Friday, 24 September 2021

Charity cyclist braves wild dogs and mosquito swarms

A MAN from Sonning Common has told how he was hounded by wild dogs and attacked

A MAN from Sonning Common has told how he was hounded by wild dogs and attacked by swarms of mosquitoes during a 2,860-mile charity bike ride.

Adrian Bird cycled from his home in Ashford Avenue to Istanbul to raise money for Autism Berkshire as his grandnephew George, five, from Caversham, is autistic. So far he has made £1,300.

He decided to take on the challenge to mark his 50th birthday and said: “I thought I must make the most out of it and raise some money.”

Mr Bird, a painter and decorator, expected the ride to take 50 days but in fact he finished it in 41.

He rode to Dover, where he caught a ferry to Dunkirk and then rode to Rotterdam before following the Rhine and Danube rivers, travelling through Germany, Austria, Croatia, Serbia and Bulgaria.

He carried all the equipment he needed on a second-hand Oxford Bike Works bike, which he bought on eBay for £500. Mr Bird said: “I was self-sufficient along the way and I didn’t sleep in a bed for the first 32 days. I was in a tent all that time.

“I was happy if I had cycled 80 miles by midday and then I might have to cycle another 50 miles to get food. If I could I would stop at a supermarket and buy a family-sized ice cream pot and eat it as a pick-me-up.”

His bike had not been used by the previous owner and would have cost £2,000 new.

Mr Bird said: “Someone had it built for them but had never used it. It was pretty much made to measure for someone my height, 6ft 2in.

“The bike was bombproof through the whole thing and it did better than me. The wheels could take a real beating. Some of the roads along the way were swampy and I had to cycle across fields and gravel tracks. On one day I took it through two rivers so I could get back on track.”

Among the hazards he faced was being knocked off his bike by passing traffic and being chased by dogs in both Serbia and Croatia.

He said: “At each village packs of them would chase me and try to bite me. I had a metre of hosepipe which I would use to beat the dogs away from me. It was the most frightening thing. I would ride as fast as I could to get away.

“Coming down through Germany there were swarms of mosquitoes. I would stop to wash my feet and within seconds all you could see was my blood from the bites.

“I made it to Istanbul after a very crazy 48 hours of massive storms, being hit by a lorry yet again and then being given a lift by another lorry driver.”

When he had finally reached his destination, Mr Bird spent four days sightseeing.

He said: “Once I had one or two days off I went cycling again! The brain and body were struggling with the sudden end of sleep, eat, cycle, repeat.

“The journey was amazing from the start to the finish. An odd thing was that before each country I went into, the night before someone would warn me about the people there.

“This went on all the way to Istanbul and particularly Istanbul because of what happened there the weekend before I left — the terrorist attack at the city’s airport.

“I didn’t feel unsafe — the buses and lorries posed a much higher danger to me than Isis.”

George, lives with Mr Bird’s niece Ella Bird and attends Brookfields School in Tilehurst, which specialises in working with autistic children.

Mr Bird said: “I was going to raise money for the school but I thought they were too small so I decided to do it for the charity. They helped my niece get George into the school.”

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