Meet: Pedal 4 Parks Expedition Team

Across 14 days, the team behind Pedal 4 Parks will be attempting to cycle a world’s first JOGLE, which is typically from John O’Groats to Land’s End; however, Isaac, Alex P, Sal, Alex E and Lukas are taking it one step further: a cycle across land AND sea, connecting the Orkney Islands to the Isles of Scilly.

The journey that stretches over 1,000 miles has been designed so that they will cross through as many national parks as possible, including the Cairngorms, Lake District and Exmoor. In their training, they’re planning to visit all the other UK national parks too.

Besides looking to achieve an incredible world first, what’s the driving (or pedal!) force behind Pedal 4 Parks? We caught up with some of the team to find out more. 

What a journey! What has inspired you to undertake this challenge?

Isaac Kenyon: “The idea came to me whilst I was on another expedition, rowing across the Atlantic Ocean. The outdoors and nature are a big passion of mine and are a big influence on my physical and mental health. Over the years, I have seen national parks and green spaces change, not always for the better, and even disappear at times to urbanisation, especially in and around cities. I had a lot of time to think on the Atlantic Row challenge about how much humans are taking from the planet and what we are doing to regenerate what we have taken to maintain a natural balance. With this in mind and the fact that adventure is in my blood, the idea of combining a campaign to highlight the importance of regeneration and conservation of National Parks with an adventure was the perfect fit. The water bike sections add an extra element of adventure to the trip and allows marine conservation zones to be included in the journey too.

Alex Pierrot: “In mid-2019, having recently come out of a psychiatric hospital in a much better place than when I entered, I was inspired to get a lot more out of life. I was keen to take part in a big cycling challenge so, when Isaac mentioned that he wanted to do JOGLE, I jumped straight in! I love that I will have the opportunity to push myself like never before whilst making a positive environmental impact.

Alex Egan: “It’s an extraordinary opportunity for me and I feel very privileged to be a part of it. I love nothing more than to spend time emersed in nature, with super-positive and creative people, thinking about ways to make the world a better place. This is exactly where I want to be.

My direction of travel over the last couple of years has been deliberately bent towards trying to make positive tracks and solve big intractable social and environmental problems. I think most people in the world are keen to be part of the solution to big problems like climate change, our emerging global water crisis, social and environmental justice, etc (there’s a long list of challenges…) but equally most feel disempowered to act by either their job or their circumstance. I’ve been in this place for a good chunk of my adult life; admiring ‘other people’ from the sidelines who weigh in on such matters and go on big adventures. So, when the opportunity arose to join this overtly ‘values and purpose’ driven expedition, I didn’t hesitate. It’s is amazing what happens when you get out your own way.

Sal Montgomery: “In normal years, I would be away on white water kayaking expeditions all over the world. This year has been far from normal though, as we are all very much aware! With any big kayaking trips off the table, I was craving a challenging adventure to work towards, as well as something with a great purpose behind it. The Pedal 4 Parks champaign is going to be a pretty epic journey, and I’m stoked to be part of it!

Lukas Haitzmann: “Isaac reached out to me in mid-2020, just after lockdown started. I’d recently completed my latest challenge – rowing 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean solo and unassisted – and was just finishing my first year of university. I was looking for a challenge, and I couldn’t have thought of a better one myself. Especially a challenge with such an amazing message.

(C): www.dwailiw-photography.com

Have you done anything similar before?

Isaac: “While expeditions are not new to me, this challenge is filled with lots of ‘firsts’. I had never cycled for more than an hour before taking on this challenge nor have I been on a water bike and, in terms of campaigning for regeneration, this is also a first for me. In the past I have embarked on a two-week self-supported canoe trip along the Norwegian Fjords, I’ve summitted Mt. Kilimanjaro, swam the English Channel to France and rowed across the Atlantic Ocean.

Alex Pierrot: “Never! In terms of cycling, the longest I’ve ever done was the RideLondon 100 Sportive in 2019, so this will be a big challenge for me. The campaigning is new for me at this scale too, but I am excited to be able to make a positive contribution to the environment. The project is a learning accelerator, and I am keen to keep pushing on to fulfil my potential.

Alex Egan: “I’ve done a reasonable amount of cycling but only really in the last couple of years.  Back in 2019, I mentioned in ear-shot of the right/wrong person that ‘I liked cycling’ and might be up for a bit of a challenge. The next thing I knew, I’d been hustled into a bike ride from London to Cannes on the Mediterranean Coast covering 1,500 km in six days, leaving in about 6 months. I promptly bought myself a road bike and spent every scrap of available time and energy learning how to use it. I found my tribe on this trip with Club Peloton – a truly amazing bunch of can-do, will-do people. I also fell in love with exploring the world at a bikes’ pace.

Sal Montgomery: “I’ve taken on pretty gruelling challenges in the past, as well as some full-on, super remote expeditions but this is the first one involving a bike! It’s going to be very different to what I’m used to, but I’m super excited for the challenge and experience!

How do you plan to prepare for this epic trip – what’s your training schedule like and what limitations have you faced during lockdown 3.0?

Isaac Kenyon: “We will be cycling for up to 100 miles a day, climbing 1,500 m in elevation each day, back-to-back for 12-13 days; this means cycling regularly is an essential part of our training. No matter the weather conditions, we aim to clock around 50 – 100 miles a week, which steadily increases in distance as we get closer to the cycle, building up to 200 miles a week. Fortunately, this practice can be done remotely and doesn’t have to be done as a team. It is important to be fit enough to deal with the constant exhaustion and risk of severe muscle fatigue. In addition to this, we add bikepacking bags with lots of weight to simulate what it will be like when our cycle is unsupported in the summer, carrying our tents, kit, tools and clothing. Again, we can practice the camping setups remotely too.

We also need to train on the water bikes we are using, which means spending some weekends on the sea at Torquay Watersports, to learn how they self-right and practice emergency drills. Most importantly, we need to understand the currents and tides and how this affects our craft. This has been the biggest limitation to our challenge as we cannot train on these water bikes during lockdowns.

“It is also important to build up our fitness levels by cross-training, which can be in the form of other sports such as HIIT, running or swimming. Another important factor is weight training, to strengthen the muscles being used in cycling. Muscle is more important than fat as we need the bodyweight we are carrying to help us, rather than hold us back. Another element of endurance sport is maintenance of the body, so we regularly stretch and do activities to improve flexibility and reduce the risk of injury.

We will have to dig deep for courage at times to mentally override our survival instinct. Each crew member’s character and mindset will be hugely tested, as it is essential to remain positive and goal-orientated despite the hardships faced every day.

Alex Pierrot: “I go for long rides every weekend, adding 20 km per month to the distance covered and go after work once a week to focus on speed. In between, I do 20-minute HIIT sessions to build up my general fitness levels. Thanks to our trainer, Liz Marsland, we now have a core strength and stability session as a team every Thursday, as well as a couple of sessions to do on our own. My work kindly organises a yoga session everyday Wednesday at lunchtime so, thanks to our teacher Karen, I also work on my flexibility and balance. I go for walks daily too for both mental and physical wellbeing.

Alex Egan: “I’ve been spoilt with the luxury of a camper van for the last 10 years. So, job number one is to get kitted out with some bike-packing equipment and learn how to use it pronto (efficiently and in all sorts of conditions).

Lukas Haitzmann: “Thanks to lockdown and icy weather, I’ve mostly been training inside either on circuits or the turbo trainer. But now that the weather is getting better, I’m looking forward to going for a morning surf. I can’t think of a better way to start the day.

(C): www.dwailiw-photography.com

What are the essential items you’re taking with you?  

Isaac Kenyon: “We have lots of essential items coming with us on our journey, the most important being our bikes of course. We will be fighting the elements so to keep our kit secure and safe from wind and heavy rain whilst cycling or crashing seas on our waterbike crossing, we are delighted to be supported by Aquapac with waterproof duffel bags, phone cases, map cases and dry bags.

Alex Pierrot: “Component spares and tools! Inner tubes, brake pads, Allen keys… you name it, we’ll need it over such a long journey. Cheers to Aquapac for the high-quality waterproof kit which will ensure none of the metal parts get damaged due to either seawater or the rainfall we’re bound to encounter. That, and a huge French flag for the finish of course!

Sal Montgomery: “The item at the top of my list will likely be a bike! After that, it’s a balance between keeping it light, whilst also keeping it safe and slightly less miserable. We’ll be carrying food, water, navigation gear, waterproofs and a few layers for the less-than-ideal weather days (we will be in the UK after all!). We’ll also have our sleeping stuff- lightweight tent or bivvy bag, sleeping bag and mat. And chocolate and Haribo Tangfastics, of course!

Lukas Haitzmann: “We’ll be packing light and only bringing the absolute essentials, mostly safety equipment along with food and, if there’s a bit of space, a change of clothes too. More as a courtesy to my fellow teammates. We need the kit to last in rough conditions, hence why we’ve teamed with Aquapac. I took some with me on my ocean crossing, and they worked a charm, so I have no doubt they’ll keep our kit safe and dry.

If you could only pack three things, what would they be?

Isaac Kenyon: “Huge amount of food, a tent for shelter and lots of water. I am all about the essentials, can do anything with these three things.

Alex Pierrot: “A high-quality tent, a comfortable ground mat and earplugs! Quality sleep is a non-negotiable for me since I have been in recovery for clinical depression; if my brain is well-rested, I can find solutions to any challenge in our way!

Alex Egan: “A really nice sleeping bag, a hammock and a surfboard – luck favours the prepared.

Sal Montgomery: “As much chocolate as I can physically carry, a tent or bivvy, my journal and a pencil (sorry that’s 4!). Chocolate to keep me sweet, otherwise, my poor teammates will endure a very grump Sal for the duration of the expedition. A tent/bivvy to help keep me dry and get a good night’s rest, ready to take on another day of suffering. And my journal (and pencil) to document the suffering.

Lukas Haitzmann: “If I could only pack 3 things it would have to be my shades (hoping for some nice weather), my old jumper that’s been with me on all my big adventures – it looks like it has been too – and a compass, because apparently, all the best adventurers have one. It’s supposed to help with navigation or something like that! Google Maps is what we’ll be using, but keep that between us.

(C): www.dwailiw-photography.com

What are you most and least looking forward to during your cycle?

Isaac Kenyon: “I am looking forward to seeing the amazing positive regenerating solutions and pilot projects going on in these national parks and green spaces and seeing how they can be scaled.

“I am least looking forward to sleeping as there is so much to see and do and sleep just gets in the way!

Alex Egan: “Genuinely most looking forward to spending time with interesting and interested people thinking about creative solutions to big problems. This journey has very much already begun.

Least looking forward to those 1-2 hours before we physically get going; that curious cocktail of nerves, anxiety and excitement. And also, if I’m totally honest, seeing/hearing myself on screen and all the rest of the media stuff too. I don’t tend to crave the limelight, but I guess this is an important part of the adventure too.

Sal Montgomery: “I’m most looking forward to riding through so many beautiful places and meeting all the rad people that are doing amazing things for our planet.

Least: my poor butt!

Lukas Haitzmann: “I’m most looking forward to jumping in my dry (thanks to Aquapac) sleeping bag after a long day cycling through the inevitable British rain. And least looking forward to the dreaded chafing.

What do you hope to get out of it?

Isaac Kenyon: “I am hoping to learn more about our UK national parks, green spaces and marine conservation zones. Nature fascinates me and doing this project to drum up support for regenerating and protecting these environments makes it a very fulfilling and purposeful journey.

Alex Egan: “It’s all about the journey. I love what I’m already getting out of it and, at this stage, we’ve not even pedalled a mile together. I love nurturing great ideas into reality, it’s such a magical process. What I hope we collectively get out of this is something that we are all very proud of, and something that helps elevate the conversation around our national parks and green spaces and their central role in our future survival.

Sal Montgomery: “I love a physical challenge (remind me of this mid-expedition), however, the important thing for me is that we do a good job to showcases our amazingly diverse and beautiful parks and countryside, as well as showing recognition to the organisations and individuals that are putting their all into protection and regeneration. Producing a film that incorporates both of these, will help to not only highlight why these spaces are worth protecting but how we can work together to do it.

With an increase in getting outdoors and cycling this past year, what’s your number one tip you’d recommend a newbie road cyclist?

Isaac Kenyon: “It can be quite daunting going out on the road for the first time so I would recommend local cycle routes to see how you get on, then slowly build the confidence to do longer and further and maybe more road journeys. Before you cycle the roads, make sure you know the laws and join a cycling club for further support.

Alex Pierrot: “Try and find someone more experienced to help you out. If you live in London, both TfL and the London Cycling Campaign have schemes partnering you with an instructor or more experienced cyclist to help you gain confidence and fast track your learning.

Sal Montgomery: “Invest in padded shorts. Your bum will thank you for it. Also, be super-visible. Being rave-ready with colourful kit and bright lights will make your rides so much safer and enjoyable (plus you’ll look cool).

Lukas Haitzmann: “My biggest recommendation is to whack some bright flashing lights on your bike. We are a lot harder to see than you think! Stay safe.

What Aquapac kit are the Pedal 4 Parks team taking?

Find Pedal 4 Parks online at www.pedal4parks.co.uk or follow them on social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.

Pedal 4 Parks Images (C) Daniel Williams, www.dwailiw-photography.com