Graphics: Norwich homeless veteran travels tens of thousands miles in three journeys to show doubters just what he can achieve
- Credit: Archant
From being homeless in Norwich to a trip to the frozen North, one Norfolk man has embarked on three epic journeys involving three bikes, thousands of miles and chip fat for fuel.
After moving 12,000 miles from New Zealand back to Norwich, in the last six months Richard Steven has travelled almost the same distance on two wheels.
But the biggest distance he has completed is showing his doubters what he can achieve.
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'I have proven to myself and many who have treated me with doubt that we can all rise up and overcome adversity,' the 44-year-old said.
Taking on three distinct challenges on three very different bikes he hoped to show the world that he could face his demons head on.
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Since June, Mr Steven rode from Land's End to John o'Groats on a motorised pedal bike and then in October he circumnavigated the coast of mainland Britain on a rare diesel motorbike, using chip fat for fuel.
His latest challenge is by far the biggest, as he admitted: 'I set off not knowing if I would make it or survive.'
December saw him ride from Norwich to Lapland along a treacherous, icy route through Scandanavia.
The Yamaha V-Max bike he used, which featured in the 1979 Mad Max film, has been described by Steve Harmer, co-founder of the Norfolk Motorbike Museum, as the 'widow-maker' because of its notoriety for being dangerous.
Mr Steven said: 'I told people my intentions of riding to the Arctic Circle over winter and no one thought it possible to do and survive.'
After just over a fortnight of freezing temperatures and nearly getting frostbite, he made it to Lapland on Christmas Day.
But he is not planning to return soon. 'I am here mainly to go across to Canada via the North Pole by snowmobile and I'm trying to get support and sponsorship for this historic, one-off adventure.'
Mr Steven said he had a simple reason for taking on such challenges: 'If I can show people real grit and determination, I am hoping that this will lift me in achieving what I have always aspired to: being adventurous and making a difference in this modern world.'
Richard Steven's life before Lapland
Richard Steven, 44, grew up in Norwich. He went to City of Norwich School and joined the Royal Marines at the age of 20 and served in Northern Ireland.
After he was medically discharged after nine years, he emigrated to New Zealand with his wife in September 2001.
They moved south to Christchurch, relocating their three dogs, three cats, 22 alpacas and a chinchilla.
In May 2010 he joined started working for an urban search-and-rescue team in Christchurch after being told that 'nothing ever happens there'.
In February 2011 the city was hit by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake, and 185 people died and nearly 2,000 were injured.
After 13 days' gruelling work with international rescue teams Mr Steven developed severe cellulitus. 'It was the worst pain I ever felt.'
Shortly before the earthquake Mr Steven and his wife separated. He was advised by some friends to return home to Norfolk.
He came back a month later. That is when things took a turn for the worse.
'My life was like a massive domino set spiraling out of control with no stopping it.'
Making the move back proved particularly difficult, leaving behind everything he had worked to establish. 'I had my wife divorce me after 20 years together, my 22 alpacas that I had bred and raised over eight years were given away into smaller groups. It was horrendous.'
Mr Steven moved into a homeless shelter and has described the difficulties he faced moving back: 'Since my return to Norwich in 2011 I had turned to every authority, military charity for help to be turned away.'
He was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder in August 2012.
Mr Steven spent the next three years not leaving Norwich.
'I had found it extremely hard to even go to the shops locally, you can imagine my fear going out of Norwich.'
It was an invitation to Buckingham Palace in June 2014 which marked the start of his epic journey.
He was invited to a garden party at the palace hosted by Prince Charles to honour those who had worked for the Red Cross.
Having left Norwich for the first time in three years he set himself the challenge of riding on a 1930s police-issue Humber bicycle, fitted with a
Cyclemaster small magic wheel engine.
'Just riding it to Norwich bus station from Spixworth was exhausting.
'It took 54 days to ride from Land's End to John o'Groats fixing and rebuilding a bike'
In October 2014 he set off on his 'Great British fish and chip run' borrowing a diesel Royal Enfield motorcycle from Norfolk Motorbike Museum in North Walsham and rode approximately 4,500 miles in 30 days.
As part of this challenge he went from chip shop to chip shop on the borrowed Royal Enfield diesel and used the chip oil from the shops to fuel his bike and he ended up sleeping rough during the trip as he ran out of money.