Three Wheels on the Roof of the World
Castleford’s Gary Wright recently answered the Everest challenge in a unique way, Cycling Legends was there to see him do it.
Words and photos: Chris Sidwells
It’s a sunny Saturday in early September and a strong wind scours the north side of Holme Moss. It’s a south wind, with just enough west in it to hit the exposed side of the road going up. There’s no shelter, it’s a real test for anyone climbing from the north. Still, Gary Wright has chosen today to ride up and down Yorkshire’s most famous cycling climb; not once, not twice or even three times, but 42.
Forty-two times from Rake Dike to the summit, 314 metres above sea level to 525, a height a gain of 211 metres. Two-hundred and eleven times 42 equals 8,862 metres; 14 metres higher than Everest. Yes, Gary Wright is Everesting on Holme Moss into the wind, and he’s doing it on a trike.
Nobody has ever Everested anywhere on a trike before, and no wonder. “I reckon riding a trike uphill takes double the effort of riding a bike,” Wright says. “And on Holme Moss you aren’t just fighting the gradient, where the extra weight and drag of a third wheel pulls you back, you are fighting the camber of the road. The trike is leaning left all the time going up, and you have to fight that all the way. Then when you get out of the saddle a trike doesn’t move the same as a bike, it’s a dead weight.”
Those are the problems going up Holme Moss on a trike, but coming down is no picnic either, especially in this wind. “You have to counterbalance the weight of the trike with your body in corners. We call it ‘hanging off’, you do the job the passenger does in sidecar racing.
“Sometimes we lean out so far the back tyre catches the back of our legs and we get burns. Tricyclists are always checking out the back of each other’s legs to see who’s been really pushing it.
“There’s one bend on the descent of Holme Moss where your head scrapes the branches of a bush on the inside of the corner. If it doesn’t then you end up on the wrong side of the road coming out of the bend,” Wright says.
On top of all that when the wind catches a trike its three wheels act like a sail, so it can be blown across the road. That ruled out Wright taking an easier way to Everest by using the south side of the climb, where the wind would have helped him. “We had a trike rider go down there early on, and he said the wind was really unpredictable on that side. A couple of times he’d been nearly blown off the road,” an experienced trike guy who dropped by to watch explained to me.
Wright had been up and down Holme Moss 22 times when I took these photos. It looked like purgatory, every pedal turn a torment, a trial of strength against gravity. Gary, Gaz as he’s known throughout Yorkshire, was wearing his favourite Gazzola retro jersey, Charly Gaul’s team from 1961 to 1963, but even the irascible Angel of the Mountains would have felt mercy for him today. A friend, Jonathan Hindle was on pacing duty, but a bike can’t fully shelter a trike. It was a slog going up, and a feat of daring going down.
A small support team had set up at the summit. Dave Hall was responsible for record keeping and feeding, while tender loving care, “I hit a wall on the Sunday and got quite emotional at one point,” Wright says, was handled by Wright’s partner Kay. His daughter Kimberley and son Dan were there, and Dan was Wright’s inspiration.
“I’m raising money for the Teenage Cancer Trust. Dan got the all-clear about this time last year, so I wanted to do something to celebrate and help the charity that supported us,” Wright told me after his epic ride.
It went over two days. “Six in the morning until about 6.30 in the afternoon on Saturday, and from just after 6 am until 2 pm on Sunday. I went up and down 26 times on Saturday and 16 on Sunday. I’ve no idea what the rules are for a trike, but I know nobody has ever Everested on one before, so the record is out there for anyone to have a go,” Wright says.
The ‘rules’ Wright refers to are that the height of Everest is achieved within 24 hours, but that’s for a bike. I reckon 36 hours should the standard for a trike, given its extra wheel and Wright did it in a total of 32 hours, of which 21.5 hours was riding time.
It’s a Hell of an achievement that's for sure, one you probably have to have ridden a trike uphill to understand. And Wright did it all on baked beans and jelly babies. “Baked beans because I’m used to them, I know they work, but about two thirds through my stomach stopped working, so I switched to jelly babies. And mostly I drank coffee. Dave Hall was in charge of the camping stove at the top, and it was a Godsend,” Wright told me.
So far he’s raised just over £1500 for the Teenage Cancer Trust, but more donations would be appreciated, so if you want to join in the effort here’s a link to Gary’s Just Giving Page.