One cold day late last December, while out cycling a familiar route on the south Hertfordshire lanes, I had a eureka moment. In 2019, why not try to align my passion for cycling with a challenge, my work and charitable cause? That way, I reasoned, I could cycle more and also benefit others as well as myself.
Very quickly the idea for what became RideForFreedom2019 began to take shape. The issue was modern slavery (a heinous crime that is estimated to affect more than 40 million people globally and a minimum of 13,000 people in the UK), and the receiving charities would be Unseen and Hope for Justice, which provide safe houses and support the rehabilitation of survivors.
But what was the challenge? I was aware that Anti-Slavery Day is on 18 October each year. So, doing a ride to coincide with that date would provide a focus. But what kind of challenge would be both manageable enough for me to commit to while also be “audacious” enough to motivate me to train and inspire others to support my endeavour and donate funds to the charities?
I considered a day ride on 18 October but concluded that wasn’t sufficiently bold.
Then, a one-week ride. Again, not really audacious enough.
But 10 days, taking in 10 cities across the length and breadth of England, in the run-up to 18 October, was sufficiently motivating. And, given I had several months to train, it should be manageable. (I was cycling around 400km a month, and figured I’d need to at least double that over several months to be fit enough to cycle 800km in 10 days.)
Now, as I write this, having put in the training, and only five weeks from when RideForFreedom2019 begins on 7 October, I’m feeling confident and excited to begin the ride that will see me and several others cycle from Watford to Manchester over five days in week one. Then, ride from Bristol to London (via a detour into Cardiff, Wales), across five days in the second week, concluding on 18 October.
On the route, we will call in at the offices and campuses of companies and universities whose work is doing much to understand, manage and mitigate modern slavery, and support survivors. They include BRE (Watford), Unseen (Bristol), Rights Lab at Nottingham University (Nottingham), Marshalls (Huddersfield), Hope for Justice (Manchester), University of South Wales (Cardiff).
The final stage, from Bracknell to Central London, on 18 October, will see Lola Young, Baroness Young of Hornsey OBE, welcome us at Victoria Tower Gardens, beside the Houses of Parliament. The Gardens’ significance is the Buxton Memorial at its centre that was built to commemorate the abolition of slavery.
If you’d like to cheer us ‘home’ we estimate that we’ll be rolling in at around 2pm.
Gordon will be cycling for 10 days, taking in 10 cities across the length and breadth of England.
Baroness Young’s support, alongside that of BRE, Kitbrix, Lowery, Marshalls, Smarter Technologies, Sustain Worldwide – all of whose sponsorship has enabled the tour – has been hugely inspirational. So have the countless good wishes from hundreds of people using #RideForFreedom2019, and seeing the donations already exceed £1,000 is both humbling and motivating.
Together, it’s all kept me focussed during the more than 4,000 km I’ve ridden in training this year, first on an indoor trainer and later on the road and on the National Cycle Network.
I’ll clock up approximately another 1,000km before we set out, and then around 800km during the two weeks of the tour. Much of it will be ridden on the National Cycle Network.
I first came across the National Cycle Network when planning the 10 daily routes – each one approximately 80km in length.
National Routes 6, 12, 57, and 61, during training, have been a revelation, providing plenty of picturesque woodland routes on gravel trails in the Hertfordshire countryside. Between 7-18 October, we’ll ride routes 4, 5, 6, 11, 15, 24, 45, 51, 61, 62, 64, 67, 68, and 69.
If you’d like to participate in #RideForFreedom2019, cycling one or more of the 10 stages, please visit the website to find out more. Donations, that will support the rehabilitation of survivors of modern slavery via the work of charities Unseen and Hope for Justice, should be made at the Just Giving page.