike barely in another way to what they’re really referred to as. We’d simply do our greatest to repair it with cable ties and duct tape.

You discover you’re much more resourceful than you assume, and also you additionally understand that you simply’re not alone. That was the massive one. You assume you’re going to be simply out in the midst of nowhere by yourself and if you happen to can’t kind one thing, you’re lifeless. However we’ve had occasions when the bikes had been damaged or we would have liked water or shelter, and we simply requested folks.

Does a visit like this restore your religion in humanity?
BC: Yeah, undoubtedly. Going by way of the Central Asian nations, which we didn’t know a lot about beforehand, you would possibly construct up an image of them being a bit dodgy. However what we discovered is that these individuals who have subsequent to nothing would offer you the whole lot. That was actually humbling. So yeah, it actually has given us that religion in humanity.

What was the toughest a part of the journey?
GC: Going by way of the desert was fairly powerful. There’s one highway in Uzbekistan that’s 140 kilometers with no bend, and no water that complete time. That was that was fairly a difficult day, as a result of it was very boring and very popular. We had been carrying 12 liters of water every so the bikes had been weighed down. All the things was simply sticky and tough, and we simply needed to get to the top.

BC: By way of challenges we had been supplied by Mom Nature herself, we had been within the Bartang Valley in Tajikistan. That’s essentially the most distant means throughout the Pamir Mountains, and we spent six days traversing that valley. We reached most altitude of four,350 meters (14,270 ft) biking on gravel and shale—not even gravel highway, only a pure monitor. With the situations we encountered it was superb and tough in equal measure, which was actually good enjoyable.

I like that you simply describe the hardest a part of the journey as ‘good enjoyable.’ Is that the key of your profitable journey?
BC: We’re each fairly upbeat and optimistic folks, so in any scenario we’ve been fairly good over the course of six months discovering the enjoyable and discovering the positives in several issues. If it’s snowing, we’re laughing and asking ‘How shit can it get?’ We’re fairly good at discovering cheerfulness within the face of adversity. And I suppose we’d be mendacity if we mentioned within the second that we didn’t have our wobbles, cursing the world and the biking gods for giving us this shit scenario. However hindsight’s all the time completely different, isn’t it?

GC: Resilience is the principle factor. There are undoubtedly occasions if you assume, ‘Fuck this, what did I get myself into?’ However then in an hour or the subsequent day it’ll be one thing superb once more. I suppose it’s the identical in on a regular basis life. There are ups and downs, proper?

I’m glad you introduced up resilience. Your experience is elevating cash for the Movember motion. Broadly it’s about males’s well being, but it surely’s actually concerning the suicide epidemic, isn’t it?
BC: George and I each have mates that suffered from psychological well being points they usually have relied on our assist in the course of the course of this journey. Individuals who referred to as and mentioned, ‘I’m in a extremely dangerous place.’ These folks had the braveness to talk to us due to the message that we’re carrying. That could be a motivating issue and that helps us to remain to remain targeted on attending to the top of this journey. Nevertheless it’s hardly like we’re saving the world. We’re simply doing the small bit that we are able to.

GC: We’re additionally giving 10 p.c to the Ian Williams Basis. Ian was a superb good friend who handed away instantly as a result of cardiac points whereas taking part in rugby. So for me personally that’s been fairly a giant motivation.

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Turkey wins the mustache sweepstakes, however these Tajik gents held their very own. Courtesy Furry Handlebars

You guys are nice ambassadors for the Movember motion since you every have actually magnificent mustaches, however on this journey you had been generally out of your league. What’s the perfect mustache nation in Central Asia?
GC: Turkey. Completely. They appear to have a little bit of a mustache tradition. There have been some absolute brutes.

It’s all good enjoyable, however did you ever concern in your life?
GC: I wouldn’t say so. The scariest factor was most likely site visitors. Going into Istanbul was fairly hectic. There’s one highway entering into and it’s a three-lane motorway with no exhausting shoulder. That was a bit sketchy.

BC: And going into Dushanbe in Tajikistan there was the ‘Tunnel of Dying.’ That’s what they name it. We bought to the highest of this mountain cross and we’re confronted with two choices. One was to undergo this five-kilometer tunnel, which had no air flow and no lighting. And the opposite was to climb over the cross, which may take one other 10 hours or so. So George and I put our buffs over our faces and plunged into the abyss. It was this large smoking tunnel, like you’ll be able to think about dragons in there. We got here out the opposite aspect about 20 minutes later, and we each had black throughout our faces from the fumes.

GC: We bought to the opposite aspect, and like George mentioned, we liked it. It was so silly, however we began high-fiving. We had been simply on kind of a excessive from that, after which we descended down into Dushanbe. It was good enjoyable.

Any shut calls with the meals?
BC: Oh sure. The meals tradition in Uzbekistan is totally dreadful. All they actually did was eggs on stale bread, or this sort of soup with knuckles of meat and potatoes. We ended up getting a number of of those broths that had a nugget of meat which may have been completely something. We didn’t ask.

GC: In Kazakhstan, a man supplied us this horrible exhausting cheese. It was like a rock—the type of cheese that if you contact it together with your tongue it instantly prunes. That is in the midst of the desert and we’re completely parched. The man was very good and he was watching us with this large smile, so we couldn’t simply throw it away. It was fermented camel cheese. They use it as a superb supply of power, and I suppose we regarded like we would have liked a little bit of a pick-me-up. The folks actually have been the spotlight of the journey.

What would your recommendation be somebody who is considering doing a visit like this?
GC: I feel simply decide to it as early as attainable. We began telling folks concerning the journey and creating our social media pages earlier than we’d even actually carried out any planning. We simply thought, ‘Bugger it, let’s simply go for it.’ And when you begin telling folks, you don’t actually have a selection. You simply make the leap, realizing that though there are fears and worries, they simply type of soften away when you’re on the journey.

What’s subsequent for the 2 of you?
BC: The Furry Handlebars, which George and I’ve type of branded ourselves as, are going to arrange some kind of an occasion for different folks to get entangled and proceed to boost cash for males’s well being on an annual foundation.

And we’ve bought some extra adventures in retailer as effectively. We’ve had six months to provide you with all types of concepts, and we’ll share these on Instagram (@thehairyhandlebars) when the time is correct.

England performs the US in per week’s time. You’re each enormous rugby followers, and George you performed professionally. So how do you charge the U.S. crew’s probabilities?

GC: I feel England are most likely fairly agency favorites.

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