After seeing the challenges faced by Big Issue vendors during lockdown, our events manager Laura and her partner took on a coast to coast cycle challenge to raise money to support!
What inspired you to do a cycling challenge?
Like many people during the lockdown I turned to my bike as a way to get out of the house, explore the local area and keep fit. Whilst summer plans had been cancelled and we weren’t able to socialise in the normal way, bike rides in and around London became a way to have a mini adventure at the weekend. I’ve always wanted to do a cycling challenge in the UK and so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to explore part of the country I’ve never been to!
During lockdown I was so inspired by how many Big Issue Foundation supporters organised weird and wonderful challenges to support Big Issue vendors. This definitely motivated us to get out of our comfort zone and organise our own challenge.
Why did you choose The Big Issue Foundation? (Apart from the fact you work here!)
I am constantly inspired by the work of The Big Issue Foundation and how incredibly hard the frontline teams have worked and adapted during the pandemic. During lockdown, whilst Big Issue vendors were unable to sell the magazine for 15 weeks, the frontline team were able to support 1,600 vendors nationwide to ensure they had vital support on tenancies, mental health, domestic violence and accessing food banks, as well as distributing £600,000 in the form of supermarket vouchers and hardship payments to provide emergency relief.
Working at the charity I see first-hand how crucial our services are in supporting Big Issue vendors alongside their magazine sales and most importantly how hard Big Issue vendors work day in day out to earn a legitimate income.
How did you plan the trip?
After a quick google of ‘best cycling routes in the UK’ (it turns out there are a lot of them!) we settled on The Trans Pennine Trail, mostly due to the fact that 70% of the route is off road which was perfect for novice cyclists like us. The route takes you coast to coast from Southport to Hornsea along canal paths, old railway tracks and through country villages so it was the perfect way to experience varied landscapes and explore parts of the country we’d never been to. We then plotted our route and booked accommodation at the end of each day – rather ambitiously deciding to do two legs of the journey (65 miles) in one day, which we later came to regret…
How did you train for the trip?
As neither of us are experienced cyclists we planned a few bike rides beforehand that were the length of our average day so we could get a sense of our pace and how long it should realistically take us. This didn’t necessarily prepare us for the bumpy tracks in the Pennines though!
What were the three most essential things you brought with you?
- Padded shorts – they were non-negotiable and I don’t think we would’ve managed without them
- Laundry detergent – we had limited space in our panniers and wanted to pack as little as we could so that our bikes were as light as possible. This meant that we were hand washing clothes almost every night when we arrived at our accommodation
- Pack of cards – for when you’re sick of talking about cycling logistics!
What was the best part of the trip?
Cycling over the Pennines was by far the most challenging part of our trip – it was pouring with rain all day, so steep we had to push and even carry our bikes up parts of it and it felt like the day would never end. But the feeling of satisfaction as we cruised for miles downhill the other side through the beautiful Yorkshire countryside on quiet winding roads made it all worth it!
What advice would you give to someone thinking about a similar challenge?
Do it! I am by no means an experienced cyclist so we just picked a challenge that was suitable for our level, with the knowledge that we could do it at our own pace, and push our bikes if we really needed to (there was a lot of that..) Plan your route before you go but stay flexible and allow for time during the day to get lost (it will happen) or stop in places that you like the look of – whether it’s sitting by a lake, exploring a village you pass through or hanging around a bit longer for lunch (there were lots of lovely country pubs along the way!)
Laura raised over £600 to support Big Issue vendors across the UK.
Interested in organising a challenge of your own? Get in touch with Laura on firstname.lastname@example.org or read more here.