Will Hodson is cycling the world dressed as Superman. He's currently passing through France. I caught up with him.
Can you tell us about yourself?
I am 38, single (there’s not many people who would put up with their partner disappearing off around the world for five years!) and grew up riding a silver Raleigh Grifter bike up and down the streets of Bewdley not too far from Birmingham in the UK. Before I left to cycle the world, I used to be a primary school teacher in London and I joke that cycling around the world is easier than that job, but I kind of mean it!
Have you always cycled?
Yes, I've loved cycling since I was young boy. My first real cycling adventure was when I was 15 when I cycled across the UK (the thinnest bit we could find!) with two school friends. I loved the spectacular scenery you enjoy on a bike, the people you meet (and all the food you get to eat!) We raised a few hundred pounds for charity and I think that was what got me hooked on combining sports challenges with charity fundraising. I love all kinds of bikes: mountain biking, road biking, folding bikes. I just like being outside on two wheels! I used to be part of a London cycle club and have entered a few bike races, but over the last few years my passion has turned towards cycle touring and long-distance adventures on my bike.
Can you tell us how the idea to ride across the world dressed as Superman came about?
I had wanted to cycle around the world ever since I left university. The Super Cycling Man costume came from the primary school I used to work at. One day I read a book called Max by Bob Graham about superheroes to the class of 5-year-olds and I really liked the message in the book that we can all be heroes in our daily lives, just by making the most of your talents or holding a door open for someone else.
We all made our own superhero outfits in class saying what we were good at and I made a very amateur Super Cycling Man costume. I then thought wearing the costume would be a really fun way for the children to get involved with my plans to cycle the world.
Wearing a superhero costume all around the world is more fun for me, the people I meet and the children following my website at home. So everyone wins.
Why cycle the world though?
It’s a journey of 100,000km that will take me over 5 years to complete. Nobody has ever cycled across all seven continents before and they certainly haven’t done it in a superhero costume. It’s really exciting to do something nobody has done before.
How has interest been so far in the ride? Can you tell us about the reactions of some of the people you've met?
The people I've met have been super supportive. Just today a car full of French policemen were smiling and making superhero arm actions in their car as they overtook me. A lady I bumped into yesterday at a garage bought me a coffee and gave me €10 towards the charities I'm supporting. Plus I am getting lots of help with accommodation and help finding a school to visit in Paris. I really see the best side of people on a trip like this and it’s great to share these good news stories with people via my website as there’s enough bad news out there in the world. My aim is to put a smile on people’s face and to break up their daily routine.
Do you have a route you're following or are you making it up as you go?
I've drawn my route across all seven continents super carefully on a world map poster that is in one of the six bags I carry on my bike. I have also put seven more detailed maps (one for each continent) on to Strava.
I want to meet as many people as possible on this bike trip and get their advice on where to go and tell their stories. So, I am hoping I can stay with friends, friends of friends or use websites such as Warmshowers to put me in touch with local people to stay with them for as much of the five years as possible. I do have all the necessary camping gear with me, but I’d rather be chatting round a table if at all possible rather than sitting on my own in a tent.
Can you tell us about your ride through France so far?
It's only day four of a five-year-long cycle trip and it already seems like so much has happened. Highlights so far include on day 1, being waved off by 100 friends and family members at Tower Bridge in London (most of whom were also in superhero fancy dress). I was then escorted out of London all the way to the south coast of England by 15 other cyclists from the London Bicycle Beer Group. We finished the day with beer and fish and chips. A perfect end to the day.
Cycling on the wonderful Avenue Verte cycle path was a fabulous experience on day 2. It was so nice to have a wide cycle path and I could talk with my two friends as we rode thought the countryside for all of the second day from Dieppe to St Germer de Fly. That was really enjoyable!
Arriving in Paris and seeing the Eiffel Tower all lit up on day 3 was another highlight of the trip so far. It’s great to reach landmarks like that and you get a real sense of where you started from and where your legs and bike have taken you too. I really recommend people have a go at cycling from London to Paris on the Avenue Verte. Take three days or take a week, but just make sure you do it.
And where are you off to next in France?
I am slightly over-excited about going to EuroDisney tomorrow. A friend of mine works for Disney and has got a free ticket for the park. I can’t wait to move my legs in a different way and enjoy other people dressing up in fancy dress! I am going back to Paris after that for a few days where I will hopefully visit a local primary school, climb the Eiffel Tower and do some other important admin like getting another vaccination. I then leave Paris on June 8 and will complete my own version of the famous Paris-Roubaix ride before entering Belgium and then on to the Netherlands and eventually wiggling all the way to Istanbul to complete Europe by the end of August 2015. It should be a great summer!
I am aiming to raise £100,000 for 6 charities with my world ride: Parkinson’s UK, World Cancer Research Fund, World Wildlife Fund, World Bicycle Relief Fund, Sustrans and Peace One Day. They are all charities that are very close to my heart and I think the work they do is incredible. My father has Parkinson’s so that is a cause that I am particularly close to. I am carrying a mascot Parkinson’s worm cuddly toy mascot called 'Dave the worm' around the world with me. We are taking a lot of funny selfies and videos together! People have been donating money in cafes or bars when I stop for a drink. One lady even donated £1000 online on my website after I stayed at her house one night. People’s generosity all over the world has been incredible.
How have you been funding the ride itself?
I won my bike (a KOGA World Traveller) in an online competition all about going for your dreams organised by Shimano. That was a huge help. Everything else I'm paying for myself. I have saved hard for the last two years – cut my outgoings, not gone on any holidays etc. I have sold my car, motorbike and other valuables, took on extra work, organised fundraising events. As things are at the moment, I have saved up about enough to get me to the end of Asia, so I still have more money to raise down the road to complete this challenge. I hope a sponsor will come on board and support me, but I also have other plans to self-finance the trip, for example I have made some Super Cycling Man fundraising bracelets that people can buy from my website and I also plan to sell my own Super Cycling Man Tshirts and cycling jerseys. A friend said I was basically becoming a “travelling salesman” and I quite liked that job title!
Do you have any advice for other people thinking about undertaking a long charity ride?
The sooner you can start your adventure, the better. Choose a date and commit to it. Just putting a date in the diary will make sure it happens, instead of being one of those things that gets forgotten about year after year and maybe never done. With regards to fundraising, just make it as easy for people to support you as possible: include links to your online donations page. And make it fun! Send photos and videos to people along with your pleas for their hard-earned cash. If you make something FUN and EASY, people are more likely to get involved. Nobody wants BORING and DIFFICULT!
What do you think will be the most difficult parts of the journey?
Without a doubt cycling across Antarctica will be the toughest part of my trip. There’s extreme altitude and cold to deal with. There is also the huge obstacle of funding that part of the trip as well, as it’s not just a cheap EasyJet flight out there. I am hoping that there will be some good momentum behind me by that stage of my world ride though. I hope that having completed six continents that I will be able to find a way to make the final seventh continent happen and burst into the record books … in my pants!
If you would like to follow Will’s adventure cycling the world in a superhero costume, you can 'like' his page on Facebook or visit his website. It includes a live map is tracking his movements every 10 minutes. He welcomes people to ride with him (with ot without superhero costumes).