The PIP Mountain Bike Challenge and Me…
I’ve taken part in the last few Mountain Bikes Challenges. Without a doubt it’s one of the highlights of the year for me. Exercise, beer, fellowship, the opportunity to challenge yourself- all for a great cause. What’s not to love about that? This is why I do it. And love it. And will do it again and again.
Imagine: waking early on THE Saturday morning. It’s pouring. You know it will be muddy – in fact, that’s an understatement… In places, the Chiltern mud resembles a scene from battle of the Somme – for the entire 22-odd miles you’re going to have to drag yourself around the route… Despite this, you spring out of bed, knowing this is going to be an awesome day…
Awesome does not do the ride justice. You are in the Heart of The Chilterns, Henley on Thames. Over the next 22-odd miles you will come to understand why The Chilterns are described as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. I’m proud to call it my home. Famous in the UK for it’s riding, you’ll encounter picturesque rolling hills, majestic views across the Thames Valley, grandiose mansions, steep chalk escarpments and even steeper descents (which you can walk down if you wish!). The route is a lovely mix of riding to suit any ability. What’s more, the friendly PIP marshals will be with you along the way with food stops to keep your spirits high and belly full. Take it as fast or as slow as you want – this really is for all abilities. The main thing is that afterwards you’ll really have achieved something – for yourself and PIP. Are you an experienced MTBer…? Do it twice… Do it on a tandem or unicycle. Do it on a Brompton (as I did last year…!). Whatever you do, have fun and make it a challenge.
From the very start you know this will be a special event… You arrive at Henley’s very own craft-beer brewery, Lovibonds, where PIP MTB Challenge HQ is located. Hot drinks, croissants, energy food and a slew of friendly PIP hosts and eager fellow participants anxiously await the start of The Ride. The atmosphere is a mix of jocularity and nervous anticipation. As you look around, you may see a rider dressed as a donkey, head-to-toe in the most unbreathable polyester fur fabric, already pouring with sweat… You might see Jeff, the Lovibonds owner, mounting his tandem with trepidation, not quite sure if it’s designed for off-road use… Whoever you are, no matter your ability or background, you’ll thrive in the friendly mix of people from all walks of life. En-route you go… People are not taking this seriously. It’s not a race, and there’s a lot of chatting and socialising, people considering which pub to stop at for a pint. I’m always amazed by -and grateful for – the people who volunteer for the event – the marshals, video- and photographers, and general public who wave you cheerily on.
You hardly notice the time or distance as you’re looking forward to getting back to Lovibonds. This is the pinnacle of the event – a family-friendly party atmosphere for the afternoon with charity raffles, BBQ (all sourced from amazing local farm Bosley Patch), banter and good times. Stay as long as you want. You know you’ll be back next year.
Why I support PIP
There’s a lot of charities out there. Like you I’m sure, I get asked to donate to charity ‘challenge events’ on a weekly basis. I feel bad asking the same people for donations to the various events I do each year. However, PIP stands out for me. You really need to visit PIP – as I did with a fellow rider- to fully appreciate the impact of their work. I met Danny, Paris and Luai – just a few of the students PIP supports each year. I’ve seen the drama productions they tirelessly train for and witness how this transforms their lives. I’ve spoken with the dedicated staff that teach vital life skills – things we take for granted – such as how to manage money, travel independently, reading, writing and expressing themselves through art and music.
Danny couldn’t travel independently across London on public transport before PIP taught him how to successfully make the journey from home to a local college. Now he can. This is transformational, not just for Danny but also for his parents and carers. This is a great cause. Do all you can to help. By riding the PIP MTB Challenge you will do a huge amount. And have fun at the same time.
Would I do it again?
Read the above again. Absolutely?! Last year I rode twice, the second time on a Brompton (a small folding bike designed for short city commutes). This year I’ll do it twice again, but the second time around on a Santander/ Borris bike – with my (very excited) 5-year old son, on his tag-along behind me, Now, that will be a challenge. I can’t wait.
The PIP Mountain Bike Challenge: 17th October. This post was written by RONAN CARTER, DIRECTOR at Yomp