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Ex-pat Colin looking to reconnect with Harborians

Harborough ex-patriot Colin Cooper during his 666km cycle ride challenge for his recent 60th birthday.

Harborough ex-patriot Colin Cooper during his 666km cycle ride challenge for his recent 60th birthday.

A Harborough ex-pat is looking to hear from some of his old pals after recently completing a major cycling challenge for his 60th birthday.

Colin Cooper spent many happy years at Market Harborough Grammar School in the early 1970s but lost track of friends when he emigrated to South Africa in 1979.

Recently, he turned 60 years old and took his bicycle on a 666km trip in six days through the wilds of South Africa to celebrate life.

He is now planing a 3,000km ride in August. All these rides are not on a modern bike but on a solid steel one-gear old-fashioned bike.

He said: “I would love to get some feedback from old school pals. I wonder what they were up to when they turned 60?”

In his own words, Mr Cooper explains how his first cycling challenge came about:

“People, mostly family I must admit, asked many times how I would like to celebrate my milestone birthday of 60 years on this perplexing planet and they all had suggestions on what we could do together.

“In my mind, being 60 is no different to being 59 and a lot, or 60 and a little bit. The day of my birth is of little consequence to me but peer and familial pressure caused me to think of something big to do. So I decided to go away for six days on my own. Not quite what the family was hoping for!

“What to do? What to do? What can one do to move on from being a quinquagenerian? The week before my 60th, I had hit a more important milestone. I had ridden my Qhubeka bike over 12,000km in 12 months on the dirt roads of the Marico.

“The solution was now obvious. I was 60 and my Qhubeka was one! We would celebrate together and we would ride 600km in six days in my retrogressive back to basics style.

“Now to solve the second question: How do I mke it difficult? For those that don’t already know, riding a solid steel, 23kg, Qhubeka with no suspension and no gears is quite a task and certainly exercises the sweat glands on the uphills.

“This time, I was going to be totally self-sufficient on my long ride by taking all my camping gear with me on home-made racks and panniers.

“Fully loaded, the Qhub was now 51kg with a sole gear ratio of 36 chainring to 20 rear cog (1.8:1).

“To make life more complex (or actually less complicated). I would apply the following rules as well:

1) I would survive mainly on (home-made) bread and (river or borehole only) water.

2) The route would be made up as I went along. Only the start and finish were pre-determined.

3) Navigation would be by map and compass. No GPS.

4) Clothing would be my locally-made African shirts and Pep store shorts (no lycra or padding).

5) No fancy rain jacket but just my trusty yellow Johnson Workwear plastic coat.

6) Budget would be R30 per day including beer but excluding camping fees.

His next challenge later this year will be to ride around all nine provinces of South Africa – 3,000km in 30 days – where he will climb the highest mountain or peak in each province on his Qhubeka bike.

Mr Cooper would love to hear from some of his old Harborough friends who can email him at colinc03@gmail.com.

Story by Alex Blackwell.

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