When Will Hodson, an elementary school teacher, jumped onto his bike in May 2015, he transformed into... SuperCyclingMan.
Decked out in a red cape and a blue bodysuit, he's on a mission to bicycle across every continent (even Antarctica), all the while raising money for charity and spreading the message that everyone can be a hero.
Max, a children's book about superheroes, inspired Hodson to undertake the arduous journey. He read the book to his 5-year-old students, sparking a classroom conversation about everyday heroism from opening a door for a stranger to giving a friend a compliment. In a video interview for The Washington Post, Hodson relayed the book's message:
“We can all be heroes. We can all do something to make someone’s day better.”
The students also talked about what each of them was good at, which inspired their individual superhero personas. "We all made our own superhero costumes — all the 30 children in my class," Hodson told the publication. "And I decided I was SuperCyclingMan."
From there, Hodson saved up for two years before quitting his job to become SuperCyclingMan full-time. He challenged himself to a 5-year ride around the world to raise money for charity. "I had dreamed about cycling around the world for years," he told A Plus via email, "and there was a real danger that this would have remained a dream...until I really committed and worked really hard for two years to get it started."
Already, SuperCyclingMan has raised nearly £14,000.
That's over $19,000. With one continent (Europe) down and almost four years left to reach his goal in January 2020, he's well on his way.
"Every day is different when you are travelling on a bike," he told A Plus, "And I think that's a big part of why I am so happy on this cycling adventure as I am constantly doing and learning new things."
And he shows no signs of slowing down. Currently, Hodson is zipping and careening his way through Georgia on the way to his second continent: Asia.
But no matter how far or how fast Hodson pedals, he’s never completely left the classroom.
In every country, SuperCyclingMan tries to visit at least one school to inspire as many children as possible with the "we can all be superheroes" message that forever changed his life.
"Visiting schools in different countries around the world is a really fun part of my adventure," he told A Plus. One school in Belgium even organized their own "superheroes fancy dress fundraising day" and raised over $300 for Hodson's selected charities.
Beginning with a heroic entrance, Hodson rides into the schools' assembly halls to the Superman theme song. To hit the #WeCanAllBeHeroes message home, however, he explains that underneath his superhero costume, he's "a very ordinary guy" who just happens to be doing something extraordinary.
"I enjoy challenging the children to think about how they can be a hero every day. It could be a small but thoughtful act like opening a door for someone or not giving up on something if they find it hard."Will Hodson
Hodson also loves receiving emails, news, and photographs from teachers and children on the road. "Getting feedback like this absolutely makes my day," he told A Plus.
SuperCyclingMan's next school visit is in Kazakhstan. "Before I began this trip I think I would have struggled to find where Kazakhstan is on the world map," he told A Plus. "So I love the fact that I am learning new things each day, too."
After Asia, Hodson will head to Australia, North America, South America, Antarctica, and Africa before returning to Europe. Super fans can even follow along with SuperCyclingMan's daily progress on his Facebook page.
While the actual trip is mostly a solo one (a cycling group in Mongolia has contacted him about doing a group ride), he can't do it alone.
Luckily, SuperCyclingMan isn't the only hero out there.
"Something has happened on every single day of the trip so far that has put a smile on my face and made my day," he told A Plus. Hodson's received random acts of kindness from someone buying him a drink to complete strangers giving him a bed to sleep in.
When it was negative 16 degrees in Turkey, gas station attendants provided him with overnight shelter, and Serbian citizens greeted him with a giant pizza when he crossed the border.
Even those who don't cross paths with Hodson can still show their super selves by contributing to his causes or funding his journey on his website. One fun and fashionable way supporters can help is by buying SyperCyclingMan adjustable wristbands.
Besides showcasing his signature logo, each bracelet features "hello" embossed in 15 different languages and a world map showing the seven continents. All proceeds are split 50/50 between keeping SuperCyclingMan between the wheels and supporting his selected charities.
"I hope that this will inspire people to go for their dreams too, whatever they are, as we can do some pretty incredible things when we don’t give up."
Though still early in this heroic journey, both Will Hodson and his alter ego SuperCyclingMan have already proved they're willing to go the distance to make a difference.