The ultimate ride to happiness - on a penny farthing bike!

Posted by Top Livin on

Back in 2017, Dan Hedley landed back in Australia after resigning from his job on Super Yachts wanting to focus on getting back into a more healthy lifestyle both physically and mentally. As he was settling back into life into Ozzie life, he was listening to a podcast from Hamish and Andy when he was struck with an idea like no other - learn how to ride a Penny Farthing bike. 

This new hobby that Dan had suddenly connected and fell in love with, evolved into another idea, riding from one side of Australia to another on a Penny Farthing bike to raise awareness for mental health. 

'A Ride to Happiness' was formed from his own personal experience about how healthy changes to your lifestyle can help to improve your mental wellbeing, and he is taking 6 mental health organisations on the road with him and LIVIN is honoured to be one of them. 

Not content with the incredible goal of raising $1 million to distribute evenly amongst his 6 chosen mental health charities, Dan also registered the initiative as an official Guinness World Record attempt with his ride from Brisbane to Perth on his Penny Farthing bike covering 6,500 kilometres. 

Dan and his support crew Andy, popped into the LIVIN office on their way to Brisbane prior to their big departure and had a chat about A Ride to Happiness. 

Tell us a bit about yourself . . .  

My name is Dan Hedley aka shredley and I am from Perth, Western Australia.  I grew up with me Mum (Annette), Dad (Dazza) and my Sister (Soph) in quite a close and relatively small family.
During my final year of school when I was 16 years old like many other 16 year old’s, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was super confused and headed down the carpentry route trying to convince myself I liked it. Luckily during the July school holidays in 2012 my old man hooked me up with a Job on a tug boat as a deckhand. From then I haven’t looked back. Working on boats has been my life the last 8-9 years, it’s taken me around the world and allowed me to see the most amazing places. Currently I work fly in fly out as a skipper on a 23m tug up near Cape York with a great bunch of lads. 

When did you first jump on a Penny Farthing and what made you interested in them?

I was actually listening to a ‘Hamish and Andy’ podcast back in 2017. I had been away for a year and a half at that stage and was starting to get a bit home sick so listening to them always brought me back to Australia a little bit. Anyway, them being them they are always throwing out wack anecdotes followed up by elaborate analogies and ‘Penny Farthings’ happened to feature in one. It was as simple as hearing this and thinking in my head “I could ride one of them across Australia”.
I googled Penny Farthings straight away and came across a bloke called ‘Penny Farthing Dan’. I emailed him and asked him if it would be possible to ride one from Sydney to Perth. He came back and said of course, so I ordered a custom Penny built for the trip which arrived in the mail in August that same year. It has obviously grown into Brisbane to Perth and a Guinness World Record attempt but that’s another story.

Was it difficult to learn and master? 

No not at all. Their actually really easy to ride. It just takes a small bit of explanation and a bit of confidence and away you go. 

How often do you ride your bike usually? 

I am never in Perth, so hardly ever but when I was home and I did ride it and I always wished I had more time to get on it. 

What inspired you to create your initiative A Ride to Happiness and how did you come up with the idea of cycling from Brisbane to Perth? 

As mentioned before, it was Hamish and Andy that sparked the idea, but how it grew into ‘A Ride to Happiness’ is a whole different thing.
Initially when I ordered the Penny Farthing I was working on a yacht and had been for a year and a half. I kept it very ‘hush hush’ with the crew but I was having spontaneous Anxiety attacks and had been for a couple of years at this point. I remember the weirdest things would bring them on. I was in Venice walking around seeing the sites with my friend Pete and we walked under a bridge or tunnel through a building and it just kicked in. It was so random but I could hide it very bloody well, and that’s what I did for years. 

So eventually when It came to ordering this bike I was searching in my mind for a challenge. At this point I felt like I was not progressing in life and I wasn’t doing myself any favours with all the unhealthy lifestyle choices I was making. I knew that I had to break these bad habits, and this was how I was going to do it.  

Initially when I hadn’t started training it was going to be called ‘A Ride for No Reason’ but when I started training for the ride mid 2019, I started to realise the true benefits this ride would have on me. The instant I took notice how all the healthy eating and exercise was helping reduce my anxiety and make me just a happier person in general It all made sense to try promote this. 

Side Note- Julian Pace (Founder of Happiness Co) came up with the name for the tour, who we (Happy Monday Co) are working very closely with. 

You’ve registered your initiative with the Guinness World Records, what is the record you are officially attempting and what are some of the requirements you have to do along the way?

Longest Distance Travelled via Penny Farthing is the record I am trying to set.
I have to keep a detailed log as well as provide video evidence each day of the ride and the whole thing is GPS tracked.
You can follow the live GPS tracking if you google – Follow my challenge, a Ride to Happiness It should pop up.

Tell us a bit about your support crew leading up to and during the big journey? 

I have had incredible support throughout this whole thing from friends and family.
We did a fundraiser in Perth where we raised approximately $4300 at a friends coffee shop in Fremantle, talked about mental health all night and had a banger time. Ryan and Jian put so much time and effort into that and we got a lot of generous people donate items to the raffle.
Also Zac White from We Exist Creative has been bloody unreal. He has taken so much time out of his busy schedule to help film and take photos to help me out with the social media side of things.  

Julian and Robbie from Happiness Co have helped a lot with organising the Media side of things before and now during the trip which has been unreal.
Then there is Andy Ball (founder of @thedailysherrin on Instagram), me best bloody mate, as well as doing all the electrics for me in the van he will also be on the journey the whole time driving the support vehicle. This is just as much of a challenge for him as it is for me so if anybody has any good podcast suggestions send 'em through to @happymondayco_ !

We have also had people do their own initiatives to help support the cause like Paula in Geraldton selling muffins, Salt and Ripple in Byron sell swimwear at the Markets and my good mate Michael Dunstan who is a musician. Michael was the first person I felt comfortable to open up to about my mental heath issues and he is very generously donating 1 dollar from every ticket sale in his upcoming ‘in the grand scheme’ tour to the Happy Monday Co “A Ride to Happiness “ Fundraiser. 

You’re travelling a looooonnnng way on your bike, is there any particular leg you’re really looking forward to and/or a bit nervous about? 

I’m really looking forward to the Nullarbor. I love that stretch of road. Camping under those stars in the middle of no where has to be one of my favourite things in the world.

I'm most nervous about there’s a lot of massive hills around New South Wales. Hopefully I am ride fit enough by the time I get there but going up them will be very difficult, and going down will be a rush. Penny Farthing Dan (the legend who built my bike) says he often gets up to 65kmph sometimes as much as 80kmph down some of the bigger hills)

What made you choose mental health as the beneficiary of your incredible initiative? 

As explained earlier, my journey through the tough times mentally and then discovering how to over come them has been the inspiration behind Mental Health Organisations being the beneficiaries for the tour.

How did you go about choosing the charities and how did you hear about LIVIN? 

With such a massive goal of raising 1 million dollars I got a tip from Wayne Mcmurtrie (Ultra Marathon Runner and founder of Run for Resilience)  to raise money for multiple organisations instead of just the one. This made sense for 2 reasons in my eyes. 1- because it is sharing the love and I get to support more than one of the many great organisations I have so much respect for, and 2- Because I am trying to promote how healthy changes to your lifestyle can help improve your mental wellbeing, raising money for more people means more potential exposure to help get this word out.

I Heard about LIVIN via a friend I used to work with up in North Queensland. He was one of the initial people I told at work about the idea and he suggested Livin. LIVIN has a really similar story to another foundation I am raising money for, ‘The Kai Eardley Foundation” which was started in honour of Kai, where their aim is to create positive change for Mental Health. I went to school with Kai at Aquinas, and although I wasn’t so close him, It rocked my mates and the community around me when he took his life so this is why LIVIN is so relatable and why I respect what you legends are doing in the Mental Health scene. 

What advice would you give someone who is struggling with their own mental health?

I’m no expert and I certainly haven’t mastered it myself, but for me setting a goal that requires a shift in lifestyle has helped incredibly.
It obviously doesn’t have to be as extreme as what I am doing but, as an example, even a small goal of waking up before work and going for a run 3 times a week would help a lot. Also trying to get in tune with what you are eating and how It makes you feel. For me incorporating as much variety of plants into my diet as I can and minimising processed foods is what I discovered works best. I’m still very guilty of a pizza and a beer every now and again so yeah just don’t want to pretend that I am the picture of health.  

What are some tips and tools you use yourself for self-care and improving your own mental health? 

Again, paying close attention to how I feel after eating and regular fitness.
Also, I have dabbled in the Wim Hof breathing techniques which is great. I have been slacking the last 2 months on that but prior when I was doing it regularly I was seeing great results. 

I would love to dabble in yoga also but I haven’t quite got around to that yet. I hear it has many benefits. 

To support Dan's amazing initiative for mental health check out his 'A Ride to Happiness' page and you can physically follow him through his registered GPS Tracker and keep updated with his incredible journey through his @happymondayco_ Instagram, Facebook @thehappymondayco and show him some LIVIN love either online or if he's peddling through your neighbourhood on his way back to Perth.

Good luck legend!