Featured Features

Mel Simmonds and the Halow250

Mel SimmondsIn the first of a series of features on cyclists taking on challenges against the odds, Cyclo looks at the Halow250 and how one woman defied medical expectations to help raise essential funds for her charity.


On May 6, after 250miles of riding and 11000ft of climbing, Mel Simmonds was one of a team of 75 people who cycled into Guildford Rugby Club as part of the Halow250 charity ride. Now in its second year and organised by 2Boats Events the test of legs, lungs and spirits had raised an impressive £60k but for Mel the ride and challenge was even more personal.


In July 2010 Mel was on holiday with her boyfriend Jay on the Ionian island of Kefalonia when the steering on the quad bike they had hired locked. Both Mel and Jay were thrown from the bike and both suffered horrific injuries with Mel left with legs badly broken in several places. Back in the UK she spent six months in a wheelchair and underwent several operations – it was thought she would struggle to walk, let alone tackle anything more physically exerting. But determined not to let the accident control or define her she started work at Surrey charity the halow project, which supports young people with learning disabilities. Having been involved with several fundraising events at the charity she took the ultimate leap and entered the Halow250 ride…


But the first obstacle was bike selection; Mel’s network of friends came to her aid and with their help and some back up advice from George and Mark from the 2Boats team, she settled on the Cube Peloton Pro Triple 2013 road bike. Having got the bike, Mel set up her training plan that took place across what turned out to be a harsh winter, but this didn’t stop her. The ride organisers were again on hand to help with advice putting together a programme with Mel carefully building up her road mileage and helping her to gain in confidence on the busy roads of Surrey.


The event day saw halow patron Damon Hill launch the ride with the first stage of 75miles through Surrey, Hampshire and Sussex finishing at Portsmouth Dockyard with a welcome drinks reception on HMS Warrior. After an overnight ferry crossing to the Continent the weather was again perfect for day two; with good support and regular feed stations and lots of encouragement, Mel cycled the 110miles into Caen in good time for a meal and a celebratory drink having comfortably broken the land mark of 100miles in a day. It was then back on the overnight ferry for a good night’s sleep in preparation for the last leg of the ride back to Guildford. The final leg was 50miles up through the beautiful Sussex country, a more leisurely ride for all the cyclists to savour their achievements, with a mass ride into Guildford Rugby club and an emotional welcome home party.


Speaking about her experience Mel says: ‘The Halow250 event helped me enormously – I had no idea just how much it would mean. Physically, the on-going pain I suffer stopped when I began training and getting fitter ahead of the challenge. I felt great during the challenge and never felt fitter health wise. But more than that, my job and work with halow has helped me both physically and mentally to come to terms with what happened and overcome my injuries.’


‘I absolutely love my job with halow and find the work very rewarding,’ she continues, ‘My new found love of cycling would never have happened had it not been for my accident and working with halow. I can’t wait to ride again in the 2014 event in May and I am already trying to get friends and family to sign up and take part. It’s an inspiring ride through beautiful English and French country side with incredible people and is suitable for novice and more experienced riders… I suppose my accident taught me to never give up and live life to the full.’


On May 2-4, 2014, 2Boats will once again be organising the Halow250 to raise essential funding for the halow project – for details on how to get involved visit


Do you have an inspirational cycling story for Cyclo? Get in touch – email


Featured Features

Cycling Challenges Top Tips

Across the Divide Cycling Challenges Top TipsNew to sportives or multi-day cycling challenges? The thought of challenging yourself on the bike can certainly be daunting, but with the right attitude, a dash of common sense and the correct preparation there is really nothing to fear in taking the plunge. Across the Divide is an events management company who run a number of cycle challenge events including London to Paris and the new for 2014 Costa Rica Coast to Coast and Death Valley Cycle Ride; Cyclo asked Steve Cooper, the company’s UK Events Manager, to  smooth the nerves with these cycling challenges top tips…


Training: It is really important to develop a training programme and one which reflects the challenge you are undertaking, for example don’t train for a road event on a mountain bike.


  • Start with shorter distances and build up over a number of weeks.
  • Get some back-to-back training days done reflecting the distances outlined in your challenge literature or itinerary.
  • Train on and with the gear you are going to be using on the event. Testing new kit ‘on the day’ can be disastrous.
  • Vary your training to avoid getting bored, swim, get down the gym, but be careful with running if you’re new to it, you risk hurting ankles, knees and backs!
  • Whenever possible cycle in the terrain you are likely to encounter – if you know there are going to be hills do some!
  • Try and train with someone else – company always helps.
  • The weather shouldn’t be an issue, don’t wimp out in the wind or rain.
  • Don’t over train – keep something back for the event itself.
  • Similarly, test for a few days immediately prior to the event – make sure you have something in the tank.


The Bike: It wouldn’t be a cycling challenge without one, so get to know it and, hopefully, love it. You are potentially going to spend a lot of time on your chosen machine, so making the right choices is an essential part of being prepared.


  • Make sure you have the right type of bike for the event you are undertaking. Talk to the event organisers, take advice.
  • You don’t have to spend thousands to get a great bike, shop around, do some research and remember if your legs aren’t up to it, it doesn’t matter how much you spend.
  • Get properly fitted for a bike and insist on a test ride – any half-decent bike shop will always let you.
  • Cleats/SPD’s help your riding but train with them well before the event.
  • Get the bike properly serviced a couple of weeks before the event.
  • Although most events have plenty of mech support, make sure you at least know the basics of maintenance – fixing a flat at the very least.


Clothing and Apparel: You don’t have to spend a fortune – there are plenty of decent budget brands out there – but having the right clothing makes all the difference to comfort and, consequently, performance on the bike.


  • Train with the clothes you are going to use on the event, particularly your cycling shorts!
  • Bring plenty of spares – one for each day if you can afford it, nothing worse than putting on yesterday’s sweaty socks and shorts…
  • Clothing should be fit for purpose, padded shorts are a real benefit, tops should be lightweight and be made from material that wicks moisture away from the skin.
  • Layering will keep you warm.
  • Bring a lightweight compactable (preferably High-Viz) shower/waterproof jacket.
  • Cycling Gloves protect the hands from impact and vibration – worth considering even for hot events.
  • Flip flops or sandals to give your feet an airing at the end of the day and can help recovery too.


Gear and Tools: It’s not rocket science but it is bike science (or at least mechanics), so having the right tools and knowing how to use them is an important part of any bike challenge. Don’t be daunted, there’s almost always help along the way from either support crew or fellow riders.


  • Always bring a compact repair kit including a multi tool, puncture repair kit, inner tubes.
  • Any bike specific spares. Across the Divide always have qualified bike mechanics on our events, however we can’t carry all known bike spares – spokes for example are not standard and can ruin a ride if they snap and can’t be replaced.
  • Bike computers are great, but you don’t need them on Across the Divide events, we are however happy for you to use them if you already have one and will happily supply GPX files. Always check with event organisers to see how much ‘self navigation’ (if any) might be required.
  • Lights for use in poor weather – and don’t forget batteries.
  • A helmet, at Across the Divide the policy is ‘no helmet, no riding’ – the same goes for any event’s company that takes safety seriously.


Food and Drink: Food is your fuel, without the right fuel you aren’t going to get far. It doesn’t have to be all about those ‘specialist’ bars and gels, a sensible approach to nutrition with ‘real’ food goes a long way. And hydration is absolutely essential…


  • 2 x1 litre water bottles should do it.
  • In exceptionally hot conditions consider electrolyte (salt) replacement products – make sure you test ride them well in advance though as they don’t all ‘agree’ with everyone.
  • Don’t bring hundreds of energy bars and gels especially if you have never used them. They can upset your tummy and are an acquired taste. Across the Divide provide food at pit stops and will be sufficient to keep your hunger pangs at bay. Check carefully with event’s organisers to see what catering is included.
  • Drink plenty – keeping yourself hydrated is vital. Dehydration can end a race quicker than a flat. But also be aware of over hydration, which can be just as event-limiting (and dangerous). There’s plenty of advice online about good hydration strategies – read it and follow it!


And Finally… Turn up on time to the start of your event – nothing worse than missing out or playing catch up. Across the Divide always provide event manuals with all you should need to know about a specific event – any reading materials you are given take the time to read them. If you train appropriately for your event, do some research, ask some questions you should minimise any stress and give yourself a great opportunity to complete a fantastic challenge and have some fun!


For full details on all Across the Divide events and challenges see



Kirsten Scott Memorial Trust Cyclist Deaths

Kirsten Scott Memorial Trust Cyclist DeathsThe two cyclists killed on the A30 in Cornwall on Tuesday have been named as Andrew McMenigall, aged 47, and Toby Wallace, 36. The two, who worked for Aberdeen Asset Management, were on a charity ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats raising money for the Kirsten Scott Memorial Trust, which was set up in memory of a colleague who died of cancer two years ago, when they were involved in a crash with a lorry near Summercourt. The 31-year-old lorry driver was arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving and has been bailed until October.


An official press release from Aberdeen Asset Management read, ‘It is with great sadness that Aberdeen Asset Management confirms the passing of Andrew McMenigall and Toby Wallace, two much loved and valued colleagues who were yesterday involved in a fatal cycling accident in Cornwall.’ Martin Gilbert, chief executive of the company, added: ‘I knew both Andrew and Toby well. They were dedicated and popular members of our senior team. The fact that they died in such tragic circumstances while trying to help others less fortunate tells you much about their selflessness and humanity. This is a terrible time for the company. More importantly our thoughts are with the families of Andrew and Toby. We will be doing everything we can to support them.’


The aim of the Kirsten Scott Memorial Trust is to provide grants to young people under the age of 26 in order for them to fulfill ambitions, enhance their personal development, and make a positive contribution, either at home or overseas. The Trust say they have been ‘overwhelmed by the response on the donation page’, adding: ‘The figure raised is a testament to the esteem in which Andrew and Toby were held… The trustees will ensure that the generous donations will be used to help young people in a way that is a fitting tribute to these inspirational men and for a purpose which Andrew, Toby and Kirsten would be proud of.’


McMenigall and Wallace had hoped to raise £10,000, but the tragic events mean that the total already stands well above £18,000 (as of July 4). To donate please see


For more information on the Kirsten Scott Memorial Trust see



HotChillee London-Paris Early Bird Entry

HotChillee London-ParisFollowing the hugely successful 10th edition of the HotChillee London-Paris bike ride, organisers will open a limited number of first-come-first-served ‘early bird’ entries today (July 2) at 12 noon (BST) for the 2014 event, which is set to take place June 26-29. Ballot places will also be available after the initial early bird entries are full and will close on July 31, but be warned: these limited places have a reputation of selling out fast. The London-Paris, by HotChillee, has become a must-do event on the cycling calendar for those wanting to push their mental and physical limits in an event that replicates, as close as it’s possible to get, the professionals’ experience on a Grand Tour. With 260 crew working on the 450-rider event, it’s a premium experience that includes the same French motorbike outriders as those that work on the TdF


Split into six Seeded Speed Groups, each with their own Ride Captains, lead cars, mechanics, paramedics and support crew, the event is as professional as it gets. Riders cycle together as a peloton, but with timed race sections for the King of the Mountains, Sprinter and General Classification Jerseys There’s a place on The London-Paris for everyone, with the timed race sections split into Pro and Amateur categories.


Sven Thiele, HotChillee founder, says: ‘The last ten years has been such a journey. To be able to provide people with an experience they will never forget is an honour. Like the riders on our events, we are constantly looking to push our boundaries and our goal is to continue to deliver exceptional experiences; experiences that require you to give everything you have, but that give you an immeasurable amount back. Here’s to another ten years.’


For details see



The Dogs Sportive – August 4

The Dogs SportiveThe Dogs Sportive is a challenging event designed by Newmarket Cycling & Triathlon Club to take in some of Suffolk’s loveliest countryside whilst raising funds for The Animal Health Trust (AHT, website here). There are three great routes to choose from with a mixture of rolling hills, flat scenic roads and pretty villages. All three options – the 25mile ‘Terrier’, 50mile ‘Whippet’, 80mile ‘Greyhound – set off from AHT HQ (map here) and take in quiet rolling roads – with the longer two rides dispelling the myth that Suffolk is flat.


Start times are staggered: 9 to 9.45 for Greyhound, 10 to 10.15 for Whippet and 10.30 for the Terrier – with all routes costing £18.40 for online entries, £19 for postal and £25 on-the-day (places permitting). The event promises be a great family day out with other cycle-themed events taking place at the AHT HQ, riders can opt to support the charity by adding an extra £5 to their entry fee when submitting their entry online or by requesting a sponsorship form from AHT directly. Further details at and entries via the British Cycling website here.



Across the Divide Go Further

Across the DivideExpedition and challenge specialists Across the Divide, have added two new cycling odysseys to their roster for 2014. Building on the success of their renowned European rides the company has looked further afield for the coming year and added more than a dash of the ‘unusual’ to their offering.


Running from April 19 to 29 the Costa Rica Coast to Coast takes the more intrepid cyclist from the Caribbean coast, through banana plantations and rainforest, past volcanoes and across tropical rivers, before arriving at the Pacific. Whilst the Death Valley Cycle Ride (November 22 to 29) is the opportunity the pedal through Death Valley National Park, on the California/Nevada border, crossing three mountain passes and covering a total distance of 264miles in five days. A challenging – and almost certainly hot ride despite the November dates – but with the prospect of a night of Thanksgiving celebrations in Las Vegas at the end.


Full details available at


Featured Features

28 Days Across Europe

Simon Atkinson4000miles, nine countries, 28 days; three sets of numbers looming large in the mind of Simon Atkinson, a 38-year-old from West Sussex. In July he will attempt to break the Guinness world record for ‘the fastest cycle across Europe’ – which currently stands at 39 days 11 hours and 24 minutes – pedalling his way from Spain to Norway via France, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Russia and the length of Finland with an average of 140miles a day. Ahead of his epic quest Cyclo spoke to Simon to talk about the challenge to come…


Cyclo: Have you always been a cyclist?


Simon Atkinson: Yes and no, I rode a lot as a kid and as a teenager. I did a bit of mountain biking and one circuit race but bikes got put to one side when I learnt to drive. I only really got back into cycling in early 2011; I was due to get married in the September and I was over 16stone and didn’t want to look back at my wedding photos forever looking at a fat bloke. I bought a ‘fixie’ (fixed-wheel bike) and started riding to work again. I lost over three stone before our wedding and the obsession with cycling started from there.


Cyclo: Have you ever attempted any long distance challenges before?
SA: Not on this scale. I rode Land’s End to Margate in 2010 with a friend for charity; I was still pretty overweight back then and it was hard to ride 450miles in 5 days. Then last year I rode Calais to Switzerland and back, 963miles in 11 days. My riding partner dropped out two days into the ride and I carried on by myself, which was good really as it made me realise I could do these things alone.


Cyclo: So why this record-breaking challenge now?

SA: Switzerland was a revelation in what I could achieve, so I started looking for something else to do. It took a while and my ambitions often out-stripped time and money constraints but finally I stumbled across this record and thought, ‘I could beat that!’ lets hope I can…


Cyclo: It’s not all about the record of course, you’re doing this for charity too…

SA: Yes, I’m raising money for Marie Curie Cancer Care. In my line of work as an undertaker, one thing I know is that cancer doesn’t care who you are. My wife lost her dad to cancer just before we got married, and my dad lost his best mate a few years ago; cancer affects so many peoples lives, you just can’t ignore it.


Cyclo: Tell us about the route you will be riding? How did you decide on it?


SA: I’m going south to north as, in theory, the prevailing winds will be with me and if I can get ahead of my schedule I might be able to catch the last of the midnight sun in Norway, which I would like to see. Someone did say it would be all uphill the way I’m going (not sure about that…)
Beyond that the route was pretty easy to decide and to some extent dictated by Guinness; their rules state I have to stay on mainland Europe and ride the whole distance which ruled out going through Denmark as I would have had to take a ferry or train as you can’t ride legally on the bridges across the water…


I nearly chose a slightly more scenic/hilly route but decided it was going to be hard enough as it was and in the end I just Google-mapped the shortest distance between the two points that I could take without hitting motorways.


Cyclo: Where will you be sleeping?

SA: Due to financial restrictions and to keep my daily mileage options open I don’t have specific places to stay, so I’ll be wild camping for the most part. I have a light one-man tent, which is luxurious compared to the bivvy bag I tried in training.


Cyclo: What are the biggest logistical challenges?

SA: Probably staying hydrated. Spain in July could be pretty hot so I’ll be stopping a lot to fill up my bottles. Eating enough could be a consideration too. I stand to burn quite a few thousand calories each day and the general consensus is that I’ll lose some weight, however I think the people that are saying that are underestimating my ability to eat, I can be a proper pig when I get going.


Cyclo: Will you be supported on the trip or are you flying solo?

SA: I’ll be totally alone for the whole trip. No doubt I could do it quicker with support, but again the logistics and financial considerations ruled it out. I quite like the adventure side of it, being self-reliant and dealing with the daily challenges, motivating myself too when things get tough and there is only me to deal with it. I guess I want to see what I’m made of.
Simon Atkinson GiantCyclo: What bike are you using?

SA: I’ll be using a Giant TCX1, supplied by my local Giant store in Shoreham. It’s a cyclo cross bike so you have the best of all worlds in being hard wearing with a good riding position. The wheels have been hand-built by a local company to be strong and bullet proof but otherwise she is basically standard, the only other changes being an 11-32 cassette and long cage rear derailleur to help on hills when loaded up, plus a set of aero bars to lean on for the long miles.


Cyclo: What about other kit?

SA: I’m only taking the basics and essentials to keep my set up as light as possible. The bike will have no panniers fitted and I will be using a saddle bag, frame bag, top tube bag and hanging stuff off the aero bars. It will be a similar set up to Mike Hall’s round the world record bike. It might not sound it, but I wanted to keep the bike as aero as possible and with limited space to put stuff I won’t be tempted to overload it. My only concession to ‘luxury’ is a lightweight cooking kit; I think it will be great to be able to have a cup of coffee when I wake up in the middle of nowhere.


Cyclo: And technology?

SA: The technology I’m taking is very important. I have a Garmin Edge 800 with European maps so I can see how far I’ve gone and to record for Guinness, but mainly to help navigating through towns. I need to document all aspects of my journey for Guinness verification. I will also have a Spot GPS tracker to show where I have been and to alleviate any worries my family have.


I’ll also have a Go Pro Hero 3 camera strapped to my aero bars and I can update my blog and post pictures via my iPhone, but probably the most important piece of technology is going to be my PowerMonkey Extreme solar charger, without that nothing will work for very long.


Cyclo: How can people get involved in supporting you?


SA: I’ve had a lot of help already and I’d like to thank the Giant Store Shoreham, Strada Wheels, Dignity Funerals, Granville Upholstery, Gamma Communications, Carradice and the Gatorade Sports Science Institute for their help, support and belief in me to do this.


Of course if anyone would like to donate to my charity they can do it via the JustGiving link on my website. There is also a link to my tracker page if anyone wants to see how I’m getting on in real time and I will (hopefully) be updating my blog and twitter daily. In the meantime I have a contact page and I would love to hear from anyone that wants to support me or if anyone has any advice to offer or to just say hello and good luck, I will need it!



Superhero Cycling – August 4

Superhero Cycling – August 4Grab a cape, don a mask, it’s time to Kick-Ass (get it?) – with the fantastic-sounding Superhero Cycling event set to take place at Gloucester Docks on August 4. Starting at Mariners Church (map here) with a 7.45am registration opening and riders away between 8 and 10am there are four distances on offer. The Super 10 (ten miles, natch) is described as ‘a comfortable, relatively flat ride suitable for all abilities’, the Super 25 involves a ‘slightly undulating’ loop of Elmore, the Super 60 takes in the ‘three peaks’ whilst the Super 100, for more experienced cyclists, is the true test for men (and women) of steel.


Superhero costumes are optional but encouraged (why wouldn’t you?) and the event is organised in aid of the Pied Piper Appeal, started in 1992 to improve the lives of sick children in Gloucestershire. Fundraising is via the sponsorship PDF available from the website but riders are free to support their own charity should they with to. The two shorter distances carry a £10 entry fee and the longer routes are both £20. Further details and online entry at