Sunday, 28 February 2021

WHITIANGA WEATHER

How pedal power raised $60,000 for charity

“Riding the length of the country in 24 days is not a lot different than doing a hard day’s work on the farm. You are up early and well fed before heading out the door, knowing it could be up to 12 hours before it’s time to down tools, refuel, rest up and prepare for the same but different the following day.”

That’s how 63-year-old Grimmy (Graeme) Martin, farmer and part-time Whitianga resident, describes his approach to spending days in the saddle raising over $60,000 for charities close to his heart.

The nickname Grimmy first came about when his school class had too many Graemes, and it has stuck ever since. What makes his cycling achievements more remarkable is he has only been riding a bike seriously for around five years.

“My wife Sharon and I have done a lot of tramping over the years, including the majority of the Great Walks of New Zealand, so the base fitness was there,” says Grimmy. “I just needed to hone my cycling skills and get my backside used to a bike saddle. I have always had the mindset that you can achieve some pretty hefty goals in life if you are willing to work hard and prepare well, whether it be in a work or non-work environment. Stepping outside my comfort zone has never been an issue for me from the day I left school at 15 and started my motor mechanic apprenticeship at the local garage. My big dream was always to become a farmer like my Dad, but he encouraged me to learn a new trade and try something different first which would come in useful if farming was still on the agenda further down the track. It was good advice.”

The idea to ride the Tour Aotearoa (TA) trail, an unassisted 3,000km bike packing adventure from Cape Reinga to Bluff, came about in late 2017 when one of Grimmy’s close mates spent time at the Hamilton Hospice. “It was a real eye opener for me to see the care and dedication from staff that went into running the facility as well as the ongoing costs,” says Grimmy. “I felt the need to do my bit and make a contribution of some kind. People in hospice care are brave soldiers without exception, so my effort had to reflect their battle and along the way raise some money and create an awareness of the great work being done.”

When word got out that Grimmy was gearing up to complete the TA ride in February 2018, he was given a new nametag, “the Crazy Farmer.”  Before he had even turned a single pedal stroke, around $20,000 had already been donated by his local community and that doubled during the 24 days it took to complete the ride.

“It was a hugely satisfying achievement for me and made even better when my family, including grandkids, were all unexpectedly waiting at the finish at Bluff,” says Grimmy. “The generosity and hospitality I experienced from people the length and breadth of the country were quite humbling.”

His next lightbulb moment came not long after completing the TA when he attended a rugby game which happened to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week. “With New Zealand having such a high rate of suicide and there also being a disproportionate suicide rate in farming, it hit a nerve for me,” says Grimmy. “While the issue is often spoken about in whispers, the announcer at the game asked for everyone in attendance to make as much noise as possible for two minutes as a way of bringing it out in the open. It was a spine chilling moment. I soon decided the Kopiko Aotearoa trail from the East Cape across to Cape Egmont, a distance of 1,060km, would be the perfect way to help raise money for mental health.”

Once again, his local farming community in Morrinsville came to the party contributing the bulk of the $20,000 raised. So Grimmy decided to depart and finish in Morrinsville, adding another 900km to the ride. Sixty people turned up with bikes to officially start the ride out of town with him, a couple even making it as far as Rotorua before allowing him complete the rest of the 19-day ride solo.

In between fundraising, Grimmy is often back on the bike just for fun and the sense of satisfaction he gets from challenges like riding from his farm gate at Morrinsville all the way to his holiday home in Whitianga and, more recently, completing 12 ascents of Centennial Drive non-stop. If you ask him why, he’ll simply reply, “Why not? It’s all in a good day’s work.”

Pictured: Part-time Whitianga resident, Grimmy Martin, raised more than $60,000 for charity cycling the Tour Aotearoa and Kopiko Aotearoa trails.

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