A few months ago a friend of mine died of cancer. I'm still shocked as to how this happened. Jenn Hill was young, fit, stubborn, fast, determined and besotted with cycling. How this "stupid fucking disease", as she often called it, managed to attack someone who dished out equal amounts of suffering and smiles on many a bike ride, I don't know. Her death has resulted in many thoughtful moments and it is only now on reflection I realise how much she played a part in my own and Morvélo's cycling history.
On moving to Brighton sixteen years ago, Jenn was one of the original group of mountain bikers I went out riding with, showing me around trails that I still ride regularly today, encouraging exploration and appreciation of the countryside.
Years later she was influential in starting my curiosity, and subsequent love, of road cycling and cyclocross. I had some vague idea that these drop bar bikes could be enjoyed, despite seeing myself as a mountain biker. Her relaying the enjoyment via the mindset of an MTB rider and sticking me on a test bike from the local bike shop where she worked, helped convert me.
It was on the trails I saw her most still. Her natural habitat. Sometimes she caught me sneakily training for XC races whilst pretending to be out for a ride and was standing on the finish line when I won my first (only?) MTB race. She wasn't one for flamboyance but her quiet and sincere "Well done" said it all. It was if the result wasn't in doubt. A "when" instead of an "if". Not how I saw it but that is what her congratulations conveyed. A quiet confidence.
We'd often see each other at races and singlespeed gatherings and there was no greater incentive to put the hammer down than having Jenn chasing you. You'd know that she wouldn't ever back down so you'd have to stop complaining and get on with it.
On joining Singletrack Magazine as Deputy Editor she always looked out for our fledgling brand Morvélo, buying one of our first ever Unity kits, being one of the original members of The KMP (Kinesis Morvélo Project) and she was responsible for our first magazine feature, travelling back to Brighton to interview us for Singletrack. She's always been there quietly and determinedly giving us her support.
If was only a few months after the Singletrack feature that she was diagnosed with cancer. I couldn't, and still can't, believe it. Even writing this now feels like fiction. On my many rides around the South Downs I regularly remember Jenn. Almost every ride at the moment. Another close friend of ours, and Jenn's, suggested we should do something in the style she would approve of. So this is it.
'Fuck Cancer' socks. Our way of remembering a friend and giving something to those that helped her. All proceeds, not just profit, will be split to those charities that were there when she needed them. Macmillan Cancer Support, Cancer Research UK and St Gemma's Hospice. We have 500 of these at the moment so we're looking at giving £4500 to them*. Once we sell out, we'll make more and keep going. There is no better reason to wear something bright and sweary.
Thank you Jenn.
*as of the 1st of May 2017, £25,000 has been donated through the sale of these socks, with the first 500 pairs selling out in less than 24 hours. We will keep making them for as long as they sell.