14 September 2023

'Time can lose all meaning' when you ride across Australia. Andrew Kerec would know - he's done it twice

| Dione David
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man in bike helmet hugging a woman

Emotional reunions: Andrew Kerec returned from his record-breaking Spine Tingling Ride on 10 September. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

It’s been days since Andrew Kerec brought his mountain bike to a stop at his parent’s Forde home, completing a 6820 km journey from the western-most tip to the eastern-most point of the country and, according to the Road Record Association of Australia, beating the previous record by 22 days – yet he can’t shake the compulsion to pedal.

“I’m still in this inherent psychological state where it feels wrong to rest. I can’t help but think, ‘I’m losing daylight hours’,” he laughs.

It’s an unsurprising compulsion for a man who, since kick-off on 27 June, cycled almost 60 days averaging about 130 km per day, with ‘rest days’ spent on bike maintenance and repair.

Andrew and his dad, Ludvig Kerec, spent months plotting a route that avoided bitumen and tracked across places as remote and less travelled as possible, crossing the likes of the Simpson and Strzelecki deserts.

READ ALSO What brought together a builder, a biker and a disability care provider and inspired a charity ride?

He reckons there’s no better way to appreciate the vastness and variation of the Australian landscape, albeit with times when the greatest challenge was the search for mental stimulation.

“You certainly have time to take it all in – particularly when you’re riding across those desert landscapes. You’re constantly looking for something of interest. You don’t miss a thing. Anything worth looking at, pondering about or taking a photograph of, you do,” he says.

“Time can lose all meaning when every crest you go over, you’re met with the same view – another long road with another crest in the distance.

“Luckily, I inherited my father’s determination to see things through. So when the alarm went off at 5:30 am, and my backside was sore and my muscles ached and the last thing I felt like doing was jumping on a bike to ride over more dunes, I had that – plus an incredible support crew and an important cause as extra motivation.”

Dubbed the ‘Spine Tingling Ride’, the journey has been a vehicle for Andrew, the owner of Renaissance Homes, to raise funds for causes close to his heart.

In 2017, he brought in $135,000, and this year the goal is $200,000 to be split between disability service provider Hartley Lifecare and spinal cord research through SpinalCure Australia.

map of Australia with cycling routs

Andrew’s two Spine Tingling Rides have raised more than $300,000. Image: Spine Tingling Ride.

Andrew’s father, an ultra-fit former Ironman, became a quadriplegic following a biking accident in 2010.

“Dad was a cartographer in the early days. I was brought up touring Australia in Kombis. He was into spreadsheets, mapping and looking for places off the beaten track. That, I guess, is the mindset I got from him,” he says.

“During the day, it becomes all about setting goals. Mentally, I preferred not knowing distances or topography. I would just focus on reaching the next crest.”

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The other great challenge was navigating the longest period he had been away from his family, compounded by knowing that Ludvig had multiple trips to the emergency department during the trip.

While contemplating this, Andrew experienced one of the greatest highs on the journey, somewhere on a dirt track between Uluru and Kata Tjuta.

“I was within proximity to Yulara and I got some phone service, so I thought I would FaceTime Dad,” he says.

“He was having a good day. He told me: ‘The road you’re on is the road we took you to Uluru on in the Holden HQ station wagon back in 1977’.

“Knowing that he was okay, that he was out of the hospital, and then having that perspective that I had been right there with him when I was about eight years old really lifted my spirits.”

man cycling next to man in a wheelchair

Andrew’s dad Ludvig met him at Yerribi Pond in his wheelchair and led the way home. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Capital Airport Group and the Snow Foundation gave Andrew the honour of completing the last leg of his journey on the Canberra Airport runway. Ludvig met him at Yerribi Pond in his wheelchair and led the way home to a teary family reunion.

Though Andrew will participate in The Hartley Cycle Challenge in November – a three-day event – he’s confident this was his last Spine Tingling Ride.

“In front of everyone, I told my wife, hand on heart, I wouldn’t do another,” he says.

“The first was to make good on a promise to Dad – it was something to put in front of him to help with his recovery just after the accident. This one was for me. It was important for me to do.

“Now, I have completed 12,000 km in remote riding and raised over $300,000, I think I can say it’s someone else’s turn.”

Andrew’s ride is over, but you can still contribute at The Spine Tingling Ride.

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