Here's to the adventurers...

Five years ago London cycle courier Julian Sayarer completed the fastest cycle ride around the world, returning home after 165 days on the road.  23 years old when he set off on his ambitious unsupported ride, with just the packs strapped to his bike and his wits to get him through, Sayarer took the uncompromising approach that his journey was for no one but himself, even going so far as to call his blog of the trip This Is Not For Charity.  

In a world of charity rides, corporate team building adventures and big budget round the world record attempts tailgated by support cars and logistics crew, Sayarer's paired back low-budget endeavour stuck out as uncompromisingly principled.  And he is uncompromisingly principled; his writing is often filled with accounts of the injustices of the world which we all know to exist but we choose to ignore or feel helpless to address.  

Julian Sayarer roadside in China.

After a technical delay surrounding the veracity of his round the world claim and an uncomfortable spat with fellow round the world cyclist Mark Beaumont, Sayarer was even described as the 'Angry Young Man' of adventure cycling.

Beaumont has subsequently written a string of books about his cycling quests, and is now reporting for the BBC escorting the Queen's Baton as it relays around the world in advance of this summer's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Sayarer has taken his time over how to present his adventure as he would wish.  His new book, Life Cycles is filled with the beauty of his round the world trip as well as the toughness of the journey and the unique challenges inherent in such a trip and is being published on June 2nd 2014, with a launch party at Look Mum No Hands on June 5th.  

The forthcoming launch of Sayarer's book reminded me that another long distance cyclist, Tom Allen of Tom's Bike Trip and "Janapar" fame, is currently attempting to travel from one length of the country to the other with no budget at all, getting by on offers of food and accommodation in bartered return for work and help given along the way.  Tom's FreeLeJOG adventure has already taken him through Cornwall and Devon but as too many miles in the saddle alone is want to do, it has led to him worrying about the exact definition of his journey and how he'll be perceived if the terms of his adventure change along the way.

 Julian Sayarer admires the view having ridden his bike somewhere I never will.

I don't have the balls that Allen has to set off without even a credit card in my pocket, and I don't have the courage or the strength in my own convictions to do things as entirely my own way as Sayarer has.  Out on the road they might each analyse every turn of the wheel, but I would encourage them to live in the present and hope I can send them on their way in the knowledge that for those of us stuck behind desks and veneers of conformity, sharing in any kind of adventure is an adventure in itself for some.  So here's to the adventurers, says I, and sharing in their endeavours from the comfort of our arm chairs...

Tom Allen's account of his meandering attempt to ride the world, and what happens when love stopped him along the way, "Janapar" is out now.  Julian Sayarer's book Life Cycles launches on June 5th and will be available at all good book stores and is available now for pre-order on Amazon.

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Well done London! From the Big Ride to the streets where you live: space4cycling WILL make a difference

London Cycling Campaign's staff and hundreds of volunteers should be feeling extremely proud of themselves.  Not only did they present an impeccably organised family friendly "Big Ride" on Saturday pushing politicians to sign up to their space4cycling campaign, they've already procured pre-election promises from Councillors who will have the power to change the streets where you live.

London bathed in gloriously warm sunshine on Saturday, bringing cyclists out on to the streets in their thousands ready to have a good time, to enjoy their capital city, but to present a serious message too.  Whereas Park Lane usually drowns in the roar of motor traffic, the start of the Big Ride resounded to the tinkling of bells, music, chants and Mexican Waves.

The ride snaked past Hyde Park Corner, the Ritz Hotel, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square and Downing Street before meeting this year's Tweed Run cycling in the opposite direction on Parliament Square.  On Embankment the ride took a good half hour to pass me by as I took photos; estimates on turn out range between 5,000 and 7,500 cyclists and there were countless children there enjoying streets they wouldn't usually be able to ride on.  ITV and BBC news cameras rolled, whilst journalists scribbled from the sidelines.

London Cycling Campaign Chief Executive Ashok Sinha said, “We owe a debt of gratitude to the thousands who joined us today on our Space for Cycling Big Ride, helping to send a powerful message to London's politicians. Our city and borough leaders can be in no doubt as to the hunger there is from ordinary Londoners for streets that are safe and inviting for everyone to cycle."

As a direct result of the space4cycling campaign, all of the Councillors who will be elected in Hackney have pledged to implement the specific cycling demands in their area (which range from building quieter back routes right up to the removal of a gyratory system.)

In a very impressive show of support for cycling, every Green Party local Council candidate has signed up implement space4cycling pledges (840 candidates in 32 London boroughs) and the leader of the Green Party, Natalie Ben, joined the ride.

100% of Labour candidates in Croydon, Hackney, Hammersmith, Fulham, Lambeth and Sutton have signed up, 100% of Lib Dems in Hackney and Southwark, and 100% of Conservatives in Hackney, Bermondsey and Merton.  

Over 75,000 emails have been sent to prospective Councillors, putting the space4cycling agenda firmly in the centre of the battle for votes, with over a third of London's local election candidates agreeing to demands.

These people will be elected meaning there will be pre-election promises to be implemented; promises of slower speeds, safer cycling routes and space4cycling where you live.

Sadly only 0.2% of UKIP candidates have agreed to support the campaign, whilst none of the Christian Alliance Party's candidates have signed up at all.

But on Saturday little could dampen the spirits of the cyclists on the Big Ride.  The scores of children who came along showed who we are campaigning for, whilst a cyclist fatality in Elephant and Castle last week and a serious injury suffered by a cyclist in Shoreditch on Saturday morning itself showed why the message for a safer more liveable city is more important than ever.

It's not too late to add your voice of support: email your candidates here.

Did you enjoy the Big Ride?  The logistics cost the London Cycling Campaign - a charity - a lot of money.  If you had a good time and felt proud to be part of something making a difference on Saturday, please consider making a donation online here.  For the price of a cup of coffee you can help ensure events like this can happen again in the future.

More photos can be found on the London Cycling Campaign website here, as well as the BBC news report here and ITV's touching coverage of the recent death at Elephant and Castle here. Jason's Onion Bag blog has some great photos and snippets of speeches from all of the politicians who spoke at the Finish Line Rally here.  With space4cycling rides taking place across the UK, Bike Biz has the low down on protest rides elsewhere here.

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5 Top Tips for rocking the Big Ride!

Just days before London goes to the polls to elect hundreds of new local Councillors, thousands of cyclists will descend on central London this Saturday to take part in the space4cycling Big Ride.

The family-friendly fun ride with a serious message will snake its way through traffic-free streets, passing some of our capital's most famous landmarks along the way.  But this colourful carnival of cycles has a serious message, too: those who are elected to run 70% of our streets must make them safe and convenient to cycle upon.  The Big Ride is the culmination of a campaign that has asked thousands of prospective Councillors to sign up to creating space for cycling where they will rule.  It's not too late to ask yours, and takes just a few seconds.

So how do you survive a bike ride through Central London with thousands of other people?  Just follow our 5 Top Tips for Rocking the Big Ride!

1.  Grab your family and friends!
Bring as many people with you as you can; your Nan, your Mum, that nice Mr Jerrico from the corner shop down the road... Come one, come all!  They'll thank you for a fun, free, smile-filled day out and in return you get a pack of willing volunteers to carry all of your stuff for you (See Tip Number 2, below)

2.  Prepare for all meteorological eventualities!
It's London, it's spring, anything could happen!  You'll need to pack for all weathers: I'm thinking sun cream and rain coats, umbrellas and shades.  In all seriousness, check the weather before you depart and bring lots of layers with you; you might get quite warm riding to the event, but there may be a bit of waiting round in the open air at the start of the event where you are likely to cool down very quickly.  Bring plenty of clothes with you to keep your kids warm too.  If you're wondering how you're going to carry all this stuff, that's what the funny shaped rack on the back of your bike is for. Haven't got a rack? Talk to someone who has. "Well hello Mr Jerrico, I'm so glad you came!"

3.  Fill your tank with fuel!
Hungry cyclists are unhappy cyclists.  Hungry child cyclists are even worse.  Eat like a pro before you leave (I believe Sir Bradley Wiggins is partial to a Full English Breakfast) and bring plenty of sugary treats for along the way, too.  If you haven't ridden for a while you'll be surprised how hungry it makes you feel and trust me, fighting with several thousand other cyclists in a central London Pret-A-Manger over the last remaining flapjack is not a good look.

4.  Let the [bike] train take the strain!
Daunted by the prospect of riding to and from the ride with your family and friends?  Don't be!  Did you know you can take your bike on the Docklands Light Railway, the London Overground and also all of these sections of the tube network?  Better still, London Cycling Campaign volunteers are running a host of free escorted "feeder rides" to get you smoothly to the event - they're great fun and there's nothing like the experience of setting off in a big group of your neighbours and other local riders.  Here's a list of the feeder rides location and a map.

5. Make some noise!
Your favourite bike blogger (that's me, in case you were wondering) will be on the start line stage playing bike-related tunes, interviewing participants and generally doing his best to whip you all in to a frenzy.  But once you're past the bank of speakers, mass cycle rides can feel eerily quiet.  A nice shiny bell or some lovely big hooters can brighten up any ride, but why stop there?  Bring whistles, rattles and a host of witty campaign slogans to chant.  Or why not strap your iPod speakers to your bike, make up a cycling song playlist and have yourself a rolling disco?  Let's not be too English about this and make sure it's a real party, and London's knows why we are riding!

So decorate your bikes, make some signs, get dressed up in the space4cycling colours of red and white and see you there!

The space4cycling Big Ride will gather on London's Park Lane from 11AM, setting off at exactly midday on Saturday 17th May, ending by Temple Station on the Embankment.  Everything you need to know about Saturday's ride is over on the London Cycling Campaign website. 

All above photos by Ben Broomfield and James Perrin via the London Cycling Campaign, used with thanks. 

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London gets ready to demand change with the Big Ride, will you be there?

London goes to the polls next week to vote for the Councillors who will control 70% of our city's roads; the streets where you live, the routes that you take to school, the quietways set back from the main roads.  In 2012 the London Cycling Campaign succeeded in strong-arming the Mayor to commit a billion pounds to create safe space for cycling on our main roads, and now they're hoping to repeat the success with our local borough councils.

So far a third of all the Council candidates have signed up to implement changes to bring about space for cycling in each ward of the city, but the LCC are hoping their Big Ride this Saturday will help to get even more on board.  It's going to be a two-wheeled kaleidoscopic cycling carnival but with a very serious message: that in order to keep all kinds of cyclists safe, to reduce the death toll on London's roads and to encourage more and more people to ride we must make more safe space for cycling.

How we go about that varies from each borough, with the LCC creating an incredibly comprehensive map of "asks"; from creating residential routes closed to through traffic right up to reducing entire gyratory systems.  It takes just a few seconds for you to find your ward and ask your local Councillors to implement change if they're elected.

And to ensure cycling is at the forefront of all the candidate's minds just days before London goes to the polls, this Saturday's Big Ride is going to really increase the pressure.

Thousands of Londoners are expected; from the very young to the very old, from the lycra clad to the laissez faire on sit up and begs.  There will be music and speeches to greet riders as they assemble on Park Lane, before processing through the very heart of London along an amazing traffic free route suitable for all the family.

Like a mini site-seeing tour of London, the ride will pass Apsley House at Hyde Park Corner, the Ritz Hotel, Fortnum and Masons, the bright lights of Piccadilly Circus, the National Gallery and Trafalgar Square, Downing Street, the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye.

As well as promising to be a fun day out, every individual who comes will help to build the space4cycling message and ensure that the "story" gets maximum exposure from the media and maximum attention from Council candidates.  
Be there!

The London Cycling Campaign's Space For Cycling Big Ride gathers on Park Lane from 11AM on Saturday 17th May, departing at noon before ending on Embankment.  There are over 30 guided rides from across London to get you there safely, so why not come along and join in?

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