THERE are two ways of looking at it: it's a gruelling, eight-day cycle ride under the hot sun; or it's blissful time out, to pedal through the glorious hinterland of the Northern Rivers and camp under the stars.
Either way, the 45 cyclists who lined up at the Lismore helibase for the start of the Hell on Wheels event that started last Saturday, will know their efforts are helping raise valuable funds to keep the Westpac Life Saver Rescue helicopter in the air.
The riders are aged from 22 to 68. This year there are 10 women on the ride,
The ride, sponsored by Yellow Pages, makes a significant contribution - this is the 15th year it's been held and so far more than $750,000 has been raised for the helicopter service.
Organiser Tony Keogh told The Echo all riders threw $200 into the kitty when they registered, as well as paying all their own expenses along the way and fundraising throughout the year.
"But we have some comforts - a chef, a mobile kitchen, a medic on a motorbike and plenty of water in the support van," Tony said.
Asked what walks of life the cyclists came from, Tony said one of the things he enjoyed about bringing the group together was that he had no idea what they did in their "day jobs" and it wasn't important.
"The only hierarchy here is about their ability to ride their bikes," he said.
"Half of the people this year are return riders - some have done it many times - and half of the cyclists are newbies."
One of the "veterans", 68-year-old cyclist Geoff Tomkins of Chilcotts Grass said that he, like many of the other riders, had been in training for a while to do the ride, which headed from Lismore to Casino on the first day, and would continue to Toonumbar Dam, Urbenville, Killarney, Woodenbong and Kyogle before returning to Lismore - a 500 km ride.
People who would like to help sponsor the ride can meet up with the riders at Woodenbong this Friday night, October 12 or Saturday morning. By Saturday night, October 13, they will be at Kyogle, heading back to Lismore on Sunday. Follow the tour at www.facebook.com
/hellonwheelscycletour, or phone 6627 4444 for details.