“CrazyBikeGuy” gears up for arduous 8,800+ km unassisted, solitary charity ride from London to Istanbul!
Johannesburg, South Africa – The countdown has begun for South Africa’s self-styled “CrazyBikeGuy”, Grant Cameron-Smith, as he prepares to embark on the journey of a lifetime – an arduous three-month, 8,800+ km trek from London to Istanbul on a specially configured mountain bike. All the blood, sweat and tears are for a worthy cause: autistic young adults in need.
South Africans, corporates and all supporters across the global route will be asked to contribute whatever they can to help raise at least R500,000. Every donation will go directly towards establishing an autism life skills training centre plus coffee shop in Johannesburg, South Africa, which will integrate amazing neuro-diverse people into the workplace. The first donation has already been received – and it came all the way from Wales.
“The business model behind our not-for-profit enterprise ensures that all monetary donations go only to the end target, which is unique. We aim to take the concept of training and workspaces for special needs young adults nationally due to the lack of such facilities and opportunities. All money gets ploughed into where it will make the most difference,” says Cameron-Smith.
The clock starts ticking in London on March 13, and Grant – who only began cycling in 2016 – plans to finish on June 25 on the Asian side of Istanbul, Turkey. The arduous route will be filled with the sights, sounds and beautiful surrounds of France, Spain, Andorra, Portugal, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Greece and finally Turkey.
The catalyst for the initiative occurred in September when the urgent plight of special needs young adults in South Africa took a blow after the popular Special Knead Café in Bryanston had to shut down at short notice after just four months. The coffee and pastry shop – run by a dedicated staff of special needs young adults with backing from volunteers, parents, sponsors and the community-at-large – had become a friendly home-away-from-home for many.
The non-profit organisation’s (NPO) plan is to harness this ride to raise awareness of special needs young adults around the country, starting by helping to give those who have recently lost a home, a new one in 2019. A fully-fledged training centre will add to the drive to help more neuro-diverse young adults gain the necessary skills to actively participate in and contribute to the working world, and by doing so, can enjoy life more fully than they do right now.
“With the job market in a parlous state for many young adults across South Africa, there is an even more desperate need for job opportunities for special needs young adults. We hope that this initiative will drive home how important this cause is and that by giving something – however small – people are helping special young adults in our beautiful country flourish,” says the founder of the Special Knead Café, Kim Rundle.
For Cameron-Smith, who is also a director of the registered NPO (The Centre of Justice for Special Needs t/a Special Knead Café), it was an easy decision to give his time, efforts and money to support this worthy cause and help raise awareness.
“I saw first-hand what a difference the café was making in the lives of these special people. It’s a tragedy if these young adults lose their livelihoods and the ability to learn new skills to find employment. And further, more needs to be done for all young adults in such situations. However, we can now all ensure this story has a very happy ending, and I for one, will definitely be going the extra mile – well an extra 5,468+ miles!” he says.
While it may have been a simple decision to make at the time, Grant – who was a long-distance runner for many years before taking up cycling – didn’t quite know just how much planning and training this bike trek would entail.
“Firstly, I realised that not many people have ever done an unassisted, solo ride of this magnitude through such mountainous terrain before, and there is, therefore, no simple handbook or coach. Secondly, standard mountain bikes are not configured for such a lengthy all-weather journey,” he explains.
Grant, whose longest ride has been a supported 1,000 km over nine days, also knew he needed to ensure he was in peak shape for something this taxing. As such, he has embarked on a customised training programme devised by a top biokineticist. In addition to meticulous detail while preparing the route to minimise hazards as much as possible – a lot of his riding will be done in early morning darkness – Grant also has to ensure his bike is up to the task.
Crazy bicycle upgrades have included a new 1×12 (GX) gear set, aero handlebars suited for road-riding into the wind, a custom wheelset to handle the 20 kg+ extra weight of all the equipment, as well as dynamo-driven front and rear lights. A USB 5V charging station, satellite tracker and a waterproof power system have all been further vital additions. Add to this an ultralight tent, a down sleeping bag and a compact cooking burner with pot and utensils, not to mention all-weather clothing!
Mountainous regions like the Pyrenees will have to be negotiated and will test both physical and mental toughness. Grant is quietly confident that he is up for the challenge.
“I have no illusions about the difficulty of the task at hand, and I think I will discover more about my own limits. The weather will, of course, play a hand in dictating the level of difficulty. As for my mental preparation, that horse bolted long ago, but I’m ready to take up the cudgels to raise awareness for all the wonderful neuro-diverse young adults out there looking to live their own dreams,” he says with a smile.
“Every mother with an autistic child says: ‘I wouldn’t change you for the world! It’s the world that needs to change!’ It’s time to help these wonderful people and their supportive families, and I believe that together we can do this. Please help me start the change,” concludes Cameron-Smith.