Former Firefighter John Chart and his wife Arlene on the tandem bike John will be using for the challenge.
Credit: John Chart

TEN amputee military veterans are teaming up with firefighters to ride from John O’Groats to Land’s End in support of a comrade with motor neurone disease.

The challenge will take the team 13 days to complete, using push and hand bikes as well as specially adapted tandems.

Last year ex-firefighter John Chart, 49, was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND). He said: “MND is a demonic disease. It is like an assassin; it sneaks up on you and it’s like someone’s got a remote control and it’s just closing my body down gradually. I want to raise awareness, I want to see the devastation of what it does to you, but I also want to say to people don’t ever give up. You’ve got to keep going. Don’t ever give up.”

The operation is being organised by Pilgrim Bandits – who arrange gruelling expeditions for injured service and emergency personnel, many of whom are amputees or have PTSD.

Tyler Christopher
Credit: Pilgrim Bandits

Joining the expedition is former Lance Corporal Tyler Christopher, who was injured in Afghanistan in August 2009 after standing on an IED bomb, which resulted in the loss of both his legs above the knee.

He has taken part in several Pilgrim Bandits expeditions including a 500-mile kayaking challenge down the Yukon River in Canada. Tyler said that Pilgrim Bandits had helped him ‘massively’ helping him to realise that he can still do things he loved to do before his injury, like wild camping.

He said training had been going well, adding: “I’m really looking forward to this challenge and seeing everyone on it. I’ve really missed the comradeship and the company as I was in lockdown in a very isolated area. I had my family around, but military friendships are different.”

Pilgrim Bandits Patron Ben Parkinson
Credit; Pilgrim Bandits

Matt Hellyer, CEO of Pilgrim Bandits, will be leading the expedition. He said: “We are proud to be riding with John – raising awareness and funds for MND and Pilgrim Bandits.

“Our moto is ‘Always A Little Further,’ because we know that pushing our team physically and mentally – when they have already endured so much – sees them rise above and beyond.

“We don’t do sympathy, but we offer camaraderie, an adventure and we believe in the power of humour over pain. And we are going to need all of that to overcome not only the 912 miles in 13 days, but the extra challenges awaiting the team along the way.”

The Pilgrim Bandits team leave John O’Groats on Monday.

The operation is being supported by another military charity – Vetrun180.

You can follow the expedition progress via the Pilgrim Bandits Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram feeds and via John’s page Cycle Challenge for MND or on Instagram @cyclechallange4mnd. Donations can be made to Pilgrim Bandits via the Operation Ride UK Total Giving page

The Pilgrim Bandits Team in New Zealand
Credit: Pilgrim Bandits