Meet Jim. Some months he’s at work in the North Sea as a saturation diver; other months he’s a full time bike adventurer. He’s also a Beeline Ambassador and is currently planning a Beeline the length of Portugal.
We caught up with him to find out more.
We’ve heard of scuba diving, free diving and sky diving, but...saturation diving? Having been in the business for 20 years, Jim is the man to ask. He spends several months of each year working off of the north east coast of Scotland, diving to a depth of 100m for six hours each day to maintain oil pipelines. In teams of three, the saturation divers are lowered to 90m in a diving bell and carry out work on the sea floor.
The saturation part? At the beginning of the month, the divers enter the chamber and are 'blown in': heliox is pumped into the chamber until the pressure is equal to that at to 80m below sea level and the divers are all speaking like Bugs Bunny.
This has the advantage of affording the team 28 diving days with just one, four-day, decompression at the end. The disadvantage is not being able to leave the four walls of the chamber, or see natural light (the sea bed is murky and dark) for a month. Oh, and the higher partial pressure of oxygen in the chamber isn't great for fitness - coming out it's hard work just walking up the stairs.
So Jim spends his days in the chamber dreaming of action and adventure! He'll often head off on two wheels, but you can also regularly find him on the slopes in the US, Georgia and France. With Portugal the next adventure in line, that will be his focus for his next month in the compression chamber. The plan so far is to set off from Spain's Santiago de Compostela and follow a sort-of 'off-road' tourist trail down to the south of Portugal. He'll camp the whole way and see where the Beeline takes him!
Originally from Bradford, now based in Dorset, Jim has been cycling since he caught the bug as a child. He does everything from trailing on the Specialized Stumpjumper he’s had since he was 13, to cyclo-crossing on his Ibis Hakkalugi and beating out 300 cyclists to win Rapha's Hell of the North (19 off-road sections, 87km of 'white-knuckle riding' - a 'Paris-Roubaix for the aficionados') on his ‘proper lightweight and super fast’ Giant TTR. He's also got his eye on a tandem for him and his 10-year-old daughter.
You’ll regularly find Jim tearing up the hills in the west of England but he’s partial to big adventures too, so he regularly sticks his panniers on his bike, leaves the house and just starts pedalling. He doesn’t usually plan too much - he just gets the wheels rolling and gets on with it.
He’s got a few to choose from, and feels like 'when you’re on your bike every place you go is like the best place you’ve ever been. It sounds corny. But it’s not'. If he had to pick one, though, his favourite two-wheeled adventure so far has to be cycling the length of France with a mate a couple of years ago. The pair did two-thirds of the ride off-road, including a big section down the Loire Valley, packing just the essentials - a stove, coffee, porridge and honey and a good knife.
The weather was amazing, they spent nights gazing at the stars from the bivvy bags, and they lapped up the simplicity of life on the road. Jim's a 'speed tourer' who doesn't hang about and managed to average a very impressive 17 mph off-road. There's no hanging about - he says that he and his friend follow a simple mantra: 'heads down, bums up'!
Out of the saddle, his biggest adventure conquest was a trip to Georgia last year. He and a friend headed to the 'middle of nowhere' where they crossed the mountains from hut to hut and saw some amazing spring avalanches as the winter's ice melted. Getting off the grid also gave them the opportunity to meet the people of rural Georgia - many of whom, Jim says, 'are still living like they did hundreds of years ago'.
And what about the biggest adventure fail - has Jim ever been anywhere that he would warn all others against visiting? 'I really don't know. You try to make the best of everything, don’t you? Sometimes it’s your fault if you go to a rubbish place. You haven’t tried. I come from Bradford which is pretty grim. Nowhere’s that bad'!
Jim's cycling inspiration is his wife's Uncle Rodney. At 80, Uncle Rodney is still getting out on his bike every day, including regular trips to the velodrome. If Jim can still be out on his bike at 80 he'd be very happy with that! His life inspiration? Jimmy Chin whose climbing and adventures are so epic they make Jim feel 'as though he's only scraped the surface' with is own impressive explorations.
If Jim's only scraped the surface we're not sure where that leaves us, but we are in awe!
A few final questions...
And finally, as is tradition, we asked Jim for his Desert Island Discs:
His eight tracks:
William Fotheringham - Put Me Back In My Bike about Tim Simpson's untimely demise
And his luxury item:
Luxury would be an amazing portable coffee machine (not yet invented in his opinion - if you're reading this, here's your gap in the market)
Jim is one of our Ambassadors. As part of the Beeline family, Ambassadors contribute in a diverse range of ways, all helping to take Beeline to the next level. Our Ambassadors come in all shapes and sizes, but they all have one thing in common: they all love their Beeline adventures and want to spread the good word, through their local cycling club, on social media, among friends in the local pub, or from the top of a mountain pass on the other side of the world. Think that sounds like you? Send us an email at email@example.com telling us about your best adventure on 2 wheels!