Jesse Purves is an eight-year veteran of the U.S. Army who was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan for nearly two years. Like many veterans, he developed PTSD and had to find ways to live with those struggles. For him, the bike has become an essential tool to overcome those struggles. But many veterans don’t find ways to cope with their injuries and trauma. An estimated 22 veterans commit suicide every day.
To promote awareness of this issue, Purves, who currently works as a bike shop manager, decided to take on the 24-hour e-bike record held by Ravindra Kempaiah, standing at 391.22 miles.
“I knew that this was way more than just a ride,” said Purves in a video documenting his record. “This was a chance to make a difference and spread the life-changing benefits of cycling.”
Cycling has given Purves a sense of accomplishment. “With each mile I pedal, each ride I complete, I feel like I achieve something good that day,” he said. The 24-hour record attempt gave him a chance to reach more veterans about the benefits of cycling.
The overall message he wants to share is pretty succinct. “Riding can save your life,” he said.
Purves departed on his record attempt, which he called 24FOR22, on March 24, 2021 from Fort Irwin Army Base in California’s Mojave Desert—where he trained before deploying overseas—heading toward Fountain Hills Veteran Memorial Park in Arizona.
Riding a Specialized Creo e-bike, he stopped about every 40 miles to refuel, take a quick break and swap out his bike for a fully charged version, which was carried and recharged by a follow vehicle.
The low point came about halfway through, when night fell and brought the temperatures into the low 30-degree range. “I froze that night,” he said in the documentary, adding that if this had been merely for a record attempt, he probably would have quit. “But it was so much more to me.”
The ride had a secondary motive of showcasing what e-bikes can allow riders to accomplish. “I have some injuries from my service that put a limit on my ambitions for ultra-endurance, and so getting on an e-bike is increasing that ability again and bringing me back up,” he said in the documentary.
In the end, Purves handily set the new 24-hour record by pedaling 453.7 miles with 14,180 feet of elevation gain. And he raised over $4,000 to donate to Mission22, an organization committed to helping veterans, and in the process reduce that 22-veteran-suicides-a-day statistic.
Watch the Full Documentary Here
Learn more about the ride here.