1940s bike takes John across the country

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Riding the length of the country is a challenge in itself, but doing so on a rusty 1940s three-speed bike seems crazy.

Lake Ohau’s John Smithies, 72, set off from Cape Reinga last Sunday, which was World Lymphoma Awareness Day.

The bike ride, which will cover more than 2000km, is aimed at raising awareness of the blood cancer lymphoma.

Mr Smithies wife Alison died of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2011.

Two New Zealanders are diagnosed with lymphoma every day.

The bike Mr Smithies will use for the trek was found abandoned after the 2011 earthquake on a demolition site in Christchurch.

“I reckon it’s about the same age as me, 1940s vintage,” he said.

“It’s pretty rusty and only has three gears, but it should get me there.”

Mr Smithies had often spoken to his wife about giving something back to the people who supported them.

“Unfortunately, Alison can’t go with me, but I can do it,” he said.

Initially, Mr Smithies’ children weren’t on board with the bike ride.

“They said, ‘have you seen State Highway One Dad? You can’t cycle that!'” he said.

“But they’re really supportive now. I’ve worn them down.”

Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand chief executive officer Pru Etcheverry said she was touched by Mr Smithie’s effort.

“His huge personal quest to raise awareness of lymphoma is inspirational, as it’s the sixth most common form of cancer in New Zealand, yet very few people have heard of it or are aware of its signs and symptoms,” she said.

By Jessie Waite