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Big Bike Ride

How an event turned into a Tradition

In 2008 a group of Year Nine students at O’Loughlin Catholic College were told by their teacher, Mr Michael Bowden, that they would be undertaking an Expedition Challenge as part of their Applied Learning Program in Semester Two. The Challenge was to undertake ten weeks of training and then ride 135 kilometres from the College to the Ferry at Mandorah. That year, three students from the 17 member class completed the entire ride unassisted with the remaining riders partially completing the distance.

In succeeding years the Challenge, which started to be called the Big Bike Ride by the students, was expanded to provide the opportunity for students from Years Eight to Twelve to participate. The number of participant riders has also been swelled by the addition of parents, friends and even professional cyclists over the years. The O’Loughlin community has really supported their riders and the big day.  The Darwin Police Force has also been amazing with their support over the last three years by providing police escort and assistance.  Last year 15 Asylum Seeker teenagers, at the time students at Sanderson Middle School, along with their teachers, assistants and guards also completed the ride. It has also been noticeable that over the years the percentage of completing riders has risen significantly as training methods and preparation have improved.

Each year the riders are asked to sponsor a Charity to ensure that while each student benefits others less well off than themselves are also the beneficiaries of their dedication and hard work.

In 2012 the Big Bike Ride sponsored Breast Cancer research and contributed to a Trust Fund for the twin girls of a former O’Loughlin staff member who had died of breast cancer just two years before. In 2013 the Big Bike Ride sponsored Carpentaria Disability Services who support people with Cerebral Palsy. The 2013 sponsorship campaign has been inspired by one of our Year 7 students, Grace.

In 2014, the Big Bike Ride sponsored Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Australia. Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a long- term disease of the Central Nervous System (CNS).  It is considered the most common neurological condition affecting young Australian adults.  The cause is not yet known but it is thought that genetic and environmental factors that can affect the immune system are involved.

Friday, 13th June, forty seven riders completed the Seventh Annual O’Loughlin Catholic College Big Bike Ride. Yes, that’s right, 130 kilometres completed in College record time of 7 hours.  Why would they do that you ask? Early in the year the Big Bike Ride was presented to the whole College as a challenge. Students were asked to think about pushing themselves beyond what they imagined they could do, to test their physical and psychological endurance to plumb their emotional capacity and conquer self-doubt and pain. And young and old they did. The youngest riders were Rhys …  at 12 and Rachel …. aged 13, both in Year 8, and the oldest  Michaela Van Der Velde, one of our Year 12’s at 18. (Living with MS)

Education is often said to be a preparation for life. Sometimes Education is simply life itself. As these young people rode into the wind and felt exhausted they were experiencing life in the raw. As they conquered tiredness and defeatism they were living life well. As they rode down Mueller Road having completed the challenge they realised that life lived to the full is good and sustaining. As they sit back now and reflect on that day they know that they have established the basis of a continuing successful life. The Big Bike Ride surely is Education but really it is just Life Lived Well.

Riders train on Monday and Thursday nights after school utilising the many great bike paths around Darwin and also enjoying the opportunity for some speed work on the Velodrome on Old McMillan’s road in Milner.

If you see the kids out training please watch out for them, give them a toot for support and respond generously to a request for sponsorship support if one the young riders approaches you.

Be graciously generous.