Interview: Sean Maher, riding-out the recession

Sean Maher graduated in the middle of the worst recession for several decades and found there were no jobs. Unperturbed, he decided to ride-out the recession, literally: cycling 12,000 miles from Cornwall to Capetown.

Sean Maher on Bodmin MoorHow did the idea for the trip come about?

Before I decided to do this trip I was a student at Exeter University. I graduated this year with a high 2:1 in Politics.

My main activity at university was Rugby and I played for the University 2nd XV in my final year.

I decided to do this trip because no matter who I applied to I couldn’t get a job! I thought this would help me boost my skills without having to do another year’s study or wait tables like some of my other graduate friends.

How have you been preparing?

I really started cycling to get to a summer job in my first summer of university. It was 10 miles there, 10 miles back and I did it on my brother-in-law’s old bike which I took the rear brake off, because it was rubbing on the back wheel!

I’ve been planning and training for this trip since the beginning of June, when I should have been revising. I tend to do around 30-40 miles, three times a week on the bike, plus running and walking a lot.

I’ve prepared for the trip by reading every book I can find about the continent and by following other expeditions. Particularly the Listen to Africa expedition.

What’s the route?

I plan to cycle to Plymouth, get the ferry to France and then cycle to Spain. From there the countries I want to pass through are Morocco – Western Sahara – Mauritania – Senegal – The Gambia – Senegal – Guinea – Sierra Leone – Guinea – Mali – Burkina Faso – Ghana – Togo – Benin – Nigeria – Cameroon – Gabon – Congo – DRC – Angola – Namibia – South Africa.

How long will it take?

I’m not 100% sure of the distance as Google Maps doesn’t work for Africa, but by using my map, some string and my Year 8 geography skills, I have worked out it is roughly 12,000 miles.

I want to do it in 6 months but I’ve budgeted for 8.

There are a couple of non-bike related journeys I want to make though, one of them is that I want to catch the world’s longest train in Mauritania which transports iron ore. It’s free in third class, and apparently one of the must-experience things to do in Africa.

When do you set off?

In November is the plan. I’m currently trying to scrape together a little bit more money to make it happen.

What’s it in aid of – will you be raising money for charity?

I want to raise a minimum of £10,000 for charity. I’m raising money for four charities, but the one closest to my heart is the Robert Johns Leukaemia Fund. Bob who runs it is a ‘Sir’, but is such an unlikely knight. You need to meet him to appreciate what a hero he is.

What bike are you using? Has it had any modifications?

The bike I’m training on is a mountain bike bought for £90 from a local hire shop – very credit-crunch chic! I want a Rohloff hub bike but I don’t have one… yet.

What equipment will you be using?

I’ll be taking everything I need. I have a good stove and an ultralight tent. I’m obviously taking as little as possible, though. The thing I’m most excited about is my Extrawheel trailer. It’s a third wheel for the bike which should put less weight over the back wheel and save on punctures.

You can find out more about the trip by visiting Sean’s website.


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