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Vegan Cyclists Rode Out!


On Friday, 21st October, I drove down to Birmingham, in order to cycle from the headquarters of the Vegan Society to the VegfestUK festival at Olympia the following day.

At one stage, I had thought that there might be around 10 Vegan Cyclists taking part – but in the end, there were just four of us – Rob Masterson, Jamie Brown, Jag Sarmotta and myself. Details of the riders and why we were doing this can be found at :

www.vegancyclist.co.uk

When I emerged from my hotel at 5 am on the morning of the ride, I was amazed how mild it was for late October and realised I would not need too much in the way of extra clothing.

Matthew Glover, of Veganuary, was staying at the same hotel as me and, as he was driving our support vehicle, he kindly drove me and my bike to the Vegan Society headquarters, where we met up with the rest of the team at around 6.30 am.

Abigail Stevens, the Trademark Relations Officer at the Vegan Society, had kindly turned up to open the offices and make us all a coffee before we set off. Also there was Spencer Harris (ex Vegan Society and now with Veganuary) and Tom O’Grady (his wife, Clea also works with Veganuary) who had arranged to accompany Matthew in the support vehicle.

Rob Masterson had planned the exact route (he also edited our video) – which avoided main roads as much as possible and found us mostly riding through open countryside. In the end, the total distance was around 130 miles and included rather more hills than I had expected!

So we departed Hylton Street, Birmingham at 7 am – still dark at this stage – but dry and reasonably warm! The first problem we encountered was negotiating our route through the building site that is Birmingham! Several dead ends later and we were heading south, through Kings Heath, Yardley Wood and Hockley Heath towards Warwick.

We were making excellent progress – as we left Warwick, we had covered 25 miles.

After Warwick, we crossed the Fosse Way before reaching Silverstone and Stony Stratford – we were now halfway!

Having started in the West Midlands, we had passed through Warwickshire and Northamptonshire and were now entering Buckinghamshire and the hilly terrain of the Chilterns!

After passing Milton Keynes and Bletchley, we passed Ivinghoe Beacon, as we climbed up through Dockey Wood and Pedley Hill. These were the biggest climbs and we were now following part of the Chiltern Cycleway.

Leaving the Chilterns behind, we were now entering Hertfordshire, where we sped past Hemel Hempstead and crossed over the M1 on Gaddesden Lane, before passing through St Albans and over the M25 – 18 miles to go!

There was a bit of confusion as we figured out how to get across the very busy A1! Eventually, we realised that we needed to ride over the pretty substantial footbridge!

We were now within Greater London, Barnet being the first London Borough through which we passed. Obviously at 3.30 pm on a Saturday, the traffic was pretty hectic! This slowed us down somewhat, but we made steady progress through Finchley, Hampstead Heath, Swiss Cottage, Regents Park and Kensington Gardens, where our route took us over the Serpentine and out into High Street Kensington.

We arrive at Olympia just in time to do our Q and A session at 5 pm! We had an excellent stream of questions which led to much discussion of the Vegan Lifestyle, which went on till about 6.15 pm.

It had been an excellent day’s ride – great camaraderie between the cyclists and excellent backup provided by Matthew and Tom. At intervals of approximately 25 miles, they were parked up and ready to ply us with water, fruit and PULSIN bars!

We were well looked after!!

Interestingly, when I sent a draft of this blog to my fellow riders, Jag said that, for him,the last 30 minutes were really exciting. It was like one of those impossibly close races Top Gear did. First Jamie's Garmin died, then his started flashing low battery and eventually so did Rob's. Navigating Central London, where the satellite signal was worse, took us down a couple of one ways and when we eventually arrived, just in time, we initially went in the wrong entrance for the 'Mother and Baby Show'.... and the fun of storing our bikes and negotiating our way in as our tickets were on my dead phone...

We have helped to promote Veganuary and the VegFestUK’s London festival, as well as raising some funds towards Veganuary’s London Underground campaign. Hopefully, this will encourage a record number of people to pledge themselves to Veganism in January (and beyond!)

Details of the ride can be seen at

www.strava.com/activities/752701330

(My phone battery ran out just before the finish!)

You can still donate at

www.justgiving.com/fundraising/VeganCycleRide


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