Changing Gears on Fossil Fuels

Simon Sinclair and friend Sam are soon setting off on an epic bike ride raising awareness of oil extraction in Surrey and inspiring people to cycle as they go. We asked Simon some questions to find out more:

Sam riding an earlier tour

Hello Simon. What’s this challenge then?

My friend Sam and I will be cycling from Kingston to Barcelona on Saturday 3rd July. We’ve given ourselves a month to complete the trip, and we plan to do around 50 miles a day (with the occasional day-off, of course). We are expecting it to be pretty tough, what with the heat and mountainous terrain!

What causes are you promoting?

So we have two related causes. The first is to raise awareness of oil and gas exploration in Surrey, which most residents aren’t aware of, and to raise money for the legal challenge against the permission to extract oil from the site at Horse Hill (Horley, Surrey) for the next 20 years. A good overview of this challenge can be found here.

The second is a general promotion of cycling; we’d love to inspire more people to take up cycling for a variety of reasons – the physical and mental health benefits, saving money, tackling air pollution and reducing carbon emissions to tackle the climate emergency, to name a few. We hope to do this by bringing people to join us (<Facebook Events link) on our first 20 miles and by sharing on our Facebook page tips and inspiration throughout our journey to get more people on their bikes. To join Sam and Simon on their departure on Saturday 3rd July please sign up on the Facebook Events link above. It’s a 9am meet-up for 9:30 departure from Kingston’s Memorial Square (Postcode KT1 1RJ)

How did you plan your route?

Our original preferred route was similar to one that Sam has done a couple of times previously; Kingston to Horse Hill (we will be visiting the oil site and hearing from locals about the campaign against it) down to Brighton, across to Hastings (where we planned to do a talk at a school where we have previously worked) and back to Newhaven, over to Dieppe via ferry, along the spine of France, including Paris, and through the Pyrenees to Spain. Along this route we had planned to visit various sustainable communities and renewable energy projects and interview people involved.

However, we have had to come up with a plan B due to restrictions on Brits entering France. This involves cycling from Kingston to Brighton (as above), then to Portsmouth to take the ferry to the north-west coast of Spain, west to Santiago de Compostela, then back across the centre of the country, finishing in Barcelona. We hope to find similar communities and projects to visit as per plan A!

Have you done other long bike rides?

I (Simon) have never done a long distance bike trip before! I only really started getting into cycling at the end of last year when I got my first proper road bike for my birthday, and I have been slowly building up my distances over the year. I’ve done three or four 20 milers so far – so still a long way to go to get to the 50 miles we will be doing on day 1…but hopefully this will show that if I can do it, anyone can!

Luckily, Sam is much more accomplished. He cycled from Ireland to Japan with his Dad when he was 18, which took a year. He has also cycled to Spain and Italy. So I feel more at ease knowing we have his expertise to draw on…

Sam and Simon on their trial ride

Tell us about your bike/ luggage

Sam will be taking the same bike he used on his Ireland to Japan trip – a Dawes Super Galaxy touring bike. Unfortunately, my road bike won’t be suitable for the extra weight and longer distance. Luckily, Sam’s Dad, Mark has kindly lent me the bike that he used on their trip to Japan – a Dawes Sterling tour bike – for which I am eternally grateful. Thank you Mark!

So fairly old bikes but we tested them out on a 20 mile trial ride from Canterbury to Folkestone the other day and they’ve still got it.

On loan: Mark’s Dawes Sterling Tour

Where will you stay?

We plan to camp for most of the way, so it will be a mix of campsites and free camping, which is allowed in France and Spain. We are paying all the expenses out of our own pockets so trying to keep them to a minimum, however we will no doubt be grateful for a proper bed every now and then so I am sure we will visit the occasional hostel too”

What foods do you like to keep your energy up?

We are determined to eat and drink healthily for the entire trip, and starting now. So no more alcohol, caffeine or processed sugar. No doubt we will be needing a lot of carbs  – pasta, rice – and fruit. Personally, my go-to energy food will be porridge with banana, whilst for Sam its banana, peanut butter and date sandwiches.

KCC wish Simon and Sam the best of luck with their adventure.

You can go to their fund-raising page here: