A father from Stroud says he’s been doing plenty of Pilates and commuting to work on his motorcycle as he prepares to tackle the highest drivable road in the world for charity in less than two months’ time. Steve Smith, 49, will take on the Khardung La pass in India which stands at a staggering 5,359 metres high on a trusty Royal Enfield Bullet motorcycle. He says it’s his toughest charity challenge yet, but he’s dedicated to raising funds for The Down’s Syndrome Association (DSA) and The Cotswold Down’s Syndrome Group because they’ve helped his 6-year-old son Alfie so much.
“When Alfie was diagnosed with Down’s syndrome at 10 days old, it was the most confusing and worrying time for my wife and I. The information available from the DSA was incredible and soon we realised that things were going to be okay. As Alfie has grown and started attending school, the DSA have given great advice on benefits available and how to get the best education and support at a mainstream school.”
“As Alfie grows into a young man, the DSA has some great schemes that they run including DSActive (providing sports and activities to promote a healthy lifestyle) and WorkFit (helping to find employment opportunities for adults with Down’s syndrome). Knowing that the DSA is there fighting for the rights of Alfie and all people with Down’s syndrome is a comforting thought.
Once Alfie was well enough to leave hospital my wife made contact with the Cotswold Downs Syndrome Group and met up weekly with other parents of children with Down’s syndrome and received tremendous support, advice and friendship. Since this time we have made great friends with other families in the group and the summer and Christmas parties are the highlights of the year. At the end of May, the CDSG are having a residential week at the Calvert Trust activity centre on Exmoor which we are very excited about. The CDSG is run totally by volunteers and Jenny King and her team do an incredible job.”
This isn’t the first time Steve has taken to two wheels for the DSA. Back in 2016, another motorcycle challenge in India raised more than £12,000. He then took part in the Classic Triumph Challenge in Spain raising £3,700 in 2017 and rode from London to Paris on a bicycle last year netting more than £10,000.
And this summer Steve returns to India, heading for the high passes of the Himalayas. He’ll ride the mythical Manali to Leh Highway before heading further North to tackle Khardung La pass. Parts of the roads are only open for three months of the year due to the extreme weather conditions and could be flooded as snow and ice melts. The intrepid traveller and nine others will tackle almost 500km over three days.
“The high altitudes mean that altitude sickness can strike even the fittest person. We will be spending a lot of time above 4000 metres and the highest road is higher than Everest base camp! There’s no specific training that I can do for riding at altitude as the highest peak in the UK are less than 1400 metres! I’ve been doing a weekly Pilates session to help keep me fit, flexible and hopefully prevent back ache. I’ve been using my motorbike to commute a lot more this year through the cold, wet and dark winter months to prepare myself for what the conditions might be like on the high Himalayan roads.”
Steve’s also involved Alfie in the training, who has enjoyed his time in the sidecar alongside his father.
“Alfie shares my love of cycling and motorbikes and will pedal his trike for miles. He loves to ride with me on the motorbike in the garden or in the sidecar on the road. He is also a very mischievous and determined young man, if he doesn’t want to do something it’s not easy to change his mind! Our family life is pretty hectic but we wouldn’t change it and try to pack in as much fun as possible, with Alfie around there’s never a dull moment and a lot of smiles and laughter.”
Steve works for Avon Tyres selling racing tyres for motorcycle and sidecar race teams. Cooper Tires are the American parent company of Avon Tyres and last year they extended their Fund Matching programme outside of the US which added $5000 to the amount raised on Steve’s Tour de France Challenge. This year they’ll be doing the same, meaning up to a very generous $5000 extra for the challenge.
“I’ve had so much support from motorcyclists and race teams over the years. They really like supporting the Down’s syndrome charities and following my adventures, so a massive ‘thank you’ to everyone, and bring it on for this year!“
Steve leaves on 28th June and you can sponsor his epic challenge here.