Holley man bikes over 30K miles on 6 continents for breast cancer fundraising

Posted 28 April 2014 at 12:00 am

Photos by Sue Cook – Michael Fahey stands with his Gary Fisher bicycle. He has had four total bikes since he took up riding. He has also owned a French racer, a Trek 730 Hybrid and a Giant. Fahey estimates he carries about 70 pounds of gear with him on his bike when he going for a long ride.

By Sue Cook, staff reporter

HOLLEY – Holley resident Michael Fahey began his journey during hard times. When his wife of 27 years, Ruth, was diagnosed with breast cancer, Fahey took up cycling as a hobby. He also served as her caregiver.

In 1995, Ruth passed away at age 48. Fahey has used cycling since then to raise money for cancer research. He said he has raised “thousands” for the cause.

Fahey started cycling in the early ’90s. He said he was a little overweight at the time.

“My wife was a nurse practitioner. She said ‘You need a physical. You haven’t had one since you left the service.’ So I had one and they thought I had a problem with my heart,” Fahey said. “So the cardiologist said ‘You need to lose weight and exercise. So I started walking, and I got up to 10 miles, but it just took too long. So I bought this cheap road bike from Toys ’R Us and rode that for a while. Then my brother came to visit from Chicago and left his bike, a French racer, and I rode that and that’s how it all got started.”

Ruth supported Fahey’s efforts to exercise through bicycling. “In the last six months before she passed away, that’s where I did my riding.”

Fahey’s rides, in America and foreign countries, were for raising breast cancer research money.

“The fundraising was done in the United States through talks, advertisements, word of mouth,” he said. “When I finished the United States, 3,000 miles in 38 days, I said what the heck, let’s do the rest of the world.” That was in 1996.

“I would just get a map of the countries I wanted to go to and plot out my trip, and I always tried to find a community that I was stopping in that had a youth hostel in it.”

In his worldwide journey, he has met with some misfortunes, including lost bikes and luggage. His Trek bicycle that he took to Ireland and England, didn’t fare so well when it was brought home.

“That lasted for one year and the Canadian airlines crushed it on the way back from England,” Fahey said. “I’ve been very fortunate. All my problems with bicycles and transportation has been on the return. I’ve had my bicycle lost for awhile going over, but not damaged.”

Hi daughter Shari cycled across the United States with him. She got out of bicycling, but then she got back into doing triathlons. His other two daughters, Kathy and Shannon, are not into the sport, but support Fahey.

Fahey has ridden on six out of the seven continents. In 2013, he followed a route known as The Way of St. James, which stretches from Paris, France to Santiago, Spain. It was a well-traveled Christian pilgrimage from medieval times that follows the route of St. James bones to their burial in Spain.

Fahey calls this his ‘bragging jacket.’ There are patches all over it from the countries he has been to and embroidered with the dates of when he was there.

Fahey’s favorite country to travel through was China. The people were more than willing to help a stranger.

“I was in China three times to get across and the Chinese people in the countryside were so good to me. If I broke down, the village would come out to try and help.”

The Chinese gave Fahey fresh water as he rode out along his trip through the country.

“If I ran out of water, all I needed to do was stop some place and say ‘water’ to people,” Fahey said. “I ran out of water on my first day. The first time, I was passing a construction utility truck. They were parked there taking a break. I said ‘water’ and they filled up everything I had with water. The next time, I ran out of water again and a motorcycle club came by and I said something about being short of water. They all go and get their water and they filled my water up.”

Fahey continues to ride and focuses his talks and fundraising locally for now, though he is planning to move out of the area soon.

On Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at the Geneseo United Methodist Church in Geneseo, he will be giving a free talk put on by Geneseo Young at Heart. It is open to the public and Fahey plans to focus mostly on talking about cycling and his journey. However, he says he will also talk about his wife because she was the inspiration for him to make these trips and perform fundraising efforts.

Fahey has also written a book. The first chapter focuses on his wife. The rest of the book is about his bicycling. The book is titled “Biking to Save My Soul: America, Ireland, and England.” It is $15 and $1 of each purchase will go to the American Cancer Society. To order a book from Amazon, click here. To buy directly from Fahey, e-mail PROSRV95@gmail.com.