How indoor cycling can change lives
Be inspired to be your best version – with Elite
In autumn 2022, a close friend, Ben Ralston and I were out hiking, chatting about cycling trips from years before, wish trips for the future etc etc. Ben was telling me how he missed cycling and was unable to ride the distances and pace that he previously did, due to cancer now beginning to take a hold. He was only 44 years of age, with a family and three young children. He’d climbed mountains, ran triathlons, and everything just seemed so unfair. Cancer doesn’t choose victims based on anything other than random cruelty. However, Ben was strong and had a will of iron. He was no quitter.
The weather on the roads here in autumn is damp and tricky for cycling. Albeit that Ben was still at that time, happy to try and ride outside if energy levels and weather allowed – his treatment was often debilitating – and, as a friend, I didn’t want him to have to take unnecessary risks, but I still wanted him to be able to ride. After all, keeping as fit as he could, would hopefully help my friend to continue to fight this horrible disease.
Speaking with friends in Italy, a new Elite Justo and Rizer were soon dispatched to me, and I was able to tell Ben “Look, I’ve got a spare indoor trainer setup. Let’s get you using it at home in the cellar where you’re safe and where the family don’t have to worry about you being at risk on the roads – they’ve got enough to worry about!” Ben and I had an agreement that neither of us would talk about his cancer unless he mentioned it. We’d simply chat as we’d always done, and make fun of the world of politics and other chaotic and ridiculous events in this often confusing world. Sharing these conversations with my friend was always special, due to his razor sharp mind and wit.
Cycling indoors for health – mental & physical
Anyway, we set him up with a training system at home, so that if his energy allowed, he could simply jump onto the trainer and cycle away interactively, using the Elite ‘Real Video’ programme, with videos of the great climbs in front of him. Only a few weeks later he and I were talking and he mentioned how realistic the gradient simulation was, as he’d been literally standing on the pedals on Alp D’Huez! Yes, despite me suggesting that he try a few easy rides, and just turn the pedals, he’d downloaded the video of this legendary climb and given it a brief go! A few months later, I recall he and I chatting, and Ben saying how he really wished that he could once again feel the wind on his face as he cycled down a hill – something we all take for granted.
Yes, here he was, terminally ill and with cancer eating away at his body – but not his spirit! He was doing all he could to stay as fit as possible and wanting to fight the cancer to the very last moment. He was anything other than frail, and still as strong as ever, whenever he could be.
Using technology for the right reasons
Indoor trainers are simply amazing pieces of technology and allow us to replicate the roads in a way that only a few years ago was unimaginable. It improves our performance and allows us to keep our training focus and to keep riding those all-important training miles, whatever the weather.
More importantly, as Ben showed in those last few months of his life, they can allow people like Ben to keep fighting and to stay strong – mentally and physically. Only a couple of weeks before Ben passed away, he texted me and asked if I could collect the Elite trainers from him as he was no longer able to use them. We often take life for granted, yet it’s a privilege. I simply took the trainer from Ben, placed it into the car, and then drove us quietly to lunch, with the usual cancer free conversation. After lunch, Ben tried to tell me that his time was now measured in days – however, he simply couldn’t. We held each other and I said that I already knew, and I told him how bloody inspiring that he was. There must have been lots of dust around… our eyes were struggling with it!
Ben Ralston left this world on the 24th of April this year. He was one of the most inspirational people that I’ve ever known in my life. The times that we spent, cycling, hiking, chatting and laughing together are some of my most precious memories and his memory and his words inspire me every day: “happiness is success, nothing more.” The words he said to me on our final lunch together. And so, ask yourself this; are you the best version of yourself, and are you happy? The power to change and to become more in tune with yourself, lies within you alone. Be strong and keep persevering, as Ben did – strong and inspirational to the very end.
Enjoy the privilege of life – every day
And so you see, whilst indoor interactive training includes Zwift and that great social scene that’s evolved around it; whilst it also includes riding the great climbs on video without having to travel, and that you can maintain and improve your cycling performance in any weather – it also includes special moments for people like my friend who simply can’t ride on the roads anymore and maybe are like my friend, doing all they can to fight cancer. It gives these inspirational people the opportunity to ride and to take their minds away for just a short moment in time… and may even help them to increase their time on this amazingly beautiful planet. Never take life for granted, but instead seek adventure every single day – as Ben Ralston did.
Indoor cycling in any form, be it interactive or on rollers or a smart trainer, can and should be something that becomes part of your general lifestyle. There’s also a school of thought within medicine that says that exercise can help both the mental and physical aspects of cancer. I’d say that Ben proved this, with his stregth and resilience. If you do nothing else, check yourself and your own body often, and especially if you notice any changes, and let’s all do whatever we can to fight cancer and to stay as healthy as we can for as long as possible. Age is a privilege we should all try to enjoy, so let’s try to maximise every single day.
Indoor cycling, or indeed any other form of cycling is a means to stay as fit and healthy as you possibly can, and to help you to lead a more positive life. Over the autumn and winter, we’ll be once again writing a series of indoor cycling blogs with Elite, here at Pedalnorth. We’re hoping to inspire you to keep on cycling, whatever the weather – and what better way to inspire you than this account of Ben Ralston. Let’s all look after our health, and not take life for granted. Let’s seek adventure and go cycling, indoors and outdoors as often as possible!
If you’ve been inspired by Ben, then please help us to fight cancer, and click the link below and donate to cancer research and help scientists to develop new treatments.