I don’t think that anyone will disagree when I say that 2020 wasn’t what any of us planned for or expected. I am however, looking forward to a much more constructive 2021 and would like to begin by sharing a small gift to those who share my love of going a little bit further than last time!
In 2020, a significant amount of cycling events were cancelled, this included both of the 24hr events (Mersey Roads and Kielder Chiller) I was planning to ride. I did however, on my third attempt, complete my everesting (not so subtle Brag)!
I’m pretty good at problem solving and have always wanted to put on a 24hr event: so In 2021, I’d like to put on the inaugural ‘Mary Mary off-road TT’, which has been designed to be as Covid secure as possible and minimise personal loss if it does need to be cancelled or postponed. In line with Breaking Cycles CIC’s beliefs, its also designed to have a tiny environmental footprint too!
I want this to be both brutal and inclusive so, although its a great 24hr challenge, I’d also like to invite people to use this event as an opportunity to ride the MTL for the first time or set their own goals, like a fast lap, night lap or double lap…
The next time I post, I’ll be sharing the first part of my 2021 Vlog series: “#FatLadsCantClimb – Been there, done that, the T-Shirt doesn’t fit” which follow up on the themes of #FatLadsCantClimb as I document what it takes for me to get down to ‘race weight’ for this year’s cycling challenge…
Last week, I shared a few words about collaborations with Harwes Farm and Elisha House. This work continues and we’re already investigating opportunities to do more together in the future. Don’t take my word for it though, have a look at this video and see what the Residents of Elisha House think about the time we’ve spent on cycle training, volunteering and most importantly, just enjoying the world we live in!
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‘Without a portfolio of evidence, you can’t prove that it was you that made the difference’
This comment was instrumental in my decision to leave my last permanent teaching job, in April 2015, to pursue other opportunities. It was an easy decision to make even though its not always easy to live with. Yesterday, I felt my values fall into line with a few others and participate in something that has a huge potential to benefit the local community, the organisations involved and every individual who took part.
On Friday 27th November, 10 residents of Elisha house volunteered to share their expertise and help out with the development of the sustainable MTB skills area at Harwes Farm CIC. With some initial funding from the Alpkit Foundation and further financial support from Anderton Bosonnet estate agents, this project began in February and fell to furlough due to lockdown. The volunteering efforts from the Elisha House residents will be a big part of getting it back on track! The development of this resource will also be a key part of an upcoming project, supporting teenagers who experience difficulties with mental health.
7 of the residents of Elisha house took advantage of the offer of cycle training for volunteers at Harwes Farm CIC and cycled up to the farm from Colne, this was funded as part of the ‘Treading Lightly’ project, funded by Connecting East Lancashire’s access fund. This volunteering will continue throughout December and the three organisations are looking for further opportunities for collaboration.
I couldn’t justify saying that any person from any of the organisations involved can claim that they made the difference. I believe that by collaborating and working together in the interest of our community we have all done something that has made a difference and will continue to in the future.
This day couldn’t have happened without the following organisations playing their part…
You may be reading this because you know who I am through Cycling and be more familiar with me talking (or writing in this instance) about bikes or an event, or more likely some daft idea for a ride that might not even be possible to do! If this is the case, I’d like to ask you to bear with me as you read on. This is not specifically about cycling or bikes but it is about endurance and determination and where that skill-set comes from.
Some of you may already know that I am dyspraxic and live with depression; in fact, I hope that most of you already know that as I feel like it’s quite important to raise awareness about hidden disabilities as a matter of course. In the very nature of the fact that someone who has a hidden disability like a mental health condition or a specific learning difficulty does not display any physical characteristics, it’s really easy for our awareness to slip and for discrimination to take place without any acts of malice. I have no specific, high profile case to cite and no data to support it, but I’ve been there personally and I’ve taught young people who have been there too.
I don’t believe that anyone sets out to dis-advantage and marginalise people like me in day to day life so there isn’t anything that people need to stop doing so that Neuro-diverse people are included but there is something that you can do and its easy!
If someone is behaving in a way that seems different, its probably because they are thinking or experiencing the world in a way that is different.
I’d like to point out that I didn’t do my Everesting attempt to raise money for a charity, but I did do it for a good cause (raising awareness of Neurodiversity) and this is the part where I ask you to give; not money, but time. Watching #FatLadsCantClimb will cost you 24minutes and might help you to understand the subtle differences between how we all experience the world. I’d also appreciate you spending 5 minutes to forward this, along with a quick note from you, onto a friend, colleague or family member who you think may benefit or find it interesting.
If you don’t know about Neuro-diversity, please ask. I think a lot of people nod along without asking the question on their mind for fear of it being seen as rude or ignorant where actually it could make a big difference to the way we understand each other: I obviously, can only speak for me, which is where some of the social awkwardness around this stuff lies. The next person might really dislike explaining how they are!
To make it easier for you to come up with the questions, here are a few topics that they might fit into…
My cycling achievements (please stroke my ego!)
Questions about cycling
Specific Learning Difficulties
Being a fat lad and wearing lycra in public!
How to get into cycling
Learning to ride a bike
How to create your own strategies
Anything else (literally anything: if I can’t or don’t feel comfortable answering it, I’ll just move on or answer privately later!)
I’ve been fascinated by the notion of delivering Adventure Therapy on bikes since reading an article about Lee Craigie’s cycle therapy work (https://leecraigie.com/cycletherapy) in MBR magazine. As I was already looking into becoming an NLP practitioner and getting more involved with outdoors activities, as part of my teaching job in a PRU, I began to fully appreciate the connection between physical outdoors activities and developing more positive behaviour patterns. After a few years, this led me to leave the classroom and spend a few years working in the bike industry and eventually set up Breaking Cycles CIC to combine my passion for behaviour change and Bikes!
Over the years, having a keen interest in the subject, my mind has been drawn towards a plethora of research, anecdotal evidence, heart-warming articles and stories about the benefits, of getting fit and being outdoors, to our mental wellbeing. This has led me to ask the question ‘When is it just a ride and when is it adventure therapy?’
Cycling, particularly when you venture into the hills, helps us to de-stress and gain perspective on the challenges we face in life. On its own, simply getting out for a ride can be the answer to your problems, but adventure therapy adds a more purposefully directed experience to this and provides me with truly awesome environments in which to share NLP techniques in a meaningful and memorable way.
This week, I have been providing some Adventure Therapy taster sessions for pupils of The Alternative School (https://www.thealternativeschool.co.uk) at Harwes Farm CIC (https://harwesfarm.org). Developing a generic taster session was a bit of a challenge for me as I would generally think about specific aims for each pupil and general aims for the group as I plan the activities for each session, which would generally be a full day too. So, following in the footsteps of Albert Einstein, I went for a ride and came back with an idea!
I’d like to take this opportunity to publically thank Anderton Bossonet estate agents (https://andertonbosonnet.co.uk) for offering some financial help to provide these session and 3 Peaks Cycles (https://www.3peakscycles.com) for the excellent quality and well maintained hire bikes we used; my tools stayed in my bag all week!
The session was built to include elements of learning new skills, developing confidence and gaining a sense of community by giving something back. We concentrated on understanding the cone of movement and how our position on the bike affects our ability to lift the front wheel over an obstacle (wheelies!), using a couple of trail features that myself and volunteers at Harwes Farm had built the week before. After a brew, we returned to the developing skills area with tough gloves and shovels and began to develop the trail features further. As Harwes Farm has an ethos of environmental sustainability, we only used materials that we could find on site too!
Groups from both the Accrington & Rossendale and Pendle Campus’ of TAS are keen to return and continue the development of an accessible, sustainable MTB skills are and themselves!
“We already have the resources we need, or we can create them” – Presupposition of NLP