Hey Everyone! I guess by now you’ve seen the video of me taking the London Boris Bike video all around the world, if not you can see it in this blog post. But the real question is why did I do it? Then how?
The aim of the video was to capture people’s attention and draw it to the fact that I’m swimming 35km across the English Channel this August to raise £25,000 for Dreams Come True children’s charity.
I’d seen people do really great things for charity but they never raised the money they deserved because they didn’t manage to grab people’s attention and get exposure for what they were doing. I know people, people that I swim with, that have raised £1000 or £2000 for a charity by swimming the Channel; then look at David Walliams who raised around £1,000,000 for sport relief. They’ve both completed the exact same feat, yet the only difference is the level of exposure their respective challenges had. Dreams Come True is one of the smallest UK charities. I’ve had a lot of opportunity in my life so I know I’ve got a lot to be grateful for whereas others sadly aren’t so fortunate.
I knew the Boris Bike video would be a great way to capture people’s attention, as it’s such an iconic piece of London. Everyone, including myself, rides them on a daily basis. The problem is that they’re extremely bulky, heavy and really awkward to travel with, I guess there’s an obvious reason for that. Boris Johnson clearly makes it difficult to take his bikes overseas, that’s for sure.
I’d been planning the whole thing for about 8 months with my brother Adam, the other co-founder of Nutristrength, and Alex who’s in charge of Nutristrength’s social content. We knew it was going to be a bit of a task so it had to be strategically planned. We spent a long time sourcing a bike box big enough to fit the mighty bike inside, as well as figuring out all the logistics of how this would even be possible, let alone how we'd get it out of the country! Once we found the right box I spent some time working with a chap called Adam from Flight Centre who was working out the cheapest way to get to all these places, bearing in mind he just thought I was taking a normal bike the entire time. I’m sure he was curious as the box had such abnormally large dimensions and I had to make sure that all the airlines would take it on board. British Airways seemed to be the best one to go for because they’re happy to let you take Boris Bikes on board at no extra charge. It just has to go in oversized luggage and have a good cover story just in case anyone asked why we had a Santander Cycle.
How we managed to sneak the Boris Bike through the airport and out of the country is a secret but if you find me at one of our events this year I'll tell you how we did it...
In January Alex and I set off on our 3-week adventure by undocking the bike from Westminster and starting our journey to the USA.
New York was first on the list, when we arrived we were really nervous that the bike hadn't made it, as we were the last ones waiting for our baggage but after about an hour we saw the box arrive, only to be questioned by customs officials about the bike inside it. I was pretty nervous but kept my cool and was able to convince the intimidating officer that it was actually just my normal bike that was inside the box.
After 3 days we went on to visit Las Vegas, San Francisco, Rome, Paris, Dubai and India.
We were fortunate enough to have friends put us up and drive us around in all these places (many of whom can be spotted in the video), so a big thank you to; Travis Odegard, Esteban Ruelas, Beatrice Violante, Mel Carey, Jai Mittal and Alex’s family in Dubai.
The entire trip was an adventure, even getting to and from the airport to our accommodation. Places in the USA weren’t as difficult as they love their big cars over there but places like Rome and Paris proved a little more difficult.
Then there’s India that was definitely the hardest out of them all, but my favourite of all the places.
We flew into Delhi airport and took this really small cab to our accommodation. Check out the picture below:
One of the highlights from the trip was travelling 3 hours from Delhi to the Taj Mahal with my friend Jai. He drove Alex and I all the way there, so a big thank you from me Jai!
When we arrived, we realised the security level is really tight at the Taj and they wouldn’t let us in with the bike. We weren’t prepared to go home without the footage of the Taj though. We found some private land out the back of the landmark, whoever owned the property had a couple of guys guarding the entrance and we managed to slip them the equivalent of £10 to let us go in and quickly take the shots we wanted.
The Boris Bike is now safely back in the UK, the serial number is 40909. Santander is going to check it over but it should be back in circulation soon.
Tweet us a picture of yourself riding it if you happen to find the bike!
If you have any other questions about the trip you can tweet me at @chrisastills or to check out any other photos Alex and I will continue to update our Instagram with unseen Boris photos @alex_tyrwhitt and @chrisastills.
If you liked this story and would like to donate to my English Channel solo crossing, anything is appreciated.
If you can't donate right now, then you can still support the campaign by sharing the video as it's raising awareness for the amazing work that the team at Dreams Come True are doing, so hit the share links below! Enjoy, Chris Astill-Smith Co-founder, Nutristrength