So Steve, it seems things are especially full-on for you at the moment….
Yes – not only have I got the tour coming up, I’m also training for the 2024 Paris Paralympics. I’m either out on the bike all the time building up my endurance skills or doing shorter strength-building work. All this as part of the selection build-up – a process that doesn’t take place until June of next year. All being well, there’ll then be another three months’ training, with the aim of a world-class performance from me come September.
Tell us about the tour – how are you going to fit in training around it, for a start?
Well, my great friend and fellow Paralympian Karen Darke and I appearing across the country – sometimes together, sometimes individually – so I’ll cycle between venues. It was Karen who, when I discovered I was losing my sight back in 2011 due to a condition called retinitis pigmentosa, said, ‘hop on a tandem with me’. That’s how it all began – I didn’t start cycling competitively until I was 36.
The talk you’ll be giving on tour will of course touch on your cycling career and your friendship with Karen – but it’s about a specific adventure, isn’t it?
Yes, if Karen drops me an email asking if I fancy doing something, the answer is generally ‘yes’! This time it was a trip up Kilamanjaro! We set off last summer, raising funds for the global charity Voice of Specially Abled People and the mental health charity ‘World Jenny’s Day’. I was with a fascinating bunch of people, all with different reasons for joining us, and our sherpa guides were just brilliant. I was a bit sceptical about having them with us when we started because I’m used to entirely self-guided trips, but we couldn’t have done it without them. They really kept us going.
And that was something you especially needed this time…
Particularly after I arrived and discovered that the airline had lost the bike that I’d built specifically for the trip, yes! There were delays, I had to pick up a hire bike from Moshi, and the need to catch up meant I ascended faster than I should have done, leading to terrible altitude sickness.
So what can people expect from the talk?
Hopefully, lots of useful insights about resilience and human connection, and how you can have an incredible time and a lot of fun even in the midst of what I’d call a successful disaster! Plus we’ve got some amazing footage from the trip to share, too.
So – once the Paralympics are over – what’s next for you?
If I get a place on the squad, I think this will be my last paralympics and of course my aim is to go out on a high. After that, I’m envisaging a career that combines motivational speaking with furniture making and sculpture – I originally trained as a carpenter, so I’ll be putting those skills to good use. And spending more time with my wife, Caroline – she’s been incredibly supportive throughout my career – I really couldn’t do all that I do without her.
Steve Bate: Wild Tracks is at Trinity, Tunbridge Wells, Friday Jan 26 trinitytheatre.net