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Oli Broom – Cycling to the Ashes

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Oli Broom – Cycling to the Ashes

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Oli Broom - Cycling to the ashes

June 17th, 2014

We have recently become great friends with Oli Broom who has already cycled all the way to Australia – in fact just to watch a cricket match! Over lunch the other day we asked him if he minded sharing some of his story for the Ride25 blog,  here is what he has to say.


Oli Broom Profile Pic

The author Paul Theroux wrote of aeroplane journeys that ‘I always suspect that the land we are flying over is rich and wonderful and that I am missing it all.’ It’s a quote that used to occupy my mind for hours while I sat at my desk in London and it ended up inspiring me to go on a cycling adventure; one that took me all the way to Australia.

On the eve of the first Test of the 2010-11 Ashes cricket series, I was labouring over the last few pedal strokes of millions up a short incline a couple of miles from the Brisbane Cricket Ground when a flash convertible pulled up alongside me. The driver leant across his bikini-clad female companion to ask if I was the “crazy Pommie bloke” who’d cycled all the way from Lord’s.

I admitted that I was. And I’d been called crazy, or a version of it, by almost everyone I had met during the past 14 months in 23 countries. But there in Brisbane at the end of my journey, having seen so much of our planet from the saddle of a bicycle, it seemed that “crazy” would, in fact, have been coming up with the idea of cycling to the Ashes and then not giving it a crack.

The idea had popped into my head a couple of years earlier. I’d already decided to go on a long bicycle journey but I knew I would need something to aim for to keep me motivated during long days on the open road. When a friend told me she was moving to Australia I knew my destination had to be the Ashes. I shut my eyes and imagined rolling up in Brisbane, ordering a cold beer and watching the first day’s play of the first Ashes test. I could not conceive of a finer ending to a bicycle ride.

Having done no training whatsoever, I left Lord’s on 10 October 2009 with 17 friends in tow. They all turned around when we reached the ferry at Dover. I spent most of the months that followed alone. It took me two months to cross my first continent because I stopped every few days to wield the bat I was carrying on the cricket fields of Europe. In Serbia, Bulgaria and Turkey, Vladimir, Slobodan and Saif got me inspired about the cricketing revolution taking place in Eastern Europe. In Syria I gathered a bunch of Iraqi and Palestinian refugees for a game in Old Damascus. In Sudan I taught my favourite game to a bunch of Nubian nomads dressed fittingly for the occasion in white floor-length tunics. In Indonesia I played at the Pancawati Oval, high amid Java’s volcanoes and surely one of the world’s most beautiful grounds.


Oli Broom Sudan

After crossing 22 countries, I spent a week on a Danish-owned cattle boat, voyaging from Jakarta to Darwin. I hadn’t really looked at a map of Australia until then and, while I knew it was (to adopt local terminology) ‘a bloody big paddock’, I was surprised when I estimated it would take seventy days to pedal across it.

I didn’t find much cricket in Australia; in fact, apart from spiders, grazing cattle and handlebar moustaches, I didn’t find much at all. In the tiny settlement of Roper Bar (Population: 12), I asked a girl in the shop where I might find the next town. “A thousand miles that way,” she drawled, pointing south. I chuckled nervously but she didn’t chuckle at all.

Oli Broom - Australia Bike Ride

I did eventually make it to Brisbane and, as I leaned on my brakes and came to a halt outside Gate 2 of the Brisbane Cricket Ground, I was enveloped by a small group of friends and family. They had all left London within the past 36 hours; the trip had taken me 412 days of turning pedals.

I felt lucky to have survived the Turkish winter, the Sudanese desert, dengue fever, Delhi belly and outback headwinds. I felt luckier still to have seen so many wonderful places and met so many kind people. It isn’t an understatement to say that travelling so far by bicycle changed my perspective of the world. I learnt that sure, our planet is a pretty big place, but when you cross borders at seven miles an hour, sleep somewhere different every night and take weeks to traverse each country, somehow it feels smaller, not bigger. That’s because it’s the similarities, rather than the differences between people and places that struck me most.

More than three years have passed since I completed my journey and still there are times when I long to be on the open road in Sudan or India or Australia, hands leaning on a couple of dirty socks wrapped around handlebars, legs turning gently and wheels taking me onwards, towards another night’s sleep in an unfamiliar place. Sometimes I even yearn to feel the bite of a cold headwind or the thrill of a winding descent. I’d be crazy not to.

If you would like to read more about my ride you can buy my book, Cycling to the Ashes: A Cricketing Odyssey from London to Brisbane here. It may have ‘cricket’ in the title, but I think (hope) you’ll enjoy it even if you’re not a fan of our summer game! And I hope to see you on a Ride25 tour one day!



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