Who? A team of friends raising awareness of mental health issues & especially Bipolar Disorder
What? A number of BIG events aiming to raise loads of cash for Bipolar UK
When? The Lands End to John O'Groats cycle was in June. More events coming soon...
Why? In memory of Duncan Toft, a Bipolar sufferer and close friend, who tragically died aged 41
It was a hectic few weeks prior to the big ride! Ashley cycled Coast to Coast with an Explore group as part of his training, whilst others built up the miles closer to home. There were lots of meetings to finalise the logistics, and the team brushed up on their cycle maintenance, as well as ramping up the fundraising effort. Click below to see Ashley's blog...
"The Coast to Coast ride (Whitehaven to Tynemouth) with seasoned cycle leader, Brian Bestford and seven Explore customers on 19th April was fantastic (read my full tale of cycling across northern England on the Explore website). The scenery as you leave Whitehaven and head into the Lake District is just stunning, then as you continue east it turns from rolling green hills, lakes, stone walls and sheep to quite stark moorland, deserted mining hamlets and sheep! I elected to use the Trek hybrid bikes that Explore provide for customers which was well suited to the terrain as it was mostly on backroads, with some challenging climbs including Hartside and a killer of an ascent coming out of Stanhope en route to Parkhead. Anyway, it was a great training ride (140 miles over three days) in good company and gave me a real focus on some practical things such as waterproofs (need new ones!) and Camelbaks (how much water do I need to carry?) etc.
On return from that ride, I got the message that my new bike had arrived. The bike shop had had problems with the shipment which was delayed, so they flew my bike (a Trek Superfly 29er) in specially from the States, as I was showing signs of panic and stress that it wouldn’t be here in time. That’s VIP treatment for you – phew! It feels great and everything works – I think I’ve given myself the best possible chance of completing the ride now – though of course anything can happen!
With only a few weeks to go now until we leave its been quite tough for all of us to keep the momentum going with training as well as the logistics around the ride, plus our day jobs and family commitments. Our wives and other halves have been incredibly supportive, but will be happy when it's over I think. What ever did we do with all that spare time before this crazy bike ride idea came up?!
Last Thursday one of our key sponsors, East Street Cycles hosted a maintenance workshop evening for us at their shop in Farnham. 12 of the riders were able to make it and it was great for many to meet up for the first time. We took some photos outside the shop in our new Explore Bipolar T-Shirts, with a view to getting an article in the Farnham Herald and other local rags before we leave. Then Gary, the owner, and Phil talked us through some bike mechanics; everything from tyres (should we go tubeless or not?), and derailleurs to bike set-up and brakes. Some hadn’t mended a puncture for 20 years whilst others are regularly maintaining their bikes, so there was lots of healthy debate and hopefully we picked up some tips along the way that we’ll remember and will come in useful. East Street have kindly agreed to provide us with a box of consumables on a sale or return basis, and are driving up to meet us after the first week to give our bikes a once over. They’ve been absolute stars!
The fundraising has snowballed, with our ‘King Of Fundraising’ Johnny Rath getting a great response through his corporate contacts. Including Giftaid we are now up to an amazing £38,000 and it's still coming in. I joined my step-sister Pippa at Legal & General, where she works, a couple of weeks back and through the sponsorship of her marathon and a raffle, quiz and dress-down day they raised £6700! I’ve been totally overwhelmed by peoples' generosity and their wish to support the issues of mental health and especially Bipolar.
As well as T-shirts, we have banners being made and decals (stickers) for the two Volvo XC90 vehicles that are supporting us. We must remember that this is as much about awareness as fundraising, so good to be as visible as possible whilst we are on the road (or should I say offroad!). I must remember to get the order into the printers this week! We are meeting the drivers this Thursday to discuss logistics of bikes, roof racks, tow bars, navigation and to answer any other questions they may have.
I plan to do one more really long ride (60-70 miles) before the training starts to wind down, but not quite sure when I’m going to fit in a 6-7hr pedal… it may mean a very early start one day before everyone else wakes up.
The PR team at Explore have been arranging a day of radio interviews for me on the Friday after we get back (hope they’ve got a comfy sofa in the studio) and the office staff are threatening to match our miles whilst we’re riding on static bikes in the office (as relay) and to raise more sponsorship that way.
This is one amazing team effort, and I’ve been so lucky to have the support of so many people, from Kay who is driving (with her son) the whole way with us and who has arranged all the accommodation, to Mike and Andy who have done so much of the route plotting and navigation and are still working on it to get it just right before we leave.
I know that the time before we start the ride will now fly by, but will aim to get a couple more blogs in before we leave…"