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Cycling for Croydon

Investing in others and particularly enabling young people to fulfil their potential is something that is really important to me. That’s one of the main reasons I got involved in Youth Work, not everyone has the same opportunities or support and guidance, just because that’s how life is, but if I can be part of something that goes someway towards giving a young person a hand up in life, and levels the playing field, then that’s awesome. I always remember a quote by Winston Churchhill that goes along the lines of “its not the years in your life that count but the life in your years”, I want my life to count and I want to make sure that I do all that I can with all that I have to make others lives better.

It was over a year ago that I was talking with Gavin (CEO Future, Barking & Dagenham Youth Zone) and Tony (CEO Unitas, Barnet Youth Zone) about what we could do as a fundraiser for our respective Youth Zones. We discussed many different ideas but after much deliberation – we agreed on a sponsored bike ride! After floating the idea with the Chair of Legacy Youth Zone the idea then fast developed into cycling to all the Youth Zones across the country. This then evolved into an opportunity for all Youth Zones in the network being able to raise money for their own, individual Youth Zone, and getting young people involved at the same time.

So how many miles will it be to visit all the Youth Zones, we asked…? Nearly 500 miles! Could we do it in a week…? Yes, if we could manage nearly 100 miles per day! Now that’s achievable if you are a regular cyclist, you have the right equipment and time to prepare!

But for someone who bought a cycle to work scheme bike in 2012 and rode his bike to work once, and half the journey was on the train?? Now, that’s a whole different ball game!

It soon dawned on me what I had committed to and so, alas – I thought I better get training!!

So, back in in September 2018, I dug my bike out of the shed and began cycling. It wasn’t until I had done my first ride that I realised that 100 miles was not only going to be very hard work, but seemingly impossible! I had ridden around 12 miles and I was completely exhausted!! But, as I needed to remind myself, if something was easy, everyone would do it. I rode for a couple more months, but not really increasing my distance and feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the momentous challenge in front of me.

I thought it was time to go all in; I went on eBay and bought some more suitable clothing that would keep me a bit warmer, and in December invested in a new bike, a combined Birthday and Christmas present to me! This in fact made my commitment to this challenge much more real. I began riding every weekend and going for a ride whenever I had the opportunity. What started as a nice idea was turning into something far more meaningful to me than I had first anticipated. I even went for a bike ride on New Year’s Day at 7.30am, I started to think it was fast becoming a bit of an obsession!

On 1st January the weather was nice, the sun was out, I had my new mudguards on, riding down the road – when suddenly I hear a rattle. I think to myself ‘somethings not right’, so I pull over to check my bike and can’t see anything wrong. So, I carried on. Five minutes down the road, my back wheel locks up, the mud guard had got jammed, feet clipped into my peddles, the bike went out of control, and I slam straight into the road, and head-first into the only puddle that I saw on the entire ride! Quickly I get up, cursing my bike, my wrists in pain and my new bike damaged. Fortunately, a couple of friendly cyclists came by and offered me help to sort my bike out, so I took my mudguard off and cycled slowly home, dishevelled and in a lot of pain. 2019 got off to good start!

But – I didn’t let it stop me. I let my wrists heal and a few weeks later, got back on my bike.

Fortunately, up to this point that has been my first and only crash – I wasn’t deterred! I gradually began ramping up the training and started to really get the bug for cycling. What started out as a fundraising challenge and all about raising money for Legacy Youth Zone has now also become a life changing hobby. What I forgot to mention earlier was whilst I was doing my 6-month induction in Wigan, when I first started in my role, I developed a really painful nerve issue in my legs as a result of driving so far, each week from the south. This also caused me to limp occasionally. That pain and limp has amazingly disappeared ever since I began cycling, the regular spinning movement has made all the difference. Riding has given me a chance to recharge my batteries and forced me to get out into the fresh air, get my heart pumping and allowed me time to think through the different challenges that we all face on a day-to-day basis.

I have reached 60-miles as my maximum distance in one ride so far, which is a massive achievement, but I still have a way to go if I want to ride nearly 100 miles, per day for 5 days.

Through this challenge my life has already been disrupted in a positive way, and that is great, but ultimately it is all about young people, and doing something that contributes to giving them the chance, support, care and encouragement, they need to help forge for themselves healthier and happier lives. Cycling nearly 500 miles on a bicycle over 5 days may be considered by many as crazy – but if it increases the number of people that find out about what is being made possible through Legacy Youth Zone and OnSide Youth Zones, and inspires them to get involved – either financially or through the giving of their time and skills – then it is more than worth it.

Thank you for taking the time to read the background of why I am doing this and some of the journey that I have already been on, ensuring I can so everything I possibly can for the of aspirations of young people across Croydon.

Click here to sponsor Barnabas on his cycle ride in support of Legacy Youth Zone 

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