Isle Beat the Trains and Cars Again

Michael McCabe has been commuting from sway, near Lymington, to his work as a mathematics lecturer at the University of Portsmouth for 28 years. On 7th September 2018 he is retiring and will travel via two ferries and the isle of Wight for one final time on his electric bicycle (9or e-bike).

His story hit the national news in January 2001, appearing in all the national and local newspapers; national and local radio and TV in the south, including a ride-on interview during South Today. The train service via Southampton had become so unreliable that he devised his own “overseas” route. Michael was hit by a serious life-threatening illness in 2016 and will be accompanied by his friend David Johnsen on his farewell journey, which will be used as a fundraiser for Brain Tumour Research, the universities flagship charity.

Michael explains why he is repeating his eccentric route to work:

“On 11th January 2001, Sally Taylor and Roger Finn interviewed me on the South Today about my unusual commute to work across the isle of Wight. I live in Sway near Lymington and had been enduring an unreliable train service via Southampton. My solution was to buy an electric bike and travel across to the isle of Wight on the Yarmouth ferry, returning to Portsmouth from Fishbourne. The story went viral!”

The highlight of the media coverage was the feature on South Today and my ride-on part in it. You can enjoy  it again at

Michael continues his story:

“When I started marathon running in 2002, my e-bike commute across the isle of Wight became impractical. I ran a total of 33 marathons between 2002 and 2015, including sub-3 hours at London in 2010 when I was 56. I bought a car and drove up and down the M27 to work each day so that I could run regularly with the New Forest Runners and Portsmouth Joggers. In 2005 I won the Great South Run vet-50 prize and into my 60s expected to maintain my fitness, but was not prepared for what was to happen next.”


“In February 2016 at the age of 62 I was diagnosed as having a rare auto-immune disease, called Polyarteritis Nodosa or PAN. After week in intensive care and months in treatment at Southampton General Hospital, I required ongoing medication and had chronic kidney disease CKD. I eventually returned to work by car. My limited physical ability allowed me a blue disability badge so that I could park near my office at the University of Portsmouth.”

“I am sad not to be able to run anymore. I am however President of the New Forest Runners and am very proud of my role now in cheering on runners! My disability is minor, since I can walk about 3-4 miles. Nevertheless, I’m a little anxious about my challenge, even though my buddy Dave says he will look after me. I am very happy to be retiring, bringing my days of commuting to an end, but I will miss Portsmouth and its young people very much!”

“When I commuted by e-bike in 2001 electric bicycles were in their infancy and its lead acid battery extremely heavy. Modern electric bikes are lighter and more powerful, so I am buying a new electric bicycle, so that I can ride my route to work again. Interestingly my colleague Dr Jamie Foster in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Portsmouth is engaged in cutting edge research designed to improve the performance of modern Li-ion batteries”

“Other important research at the University of Portsmouth is carried out by a team led by Prof Geoff Pilkington, who works on brain tumours. Since I will be 65 and retiring from my work as a mathematics lecture on 9th September, my last day of work will be Friday 7th September 2018. Together with my buddy and electric bike expert David Johnsen, we will be cycling my well established commuting route across the Isle of Wight for one last time. We will be fundraising for Brain Tumour Research, which helps to support the internationally recognised work by Geoff Pilkington’s research group.”

“Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer. The MP Tessa Jowell Recently died from brain cancer helping to raise awareness of its severity.”

“For a fit person with an e-bike this ride would be easy, but with CKD and daily drug treatment it will be more of a challenge for me. Dave and I are looking forward to one final commute to work, before I settle into retirement. Both of us have been fortunate to survive major illness in recent years. We hope that we can raise as much as possible for the Brain Tumour Research charity. “

To donate to Michael’s cause please visit

Michael McCabe, before his diagnosis had been a staff deduction member with us for over 10 years. He gave a lot of credit to our fitness classes and instructors for keeping his strength up during his marathon running days. From all at Sport and Recreation we’d like to wish Mike the best in his retirement.
Our staff deduction membership is only £16.99 per month, which is taken directly from your salary. The membership includes unlimited gym use, fitness classes and racket sports, as well as including all our drop-in sport sessions. For more information please visit our join now page or email
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