Cardiac arrest survivor Dave climbs Ventoux on a wooden bike
It takes a certain type of cyclist to want to take on the slopes of Mont Ventoux, near-on 2,000m of rock towering over the French region of Provence in France.
Most would consider the 21km Ventoux climb a once-in-a-lifetime experience - tick it off and on to the next one - but in June, Dave Johnson found himself on his second trip up the mountain. In between his first ascent and this one, a period of 14 years, Dave had suffered and recovered from a cardiac arrest
Dave, from Essex, England, went into cardiac arrest during a cycling event in 2011 aged 51. He credits the Essex Air Ambulance for saving his life and has dedicated many subsequent bike rides towards raising money for the charity.
“I really wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them,” he said, adding that he was adamant that he wasn’t going to let the episode get in the way of his cycling. “From the bed in the hospital I was planning my next bike ride. At the time of my heart attack I was very fit and cycling a lot. If I hadn’t been it might have been a different story.”
At the time it was touch and go whether Dave would survive but he was back on his bike as soon as he recovered sufficiently and has continued to cycle regularly ever since. In the intervening years he has notched up many hundreds of miles on club rides, events, holidays and audaxes, including the historic 1,200km Paris-Brest-Paris bike ride.
To add further interest to his Ventoux challenge, this time Dave rode a wooden bike.
“It wasn’t so much the bike as the groupset that presented the challenge,” explained Dave. “The bike weighs about 8.5kg so not much more than any other road bike, but it was a standard 39-53 chainset, so I didn’t make things at all easy for myself. The first time I climbed Ventoux I was on my Pinarello, and I caned it. But I was also a lot younger and a lot lighter.”
Dave, who works in marine glue, was riding a wooden Aage frame built by Coh&Co, a Copenhagen-based framebuilder who transferred his craft from boatbuilding and creates a range of bikes from wood and carbon.
“I made friends with him years ago because he was a boat builder and a very skilled engineer,” explained Dave. “He built his own CNC machine and made helms and rudders. When I met up with him again and he said he was building wooden bikes I knew they would be special. People ask what it rides like; I have steel, carbon and aluminium bikes, and I tell people, ‘this rides like wood’. It is incredibly comfortable but the overriding thing is how quiet it is.”
The Aage Dave rode is made from sustainable basalt, with carbon reinforced inlay in the steat stay, which “gives it the drive.” A complete bike would set you back between £7,300 and £7,600, depending on the components you choose.
Dave climbed Ventoux with three riding companions; John Morris, George Berwick and Christian Ford, who all took part in the first expedition. He took 2hrs and 30m to get to the top, a full 30 minutes longer than his first visit, although he attributes some of this to stopping to take photos and an extended visit to the Tom Simpson memorial.
Even a second ascent might not be enough to sate Dave’s appetite for adventure: “Would I do it again? I’d definitely go back up there, but with sensible gears!”
Mont Ventoux facts
Average gradient: 7.5%
Max gradient: 12.5%
To donate to the Essex Air Ambulance click here
To find out more about Coh&Co bikes click here