Ride With Mike - Cheltenham to Malta

28th August 2018

At Pink Sky, we've long held the view that when we can use our skills to help the wider community, we should use those skills to effect change. This belief is within all of us at Pink Sky, and the opportunity to contribute 20% of our time benefits us all: we improve our skills, broaden our knowledge, see the world from different perspectives, and we make new friends.

Over the years we've supported a number of charities (not least our own, The 100 Project) using our skills in design, media, software, copywriting, and so on.  The latest 20% charity we're supporting is CALM - the Campaign Against Living Miserably.   To support them, we sent resident "pro" cyclist, Hywel, out to make a short video about Mike Swinford, a cyclist and bike mechanic who'll soon be setting off to ride the 3,220 kilometres from Cheltenham to Malta, self-supported and, mostly, alone.

Having done a fair bit of cycling over the last few years I can't help having mixed emotions about Mike's challenge.  On one hand I look at his plans and think, "Really?  Really?  That's a really long way to ride a bike, especially when loaded with 15kg of gear."  On the other, I think, "Yeah, I'm envious."  On both hands, my last thought is the same: "I'll get my bike!"

Many people may look at cycling and think it to be a solitary sport, but it isn't.  There's great camaraderie amongst cyclists, so even if you're the only one heading your way on your long Sunday ride, you'll meet other cyclists heading their way, and for a fleeting moment they'll be with you.  However, 28 days on a bike is something else: that's a lot of time to be inside your own head.  When the riding is good and the weather fair, cycling is easy.  When you're cranking slowly up a climb in driving rain, though, cycling is agonising and depressing.

With this in mind, I spent a few (meaning several) hours out and about in the Cotswolds with Mike to find out more about his challenge, with a view to seeing how Team Pink could help.

Mike's been a cyclist for most of his life, at one time competing on tandems.  He's even piloted tandems with sight-impaired co-riders.  A time-triallist, an endurance rider, and a great mate to follow around the highways and by-ways that lead out of Cheltenham into a countryside that few people see.  He seems to have his perfect job, too, as a bike mechanic in Cheltenham's Leisure Lakes Bikes store.  He basically spends 70% of his time with bikes, and the other 30% with the other two loves of his life: Lola, his gorgeous Beagle, and Eve, his equally lovely and ever-patient fiancée.

"I've lost an uncle, and some friends, to suicide so CALM is the perfect charity for me to support."

In the UK, suicide is the biggest killer of men aged 15 to 45, and CALM is there to provide free and confidential support to those who need them.  Offering a telephone helpline and web-chat between 5pm and midnight, CALM's team is available 365 days a year at the times when thoughts of suicide are most prevalent.

Mike's route will take him from Cheltenham to Portsmouth, crossing by ferry to Le Havre in Northern France, before heading through the Alps into Italy, passing through Pisa, Rome, Pompeii, and Sicily, before arriving in Malta 28 days later.  The route has been designed to include some of the Alps' notorious climbs, and the schedule includes a few "Uh-oh Days" - days that are set aside accommodate problems, delays, and a bit of rest if necessary.

"I've never done anything like this before.  The longest I've been away with my bike is two days, so anything could happen.  I could get lost, suffer mechanicals, and I'm clumsy."

At 08:30 on Saturday, 1st September, cyclists will meet at the Pittville Pump Rooms.  Riders will accompany Mike on the first leg of his journey, some going all the way to Plymouth before returning on Sunday, some not going quite as far.

"Doing this challenge gives me a sense that I'm making a difference."

If you'd like to support Mike and CALM, his fundraising page is at Everyday Hero.  All donations made through this page go directly to CALM.  If you're in a position to offer Mike some logistical support, such as a hotel room for a night or a meal, please drop us a line at Pink Sky and we'll explain how you can help.

So, as part of our 20% Day initiative, Hywel got to do a lot of cycling, and we made a little video...

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