Dave Edwards is known to many in South East Queensland for his immense strength on the bike, and his affable personality off it. He comes across as a casual guy without too many cares who just loves to be outdoors riding, chatting and getting on with life. His recent travels to Rio for the Paralympics would be one of Daves career highlights, and underline the immense talent of this Atherton native.
Unfortunately, Dave also knows the lowest of lows, losing his mother to suicide in 2014. This has been the catalyst for taking on the epic journey from Brisbane, back to his home town of Atherton for a cathartic journey raising awareness and funds around mental health and suicide prevention. Given the lack of attention this area of health has seen in the past, it is wonderful to see so much action in this space recently. The recent documentary from Black Sheep 'The Man Ride' is another excellent example of quality endeavours coming out of the cycling community. As a good friend of The Pedaler, we brought Dave in to elaborate on his journey north.
The Pedaler: Hi mate, thanks for the brews.
Dave Edwards: All good.
TP: So you've got a big ride coming up mate. How far are you going?
DE: On google maps it says 1700 kilometres, but that's straight up the highway, but with my route, it will be closer to 2000 kilometres. I'd be happy if it's 2000 kilometres.
TP: Gee, 2000 kilometres. In how long?
DE: In 10 days.
TP: Is that set in stone? Does it have to be 10 days or can you fluctuate?
DE: Nah, it has to be 10 days. I've set myself a deadline.
TP: Do you have preselected locations you have set out to stay along the way?
DE: Yeah, it's quite structured. It all started at the start of this year where I said I wanted to do this ride A lot of people have done it before, but I wanted to set this in motion and then to make it easier, set some places along the way. So obviously Brisbane, Noosa, Maryborough, Miriam Vale, which is a random little town.
TP: Old Miriam Vale - great crab sandwiches mate.
DE: Yeah (laughs), But still that's going via Gladstone, Bundaberg, up to Rocky (Rockhampton). Then, Mackay, Airlee Beach, Townsville, Cardwell, Cairns and then Atherton.
TP: Jeebus. I get the impression you've got friends in quite a few of these ports though?
DE: Yeah well, I grew up in Atherton Tablelands so you have to make your way down to Brisbane somehow. That's also why it is so meaningful, because I know the roads. I've driven down these roads before and in a lot of these towns there is family and friends all along the route.
TP: So it's kind of like old route back to Brisbane in reverse. A trip down memory lane almost.
DE: Yeah, heading home.
TP: So how are you going to go about it? Are you going by yourself or will you get some help along the way?
DE: It started out just being by myself, but then I scouted someone to be a support driver as well just for the safety aspect. But largely the idea around the raising of funds and increasing awareness for Beyond Blue (Dave's chosen charity) was how I can make a difference along the way. So hopefully I can get in touch with communities and cycling clubs along the way and get a few group rides so the locals can give me a hand. I'm hoping people will turn out and help me (laughs). Because it is going to be pretty lonely at times.
TP: Help break some of the wind for you (laughs). So it will be yourself, some of the locals from the towns you will ride through and just the support of a single vehicle. I've heard you have commandeered the Cobra9 Intebuild Racing Team van for this purpose?
DE: Which we have stolen (laughs).
TP: You're making it sound less safe all the time. More people have suffered from Carbon Monoxide poisoning in that vehicle then I care to remember Dave (laughs). Where will you be sleeping mate?
DE: That's the cool thing, because that is what we haven't planned. There are some places were we and the support driver will stay in like a motel or van park. We are just mutual friends, but still we have to celebrate and survive getting up to Cairns. But there are some places like Mackay and Airlee Beach were we have friends or family but apart from that, we will be looking at backpackers or something like that.
TP: So the idea of leaving an element of spontaneity is appealing?
DE: The whole point of it is - Gees, I just want to ride somewhere and take what comes along the way, but it is important to have an overall plan. A bit of spontaneity is important though.
TP: Do you have a fundraising goal?
DE: On the website I'm using- Go Fund Me, they ask the same question. I was a little in two minds because because what is the psychology behind it? Will I raise more money if I set a high goal or a low goal or no goal. So in the end, there is no goal. It's just to raise money and awareness for Beyond Blue essentially.
TP: Beyond Blue as the charity chosen isn't a random choice, can you tell us a little of the back story behind that?
DE: Yeah, so the whole reason I chose Beyond Blue was because my mum passed away just over two years ago from suicide. So it is all related to depression and mental health. And it means a lot to me yeah. I wanted to do the ride, so it was nice to do it for a good cause.
TP: This is obviously and area close to home and there has been a lot more community awareness around this subject of recent. This seems to be quite a personal thing for you.
DE: Yeah, yeah. Definitely. And I know with The Pedaler, there has been a lot of sadness related to the passing of JJ this year and I think it just adds to the importance of the whole thing.
TP: Do you think when you're out there, that you'll feel a weight on your shoulders or do you think it will push you along?
DE: A bit of both I guess. It will be very nostalgic, knowing the roads and stuff, but when Mum passed away, I was overseas at the time and when I came back I rode from Cairns to Townsville in one hit, and that gave me a taste of what I was planning for on this trip. When I was riding I just had so much time to think about everything. I will give me a bit of time to reflect on all of this I think.
TP: Obviously your mum was a big supporter of your cycling?
DE: Yeah, my biggest sponsor.
TP: So it will be nice to knock this one out for her as well won't it?
DE: Yeah yeah, for sure.
TP: On another tangent, do you think you'll get some tangible training benefit from this as well? I have to ask? (laughs)
DE: When I did the ride down to Townsville, I called my coach and told him about it and he said "Well, congratulations. That has absolutely no training benefit for you at all". (laughs).
TP: So nothing at all!
DE: Nah, well doing 2000 kilometres in 10 days will get me pretty skinny (laughs). That's just a bonus though.
TP: You've just come back from the Paralympics with a well deserved Bronze Medal, is there anything else after this you working towards?
DE: During this ride, I think I'll have a lot of time to think about what I want to do afterwards. Cycling is important for my mental health in any case. I'll have plenty of time to consider my intentions for next year over the 10 days.
TP: You've ridden in many teams over the years both here and overseas. Have you seen much evidence of the effects of mental health across the riders you have encountered in those years? In team mates or supporters?
DE: That's a tricky one because one of the major issues with mental health issues is that they are often well hidden. People who suffer with it, know how to hide it quite well, and that's a shame.
TP: We have seen some cool initiatives recently related to mental health including the Men of Steel ride where a whole bunch of guys rode 1000 kms to raise awareness.
DE: Yeah The Man Ride from Black Sheep. Can I say that? (laughs)
TP: Absolutely. A great initiative. Fantastic.
DE: Yeah I went and saw the mini documentary and it was very cool. They had 16 people on that ride which is important. Because mental health issues, they shouldn't be handled alone. That's why I'm hoping that in the towns I come through, people come out and get involved.
TP: Is there a particular part of this ride that you think will be the hardest part? In terms of the sufferance or the desolate nature of the roads.
DE: Yeah definitely. The stretch all the way up to Rocky is pretty good. The first day up to Noosa will be good with a bit of a group, and just leaving Brissie. I know those roads pretty well. I also know the roads in the second half from Townsville up to Cairns so that's fresh in my memory. The hardest part will be the stretch from Rocky to Mackay and I'm going to try and do that in one hit.
TP: Ohh that's painful.
DE: That stretch of road is just horrible even when you're driving it. I'll be dreading it till it's done, and I'll be relieved when it's over.
TP: And how similar will this experience be to those one of infamous 2011 QAS training camps with Mr Prete here?
DE: (laughs) It will be very reminiscent. When you ride and ride, it puts you in a different head space to where you have been before. You just get in the zone a bit and away you go. I'm looking forward to it I think. I won't have suffered on the bike this much in a while.
TP: Once this is over, will you get off the bike for a bit or keep going?
DE: Nah this will be a kick start for me I think and keep the momentum going for me. I don't know what's going to happen next with racing, but cycling will always remain in my life for my own mental health.
TP: Sounds good mate. We hope it goes well for you and we'll see you at the end.
DE: Yeah sweet.
TP: This is where we find out the Dictaphone hasn't recorded anything (laughs).
All the ride details and way more of the story can be found on the official site.