On December 5th, Bicycle World hosted Charles Scott, author of the newly-released and inspiring book, Rising Son, which chronicles his 2500 mile, 67 day journey by bike across Japan with his 8 year old son, Sho riding along on a trailer bike attached to Charles’ bike. In the process, Charles and Sho raised money for a global tree planting campaign and were named “Climate Heroes” by the United Nations. Charles and Sho read excerpts from the book, answered questions from the audience, and autographed copies of the book for attendees. Overall, it was a great evening, and we wanted to share some highlights with you in case you missed it.
As one would expect, riding 2500 miles, in 67 days, halfway around the world presents a long list of challenges. Aside from training for the physical demands, the logistics involved between getting the family to agree to the trip, securing the necessary time off work, and deciding what kind of equipment was needed to accomplish an unsupported 10 week trip, Charles also had the challenge of figuring out how his son, Sho, would be able to complete the ride successfully and safely.
Upon deciding to take on this challenge, Charles had to persuade his wife, Eiko, that this father-son trip was a good idea. He also had to convince his employer to allow him to take a sabbatical long enough to complete the trip. To complicate matters further, as the trip approached in 2008, the economic crisis was just hitting, and despite the approval of the time off from his employer, Charles was not guaranteed that his job would be waiting for him upon his return. Add to that the quizzical looks and doubtful comments he got from others who learned of his plans, and there were plenty of reasons to put off, or even cancel the trip.
Nevertheless, Charles and Sho persevered, planned, and trained for the trip, and before long found themselves in Japan setting out on their ride. Early in the trip, the strain of riding and adjustment to being away from home got to Sho, resulting in a few stressful days filled with temper tantrums. As the tantrums escalated, Charles started to feel some of the doubts about the trip reemerge. Finally, he had a conversation with Sho and challenged him, telling him, “You’re a team member. I depend on you, and I can’t do this by myself.” Sho listened, and as Charles tells it, “Once he saw himself as a team member and instead of a little kid, he started to help put the tent together, the tantrums stopped, and he came around.” From that point on, the two worked as a team and completed the full 2500 mile journey.
Almost all cyclists can identify with the concept of perseverance to some degree, and it’s impressive that Sho learned this lesson at only 8 years of age. Cyclists like to talk about “suffering” to the point where non-cyclists often wonder why we ride bikes at all if it’s such a miserable experience. Let’s face it; if you’ve ridden for any length of time, you’ve faced some adversity along the way. Whether it’s being exhausted and knowing that you still have a long distance to go before you get home, getting stuck out in bad weather, running out of food or water, or getting dropped in a race or group ride, cycling provides plenty of opportunities to experience discomfort. According to Charles, the key is to learn to accept the existence of discomfort, acknowledge it, and carry on despite it. He and Sho accepted that at times they might be uncomfortable: climbing high mountains, dealing with bad weather, or in Charles’ case, dealing with a broken toe resulting from a failed attempt at sumo wrestling (you have to read the book to hear the rest of that story). They learned that if you can accept this discomfort for what it is, you can set it aside and continue.
In addition, it’s important to remember that no good story is devoid of adversity. In fact, adversity is often the most memorable and significant part of any achievement. If something comes easily, it can lack value. How many of our greatest, most epic, cycling stories surround something that hasn’t gone according to plan? In hindsight, it’s often these misadventures that become our fondest memories. Without the risk of failure (or occasionally failing), it’s hard to fully appreciate success.
Sho, now 11 years old, summed up this story of perseverance in his recollection of the hardest point of the trip where he really had dig deep to overcome difficulty. When asked to describe his toughest moment, Sho says, “We were going up a really steep mountain. It was really hard, like 12%, and it was already going on 1 ½ hours and I was really wiped out. It was raining, which made it worse, and I just wanted to stop.” Despite this, Sho kept going, accepted the discomfort, and pedaled on to complete the ride. It’s truly amazing what’s possible with the right attitude.
It was fantastic having Charles and Sho share their stories with us, and we’d like to thank them for making this event such a great success. If you’d like a copy of the book, Bicycle World has a few signed copies in stock. Rising Son truly is an inspirational story about a father and son’s wonderful experience together.
Finally, since Sho was riding a trailer bike that was attached to Charles’ bike, we had to ask Sho if he ever stopped pedaling during the tough times and let his dad do all the work. Sho replied, “Yes. A lot!” After 2500 miles of riding, who can blame him?