The colour is the first thing that catches your eye, and this is exactly what Sam Gray needed. He designed the bright bike while in hospital and it has been, in Sam’s own words, his road to recovery. Read on for the story of Rhubarbara: One man’s road to recovery on a bike too bright to ignore!
Meet Sam Gray. He’s 32, lives in South London and loves nothing more than jumping on his Ribble R872, also known as Rhubarbara. Behind the bright and cheerful colour scheme, this bike has meant a lot to Sam. It’s helped him recover after being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease during Lockdown 1.0 earlier this year. Here, he tells his story.
Sam, great to chat with you. That is one bright and beautiful bike, but what got you into cycling?
I’ve been cycling since I was a kid, I rode up Mont Ventoux on the back of my mum’s tandem so we’ve always been a cycling family. As an adult, I’ve struggled to find that motivation to get out on my bike. In June this year (12 weeks after my daughter was born), I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and ended up in hospital pretty sick.
During lockdown, I’d started to use my bike and Zwift to keep myself sane. When I was in hospital I decided that cycling was how I was going to recover. I’d ordered my Ribble and it was all the motivation I needed.
While I waited for it to arrive, I rode my old bike to make sure I was fit enough to justify the new one, and now it’s here I ride it every other day. My wife Chloe has been unbelievably supportive through my being unwell and there’s no better motivation than to be fit and healthy for my little girl Juno.
Which bike do you ride, why did you choose that one? What do you like about it?
I chose the R872 Disc in custom yellow and pink matte colourway. As soon as I made the colourway online I couldn’t think of anything other than Rhubarb & Custard. I tried some more stealthy all-matte-black options and I just kept coming back to it. I chose this as my first carbon bike after having ridden an aluminium Trek for years. It just never motivated me to get out and ride.
Now when I see that bright yellow and pink frame in my shed, it’s YELLING at me to go and ride. I’ve nicknamed the bike Rhubarbara. She’s too bright to ignore.
What is your general riding like, how many days per week etc.?
I ride 3 or 4 times a week, Monday to Friday it’s a quick ten or fifteen miles on my lunch break. At the weekend’s, something more far-reaching with a mandated coffee stop.
Where is your favourite place to take Rhubarbara?
I live in Streatham in South London, I love zipping through all of the suburbs until you reach the very edge of the city. The houses literally just come to an end and it’s all green. Cycling up to Biggin Hill airfield is a great route with some solid ramps and a cleverly situated coffee (and doughnuts) hut. They also sell cut-price fireworks but I’ve never been tempted by those.
Who do you mainly ride with?
There’s a small group of us who’ve been riding together recently. We haven’t got a name for ourselves yet but after googling cool cycle team names, our WhatsApp group is called Pedal Aliens CC. So that’s what we are for now.
What are your cycling goals?
Right now I’m cycling to build up muscle, fitness and weight. From being ill I’d gone down to 49kg, which isn’t healthy for 6 foot 2. So whilst keeping an eye on my power to weight, I’m hoping to build up muscle and go further and faster. Next year I’d like to do a cycle tour. Either Coast to Coast in the UK or head into France and take in some classic climbs.
Who is your favourite rider and why?
Right now my favourite pro rider has to be Wout Van Art. He pretty much single-handedly won me my fantasy TdF league this year and doesn’t seem to know how to do anything but attack and win. Cory Greenberg is a pro-cyclist who has Ulcerative Colitis, a condition similar to Crohn’s. I know I’m not going to turn pro, but if he can stay healthy, race and live with IBD, I know I can.
What does cycling mean to you?
To me, cycling is a totally pure sport. You’re self-propelled by your fitness and your skill. Sure people might have a better bike or a tighter skin suit. However, at the end of the day, if it’s not in your legs, there’s no-one to blame but yourself. I love that (and sometimes hate it).
What is your proudest cycling moment?
My proudest cycling achievement has to be getting up Box Hill recently, it was a bit of a marker for me. I didn’t go up fast but I didn’t stop, walk, or burst into tears. I just found my rhythm, eyes on the road in front of me, and made it to the top. It’s one of those climbs that everyone knows and now it’s on my Strava.
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