Because We Still Can

I actually can’t remember when Gavin and I decided to compete in the Transcontinental together. It might have been at a wake, there may have been beer involved; most of the stupid things I’ve agreed to do have appeared somewhere halfway down the third pint so it’s highly likely. Racing bicycles 4,000 kilometres or so across Europe self-supported. You’d think the moment of idiocy would be scarred on my brain.

It actually felt totally natural, completely the right thing to do and not idiotic in any way. We had just lost two friends in quick succession, one to sudden impossible unforeseen tragic circumstances and the other, Jenn Hill, to Cancer. So it seemed exactly the right time to attack life head on before it got the chance to fight back. A less compelling contributor was that I had a landmark birthday coming up and it was a better option than a nice round of golf with mates followed by a posh meal as might be deemed traditional considering the years. Eating a ham and cheese baguette on a petrol station forecourt is more my style. These few reasons to do this stupid thing easily outweighed the many many excuses not to and so we got to getting the miles in, for about a year.

To help us along in our ridiculous endeavour Morvélo produced some special edition Fuck Cancer socks. The original idea for these socks came about a minute after we heard that Jenn had been beaten by “this stupid fucking disease”, as she called it. Jenn was a tough cookie, a once good but ordinary cyclist who adamantly applied herself to become one that won 24 hour mountain bike races, solo, on a singlespeed and then went to complete the Tour Divide, a self-supported race of about 3,000 miles down the length of America from the Canadian to Mexican borders following the Rocky Mountains. On a singlespeed. For one so determined to be taken so young didn’t seem right, and a bit of a waste, but Cancer doesn’t really give a shit about that stuff. Sometimes all you can do is spit swear words right in its ugly face via the medium of socks.

When the first batch of Fuck Cancer socks went on sale they sold out in a day, the next lot disappeared in not much longer. The sentiment seemed to be far-reaching whether you were a bike rider or not. Jenn was a quiet inspiration to many and the socks became a symbol of both memory and motivation; pulled on for epic off-road rides, seen on race courses, halfway up alpine cols, on marathon runs and worn any time a just get on with it kick up the arse might be needed. Almost as an aside all proceeds from the sale of these socks go towards Cancer care and research and they’ve raised over £25,000 so far to that cause.

These new socks went through extreme fusspot prototyping to make sure they could survive a long ride across Europe with minimal access to washing facilities. As well as the new asymmetric design they have a snugly ribbed cuff to keep them up on the ankle, a close-fitting midfoot to avert annoying in-shoe bunching and a well padded heel and toe for “all day and well into the night” ride comfort.

You’ll soon find the shortcomings of a pair of socks if you wear them for several days straight on a bike as they get smellier and grimier while they rotate unwashed underneath you over mountains and through several countries. They remained comfortable throughout, although maybe I was struggling with too many other saddle related aches and pains to notice, or just too tired. By dirt and stench alone they could rightfully have been burnt at the finish of our abbreviated Transcontinental adventure but a couple of goes through the washing-machine and they’re ready to head out on further stupid adventures. Because they still can.

Writer and expert