“For me, exercising is good for my physical and mental health. And raising funds for charity at the same time gives me a buzz.”
Cycling had always been one of Andy Steer’s huge passions in life.
But by the time Welcome to Yorkshire brought the Tour de France to the region in 2014, he’d been forced to give up his favourite hobby due to a leg injury.
Keen to get involved in any way he could, he put his other passion – photography – to good use and volunteered his services to the charities that were being supported by the event.
“I was late in learning to ride a bike,” the 62-year-old from Elland explains. “I didn’t learn until I was in my late teens. Back then, me and a couple of my friends would go and do what we thought were mammoth rides – anything between six and 10 miles.
“But as the years progressed, I got the bug. I joined a couple of clubs and ended up going out on a weekend and cycling 60 or 70 miles without much thought. I became quite competitive and bought what was then a state of the art, hand-built bike.”
Andy had grown up watching the Tour de France on TV and felt lucky to have had the opportunity to watch the biggest cycling race in the world on the screen.
He was excited to learn that the event would be coming to Yorkshire, but by then, his treasured bike had started gathering dust.
“Due to various life changes and commitments, I had stopped cycling as much,” Andy says. “Then my leg injury left me with a limp for four years. So, I started to develop a passion for photography. Living in Yorkshire, there were so many great opportunities to take photos. I started approaching charities and music festivals and offering my services free of charge.”
Andy took photographs for various charities supported by the Tour de France and in subsequent years, the annual Tour de Yorkshire cycling event.
In 2020, Yorkshire Cancer Research was chosen as the official charity partner for the Tour de Yorkshire, and Andy was looking forward to once again taking photos during the race.
This time, the cause was particularly poignant. In 2018, Andy had been diagnosed with a type of cancer called ‘chronic myeloid leukaemia’ while in hospital with a non-related illness.
“I must admit I was very scared,” Andy says. “I thought I best do a bucket list because I feared the worst. But shortly afterwards I saw a consultant and he reassured me that the type of cancer I’d got could be treated by medication.”
"Yorkshire Cancer Research is close to my heart, because thanks to research my treatment has been relatively simple.”
Andy was prescribed an oral chemotherapy medication called ‘imatinib’, which meant he could lead a relatively normal lifestyle. But then the coronavirus pandemic struck, and Andy was forced to shield at home with his wife, Pat.
The Tour de Yorkshire was cancelled, and Yorkshire Cancer Research was set to lose vital income and publicity from the event.
“I realised I wasn’t going to be able to do what I had hoped,” Andy says. “I couldn’t even leave the house. One night, Pat and I were chatting about where we might go walking once shielding was lifted and we decided on a walk along the canal. The next morning, I noticed my static bike in the bedroom. It had become a clothes rail covered in dust and clutter. I pulled it out and that’s when I came up with the idea of ‘Andy’s Tour de Bedroom’.”
In May, Andy completed the full 380.5-mile distance of the Tour de Yorkshire route on the exercise bike in his bedroom, raising nearly £600 for Yorkshire Cancer Research.
He explains: “It felt great to get up each day and get on the bike. Having some form of indoor exercise was absolutely fantastic for both my physical and mental health. I did speak to my doctor before I started because I was aware I would be pushing my pulse rate, and thankfully he gave me the go ahead.”
In 2021, the Tour de Yorkshire was postponed for a second year due to ongoing coronavirus restrictions. In its place, Welcome to Yorkshire has launched a new campaign called ‘Walkshire’, which aims to promote Yorkshire as the walking capital of the world.
With a walk for each day of the year, Walkshire is helping to demonstrate the physical and mental health benefits of walking. And as part of the campaign, Welcome to Yorkshire has teamed up with Yorkshire Cancer Research to launch a new fundraiser called ‘Tour de Walkshire’, which invites people to walk, cycle or run to help fund vital research in the region.
As well as helping to promote Tour de Walkshire, Andy will be replicating last years’ challenge to raise even more for the charity.
“I would recommend taking part in Tour de Walkshire to everyone. Whether you run, cycle or walk, setting a goal and raising funds and awareness will make you feel fantastic.
"And if for any reason you are unable to get out for a walk, cycle or run, you can set yourself a target distance for your exercise bike, treadmill or rowing machine. And even if you don’t have any of these, you could still set yourself a walking goal around your home or garden, just like Captain Sir Tom Moore.
“Doing something for charity gives you a focus. You get a buzz doing something for someone else. And when all is said and done, Yorkshire Cancer Research is close to my heart, because thanks to research my treatment has been relatively simple.”
To sponsor Andy, visit his fundraising page.