Well, I did it! You can read about my experiences on the Guardian's Bike Blog here. Thank you to everyone for their amazing support, kind words, "Chapeaus!", and of course donations — I've reached my target thanks to your generous giving.
Special thanks goes to the good folk at the London Fixed-gear & Single-speed forum, John Hitchcock for carrying my power tools, Kate Searle for keeping me company for the last few tiring hours and organising the coach back, JM for sharing his technical knowledge to do a MacGyver-style repair job should I have run into trouble, Jack Thurston (@thebikeshow) for inviting me to speak on his excellent radio show and whose podcast you should subscribe to, Rapha Racing for sorting me out some VERY nice kit to wear, Mule Bar for the tasty organic fuel, Holly for giving me a new iPhone so I wouldn't end up lost, The Guardian for asking me to write about this, Craig Charles / Don Letts / Tom Robinson / Dave Pearce / Laura Marling on BBC 6Music for keeping me moving and the morale high with music (and the BBC World Service), and most of all my mum for well, everything.
Obviously, I'd like to continue to raise as much as possible from having completed this, as every penny really counts for Shelter From The Storm.
For the past couple of years I've been spending Christmas helping out at the Crisis at Christmas homeless shelters. It's really opened my eyes up to how many vulnerable people are still living without a safe, warm place to sleep at night in such a wealthy city such as London. It's disturbing and upsetting that this is still the case, especially during the harsh winter months.
It is not known how many rough sleepers there are on the streets of London, but the figures are always underestimated. All of them risk violence, prostitution, drug addiction, alcoholism, disease, mental illness, breakdown, isolation and even death. This is a serious ongoing problem...
Last year, I participated on a ride called the Dunwich Dynamo in which over 1,000 cyclists joined in a 120-mile unsupported ride, into the night, from London all the way to Dunwich beach on the Suffolk coast. It took me around 10 hours and was the furtherest I'd ever cycled.
It was painful, tiring, and the nether regions were chaffed severely — but I felt good about making it. This year, I'd like to raise as much money as possible for these homeless, by taking this a step further and attempting (making) this on a London Cycle Hire bike (also sometimes referred to as a 'Boris bike').
When London's cycle hire bike scheme started shortly after last year's Dynamo, I joked about doing 2011's DD on one... and well now the time has come around, so I'm going to put my money where my mouth is.
Compared to what I was riding last year (a proper road racing bike), these bikes weigh 3 times more and are twice as slow... I really don't know what I'm getting myself into but oh well. Come rain, rail, or shine I'm going to well make it — or struggle trying at least.
Shelter From The Storm is a charity introduced to me by some friends whom I met at Crisis. They provide hot meals, showers and a warm bed to homeless people in London.
Unlike Crisis, SFTS is London's only free homeless shelter which is open all year round (24/7/365) and receives absolutely no funding, sponsorship or other help from the government. It is not affiliated with any other organisation, is run entirely by volunteers from the local community and is funded by donations alone.
SFTS also provides counselling, job search, healthcare, benefits advice, and immigration lawyers in a warm and loving enviroment with caring support from brilliant volunteers at the Caledonian Road night shelter.
It costs just £10 per night to give a safe dry bed, 2 course meal, shower, new clothes and support with employment prospects to a guest.
Please consider your donation in the knowledge that it will make a massive directly applied difference to the people in our city who need it most. Homeless charities such as SFTS and Crisis do a wonderful job helping the homeless feel human again, when most of society ignores them.
I've been asked 'won't you be fined for taking the bike out of London?' The answer is 'Probably'. Transport for London charges £50 for 24 hours and I'm sure I will be back within that timeframe. Some very kind people on the London Fixed Gear & Single Speed (LFGSS) forum have offered to pitch in for the charge, or help me out some other way which i'm very grateful.
Two other challenges are is making it to the beach in time before the coach leaves back for London without me and also making it without getting a puncture or breakdown — apparently I will need an electronics manual and welding kit for any on-the-spot repairs...
I'd also like to dedicate this ride to Barry Mason, a volunteer co-ordinator for Southwark Cyclists, dedicated London cycle safety activist, and long-time organiser of the Dunwich Dynamo route and the return transport for many years. Unfortunately, Barry died only a few weeks ago while swimming off the coast of Spain.
P.S. If you'd like to help me out in any other way I'd very much appreciate it. Please get in touch by emailing me at complaints [-at-sign-] leotong.com
Also, thanks to the Big Sexy Festy Party on Saturday, 18 June (which I can't unfortunately make) for the inspiration. If you're in town please do go down as they're also doing a wonderful job raising money for SFTS.
Thanks for reading and your support.