Steven Payne


In 1931 the great crooner Noel Coward once sang “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the Midday sun.” Little could he have imagined that nearly 90 years later one particularly mad Englishman would not only go out in the midday sun, but would do so replete with full tweed suit while bouncing on a space hopper, crossing the Alps…


Like something out of a madman’s dream, Steven Payne exhibits the very greatest of English eccentricities; following a rather life changing 2015 – an unfortunate trio of the death of his father, his fiancé’s departure, and being diagnosed with leukaemia – there bore an opportunity to reinvent himself as an intrepid, if not slightly barmy, adventurer, already infamous locally for his preferred method of transport, his trusty Penny Farthing.


“It was an awful time, but once I had sold our home I started to think about how I could turn my misfortune into an opportunity…That is how I ended up spending several months researching and re-enacting a 14th-century pilgrimage.”


This 200-mile walk across the south of England – from Southampton to Canterbury, the same Mediaeval route in honour of St. Thomas Becket – allowed Payne the time to cogitate and concoct plans for his life moving forwards. Finding himself assisting with projects to aid the homeless in his hometown of Chichester, it was over lunch one day with one of the gentlemen he was helping that the conversation turned to the difficulties the homeless face when trying to secure a job with no permanent address. It was here that his new friend, Paul, uttered the immortal words; “it’s virtually impossible [to get a job], it’s like trying to cross the Alps on a space hopper.

With a deep sense of humility Payne decided that this had to be his next challenge. Taking inspiration from those incredible historical achievements of Napoleon and Hannibal, both of whom made it across the Alps in amazing feats of bravery and grandeur, he spent the next 8 months planning his route;

Aut viam inveniam aut faciam [I will either find a way, or make one.]

  • Hannibal, C3rd BC

Per resulto ad astra [Through bouncing to the stars.]

  • Steven Payne, 2018

Taking with him four space hoppers, including the aptly named Haniball and Napoleon Blownapart, Payne set off from Bardoneccia in Italy with 122km and over two weeks of bouncing ahead of him, the end point being Grenoble, France. Travelling at a little over half a mile an hour with up to 9 hours of bouncing a day, “I had to pause every 10 bounces [on steeper gradients] to make sure I didn’t get cramp.” Impressively, he covered a good 4.5 miles per day. It made for an interesting conversation with his Physiotherapist upon his return;

“So Mr Payne, both your knees are giving you problems I understand, and how did this happen exactly?”

“Well, I injured my left knee falling off my Penny Farthing, and I injured my right knee whilst crossing the Alps on a space hopper.”

Providing humorous daily updates via his Facebook page – his following growing from 120 to 182,000 over the course of his journey – he provided many words of wisdom learnt along the way, such as do not accept local hospitality in the form of a hearty home-cooked meal and vat of wine; “I fell asleep on his [a local host’s] porch, then spent a very uncomfortable afternoon trying to bounce on a full stomach.” Soon after, disaster struck. On day 5 Napoleon Blownapart lived up to his name, and popped. 10 days later, Nelly the hopper blew off a cliff after Payne was taking a well deserved rest on a mountainside;

[Bonaparte vs. Blownapart. Spot the difference.]

“She blew off down the hill, and the last sight I had was of a wildly erratic ball rolling back down into the valley it had just taken me half an hour to climb out of.”


Reaching Grenoble after 17 agonising days, faced with heatstroke, a twisted knee, and altitude sickness, Payne became the first person to ever cross the Alps…on a space hopper. “It was 17 days of hell, but the views were great.” He endured one of the hottest summers on record, all the while hopping in a tweed suit, 1880s pith helmet, and having to wash in the freezing mountain rivers that were fed by the melting glaciers. Ever the consummate adventurer, while recovering in a local hotel Payne faced his greatest tribulation yet when he realised that he “may have to lie here for a couple of days and watch French TV, and that may actually be a worse fate than crossing the Alps on a space hopper!”

Proving that nothing is impossible, and having a profound sense that one’s fortunes could turn for the worse at any moment – as evidenced by his work with the homeless, a cause he championed the entire journey across the Alps, and continues to do so – Payne retains a logical and somewhat philosophical view of his exploits:


For now, remember that life is uncertain and that you should do the crazy stuff now before it is too late.


His next adventure? “I’m trying to choose between cycling across the Channel and something involving a Penny Farthing and a suit of armour.”



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