Would you ride the Tour de France route on this bike? This personal trader did. Photo: Dave Sims.

Would you ride the Tour de France route on this bike? This personal trader did. Photo: Dave Sims.

The Tour de France is one of the most grueling sporting events on the planet. But those physical anomalies that are 94 percent legs and lungs who compete in it have one advantage over most of us: bikes that tip the scales at about 15 pounds.

David Sims recently completed the TdF course on a much different bike — a kid’s bike from the '70s that weighed more than 35 pounds. Although he didn’t win any stages, he did something just as impressive: he raised $14,000 for charity.

He's still going. This week he's slated to climb more than 29,029 vertical feet during the Everest Challenge at one of the most famous climbs in the world: Alpe d’Huez. Again, he'll be riding his kid's bike, a Raleigh Chopper, which is pretty much the British version of the bikes that were ubiquitous stateside in the '70s: the Schwinn Apple Krate.

Sims' Chopper is mostly stock. His modifications? A solid steel seatpost (so he can get full leg extension), racing saddle, clipless pedals, updated brakes (Shimano XT) so he didn't die descending the Alps and an upgraded Sturmey Archer hub that provided eight gears instead of three, so he doesn't die ascending the Alps.

But he kept the original tires, some low-pressure numbers with knobbies that max out at a really inefficient 50 psi. Slicks would've made it easier, "But it wouldn't be a chopper," he said in a phone interview.

Dave Sims made some modifications to his vintage Raleigh Chopper. He also left many things the same. Photo: Dave Sims.

Dave Sims made some modifications to his vintage Raleigh Chopper. He also left many things the same. Photo: Courtesy of Dave Sims

For Sims, a physical trainer, it's his first Chopper. Growing up, his older brother had one, but he had the smaller version: the Tomahawk. Together, they would launch off of sand dunes and get into shenanigans.

Riding the Raleigh was his way to bring home something he always tells his training clients: "It is about the engine, it's not about the bike."

For Sims, returning to the stomping grounds of the Tour de France was like coming home. As a kid, his family would regularly vacation in France and watch the Tour in person. He'd met a number of pros during these trips, including Lance Armstrong.

Sims acknowledges that riding the Tour is a dream for most cyclists, and in a moment of marketing brilliance he knew that riding it on a chopper would get him some press. And, more than that, he even got a video message of support from Tour winner Chris Froome, which is like a dad who excels at Nerf basketball getting props and a phone call from Kobe Bryant.

Although he was thrilled to get a message from Froome, Sims is just as thrilled to meet some of the servicemen who will be on the receiving end of his fundraising.

"It's nice to see where the money I've raised is going to … I'll get to see the individuals who are getting a handcycle or specially adapted sports kit," said Sims, who compared the organization to the U.S.-based Ride 2 Recovery.

Incredibly fit — he'd put in more than 8,000 miles on the bike by the beginning of June — riding the TdF course on a kid's bike made the challenging ride even more so. With no drafting and a position that's about as un-aerodynamic as it gets, Sims averaged between 13 and 15 miles an hour. Since many Tour stages are more than 100 miles long, that made for marathon days, and some hilly stages included more than 12,000 feet of climbing.

"Because the rear wheel is only 20 inches and a normal road bike is 27 inches, what you have to do is multiply the distance that I've done each day by about a third, because that's the equivalent distance on a road bike," Sims explains. "So I did the Tour de France, plus an extra 30 percent because of the smaller rear wheel."

This year was unusually warm in France, which was a challenge for Sims. Being in England, he didn't have the opportunity to train for the high temps.

"I sweated profusely for 10 hours a day," he said.

Sims hopes to raise 15,000 British pounds (about $23,500) for Help for Heroes this year. Next year, his goal is to ride Race Across AMerica (RAAM), a single-stage race of about 3,000 miles where the winning time is often under 10 days.

And he wants to do it on his Raleigh Chopper.

For more info about Sims, check out his very funny (bike-geek jokes galore!) website. Want to sponsor his RAAM ride? His contact info is there too.

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