This article is from Edition 12: Ride the Change - Cycle to COP26
Ben Smith
Written by Ben Smith
Published on 15th November 2021
3 min read

We caught up with Ben Smith to find out how #RidetheChange came to fruition and how he kept going…

In the week before COP26, the international climate summit held in Glasgow, 175 cyclists took part in #RidetheChange, an epic cycle from London to Glasgow, to inspire climate action.

The cyclists battled amber weather warnings, flooded roads, and steep hill climbs as they pedalled over 500 miles across 8 days. 

Organising the ride mid-pandemic and with all the uncertainties around COP was a significant challenge for the organising group of Arup, Possible and DoNation, supported by Brake the Cycle and Adventure Uncovered. As recently as August a final call had not been made on whether the ride should go ahead. At that point, a decision was taken to use a Crowdfunder as the ultimate barometer for interest and commitment. 

The Crowdfunder was a great success, pulling in around £100,000 and securing some brilliant sponsors, who all contributed funding, but equally as important – their energy and enthusiasm. Sponsors included Abel & Cole, Symprove, AECOM and Cayley Coughtrie.

The ride itself – which took in overnight stops in Oxford, Coventry, Preston, Stoke on Trent, Penrith, Dumfries and East Kilbride – was breathtaking. Perhaps only rivalled by the sense of comradery between the riders and the support crew. The après ride was brilliantly curated too - including film festivals, community events, bike doctors and lots of tasty vegan food. 

The participating riders did not ask supporters for cash sponsorship, instead raising climate pledges through the DoNation platform. From composting your food waste and eating local, seasonal food, to washing your clothes at 30°, switching web browser or switching from petrol power to cycling when you can, there were pledges suitable for everyone! The riders managed to secure over 5,000 climate pledges amounting to a potential (if people stick to their word) carbon saving of 311 tonnes (CO2e). The pledge platform remains open, so if you’ve been inspired by the bike ride, or COP itself, it’s not too late! 

Tell us more about the backstory and how the ride built up from an initial idea?
For me it started with a tweet in 2019, within a few weeks we had landed an awesome team…the organisation was a bit disrupted, as was my training, but what matters is that we persuaded 175 people to commit to this crazy challenge. 

What was it like?
The weather battered us on some of the days, there were over 50 punctures in the group, but our spirits were never dampened. It’s good to feel a bit more connected to nature!

What can we do about climate change as individuals?
I believe that individual action on climate change can count. And that choices we make as individuals’ affect how we are at work, and in our communities. All the way along the route we were met by people who ask us where we’re going and wanted to tell us what they are doing to respond to climate change. It provided a sense of hope. 

I was blown away by the support I received from family, friends and colleagues, I’ll always remember the experience.

You can still pledge for Ben here.