Bike for Brains

So Tim Wild’s copywriting made my attempt at the first company-wide email sound a lot more professional, if flexing the truth a touch for effect. Normally, we do not get a response until the third email that goes out in April, but this has already raised over £200 in a day!

Here it is.

Hello folks,

Important feel-good charity news: 

Think Big

We believe that everyone should have access to education.

Start Small

Girls have as much right to an education as boys. Ten years ago, I started working to provide access to a secondary education for girls that are denied that opportunity. We began with a small group of seven girls from the Berber communities of the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco, and the project has grown and grown.

Fail/Scale Fast

Since then, the first seven are currently studying at university and we have scaled up to providing education to over 200 girls at secondary school, as well as help with electricity, refuge collection, recycling, the provision of ambulances and a hearse for the communities of the Three Valleys.


Bike Transformation. (I’m here all week. Try the veal.)

For the fifth year in a row, we are holding the Marrakech – Atlas Etape at the end of April.  It’s a 140km bike ride up a 10,000ft mountain and back again. In one day.

What’s it got to do with me?

Tim Wild and I are representing R/GA – but we’re looking for (idiots) spirited adventurers to join us. 

Or, take the easier route and just sponsor us – via this convenient digital platform here:   (This is the least irritating request we’ll make, by the way. Pay up now, the emails stop. Avoid us and there’ll be videos, pictures, emotional blackmail, actual blackmail etc. 

Here’s why:

‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’ (Mandela)


Hall of fame

‘Welcome to the hall of fame, now you’ve coughed up cash, welcome to the hall of…’ he sings while mangling the lyrics of Madness.

In short, these are the posts where we thank you for your support of Education for All – as evidenced by the final line…

So, Elliot, a former O2 client, and good friend who we are now working with elsewhere, set the funding ball rolling in what has been a slow start this year.

Freddie, kindly chipped in behind him and we are 4% of the way to our target.

You both rock! Many thanks for the support!

Thanks to Jim McW, impressed by your Arabic, blessings on your house.

Steve and Iris, you’re both stars!

One little email…

Sent the below out today and the sponsorship went through the roof – many thanks everyone

For the busy amongst you, the long and the short of it is this:

The long of it – This Sunday is The Ouka Monster – 100 miles; 10,000 plus foot of climbing in the Atlas Mountains in aid of Education for All – the main climb being a straight 7,000 feet and probably the longest single-ascent road climb in the world.

The short of it – Support us here – as I am stupid enough to be doing this on a folding bike – around 11 hours and 6,600 calories of pain.

And why? – Educate a boy and you educate the man; educate a girl and you educate a family, a community, a nation. (And looking at the current world situation, North Africa is a good place to start!)

provide safe boarding houses and the opportunity of a secondary education to girls from the rural communities of the High Atlas. Apart from a paid housemother and cook, there are no administrative expenses. 100% of all donations (apart from justgiving’s charges) go directly to the project.

Individually, we may not be able to change the world but together we can help to make a difference to a few lives—and indirectly to many more. As Nelson Mandela said, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’


 The back story

In fact ‘back story’ is so last year, this year has been all about the pelvis. I spectacularly smashed my pelvis in three places last May.

I spent the spring on crutches, the summer teaching myself to walk and got back on a bike around October. At this point Chris and I decided we’d give the Ouka Monster another age-defying go.

Training started after the New Year excesses wore off and, allowing for the fact I was starting from a base of zero, has been one of the most painful things I have ever done – in comparison, the falling off the bike bit was easy!

So, 1,320 miles and 121 hours climbing 40,300 feet later Chris and fly out Saturday, do not acclimatise, ride Sunday and return whimpering to the UK on Monday.

My legs hurt, my back hurts and, frankly, I am ‘bricking it’.

Regardless, it is a great cause and you can all get the warm glow of doing some good in the world without having to do any of the above as I have covered the masochistic side for you!

I appreciate the support, thank you,



Some light reading

The people from the Marrakech-Atlas Etape send out an information pamphlet and I seem to feature on pages 4 and 5 no less! Riding a silly bike obviously equates to guaranteed personality…


You can help support my efforts to raise money for Education for All here –


All change

Well, my reader, it has been a while. Following the Etape with it’s death defying descent and the Brompton screaming around corners at 50+kmh – so fast that Strava got in touch and removed both my climbs (2013 and 2014) from my profile as it must have been done in a vehicle!

I was going to make a fuss, but on my return to London I got hit by a taxi – honestly, how often can you get a taxi on a Friday night in London – and broke my pelvis in three places. On the bright side the Brompton was unscathed and I am now able to forecast rain 24 hours in advance.

So, a summer of restricted movement and chasing two children taking advantage of the crutches, meant that I was unable to carry out the much needed maintenance on SB Cabby – the last wooden Thames Sailing Barge made, a Dunkirk Little Ship and a member of the National Historic Fleet, I was determined to get back on the bike and, taking a break from fund-raising for Education for All, start raising money to get the old girl fixed up in a Charity or Trust status.

Two days after getting back on the bike, the boat was broken into and, as luck would have it, the bike stolen!

So, a second sea change. I made the decision not to buy Brompton number three. They are great, very well geared and as I proved, despite Strava’s doubts, you can get them anywhere – however, they are heavy (even with the wheels on the stand), which does not go with the weather forecasting pelvis and, when contacted to support EFA, they were far from helpful.

Having said all that, I am still getting a folding bike. This time it is one you can wheel around a little easier in the form of a Pacific Reach –

The time is now!


Just sent the last begging mail out:

The final comedown [mail 3 of 3]

Sorry, ‘countdown’…

Yep, this Sunday is the big day!

Cue, ‘Velvet Underground’

Sunday morning,

Brings the dawning,

Of one blooming monstrous mountain climb on my Brompton… [It may not scan, but I am fairly sure I will]

Feel all the wasted years

Catch one up from behind…

For those of you who want to bypass my woffle and cut to the chase:

For everybody else, read on…

Firstly, a massive thanks for all the support so far – we are about 70+% on our way to our target!

When I started training for this caper a couple of months back, my stated aims – outside of emptying your bank account – covered three things

  1. no beer
  2. no fags
  3. no junk food.

Well, I certainly went on to prove that prohibition, as history demonstrates, doesn’t work. I can almost sense the resounding shock that, true to form, so long as you strike the ‘no’, I succeeded in these aims!

Rather than failure, I am looking at it as follows –

  • The beer is ‘carb loading’
  • The occasional cigarettes and reduced lung capacity is good training for the high altitude.

Admittedly, I have failed to justify the junk food to myself, but think the climb will be a suitable guilt-ridding punishment.

Despite my human weaknesses, however, I have cycled up Swains Lane in Highgate a lot of times (43 thousand feet worth of times, in fact) by way of some urban training.

Between the wrenching gasps, sweat stinging eyes and sinew twanging thighs, I have been amused passing the famous cemetery with Marx, unusually, on my right and, on my left, the crowds of disappointed tourists who failed to book the tour around the older West side – although not as disappointed, I imagine, as Dickens and co were when they arrived to take up more permanent residence!

Anyhow, it’s almost time to fold the bike and head to the Atlas mountains, so we may as well end with a tune…

Cue the Wonderstuff

It’s not your heart, it’s your bank I want to break!

It’s your money I am after baby…!

Look on the bright side, it could have been ‘the only way is up’ by Yazz.

See you all next Tuesday, so to speak,

Tuffs xxx

Eight weeks out

Okay – that’s it, I have sent the company-wide sponsorship mail – let the world know I am doing this and commited to getting healthy – that was the easy bit!

All R/GA:

For those who missed my inaugural Toastmasters talk yesterday, between all the ‘effing and blinding’ and giving HR enough material to extradite me from the building, I touched on uppers and downers!

The big high in this case being the Oukaimeden in the High Atlas – a casual 10,000’ of climbing on my little Brompton! The downer being the return journey which is terrifying – last year the clown bike topped 50mph!

Starting in Marrakech, you climb through the High Atlas Mountains to the ski resort of Oukaïmeden (Ouka) at 2624m, an altitude gain of some 2129m in aid of Education for All. To give you an idea The Ouka Monster is bigger in altitude gain than any of the classic climbs in the Tour de France:

Oukaïmeden 2129m
▲ Galibier 1924m
Mont Ventoux 1622m
▲ Tourmalet 1404m
▲ Alpe d’Huez 1071m

I am about to go through the pain of spending the next 8 weeks getting fit, not smoking, not drinking beer and not eating junk food to do this. In return I want to rob you all deaf, dumb and blind in the name of a fantastic cause (I cover all my expenses and all monies go to the charity)

Thanks in advance,

Tuffs x


A while back I sent out a rallying call to everyone I know to see if they wanted to join us – other than the odd person being recommended by others, so far, the response is ‘minimal’ but it is not too late to join! – We are flying Saturday 26 April – riding Sunday 27 April – returning Monday 28 if you have the urge.

And for something completely different which may need the addition of an AK:

The short and the long of it

The long of it:

I struggled to write a testimonial for the Marrakech – Atlas Etape as I felt I was in danger of mimicking the sort of travel journalist I dislike, the one who writes gushing articles about this unspoiled corner or that and, thereby, opening it up to the masses for it never to be the same again. That, and the fact I have spent the last week struggling to find adequate words to describe this event (while I defrosted).

I feel that I am extremely privileged to have ridden in the first of, I hope, many of these rides. It is everything you can want as a cyclist, an off the beaten track, adventurous challenge with great people in aid of a great cause. Although it was a tad misty when we did it, the unspoiled – there I said it – scenery and mountain views are awe inspiring.

The event was extremely well organised in a charmingly understated way, the climb is long – very long, but never too steep as to be a killer – and is punctuated with food and drink stops cunningly placed around 50 yards before you need to get off and walk. The summit was at the edge of my pain barrier and made me question doing this on a Brompton, however, a fine selection of food on arrival soon sorts things out and adds a little extra weight to aid gravity in the descent.

The descent – well, wow, my word. Unless the Garmin is prone to exaggeration then the Brompton hit 50 mph which is beyond exhilarating to say the least. The landscape screams past leaving you wondering how on earth you managed to climb so much of it. In a flash you are down and level out to a final straight 30k run in with a slight slope in your favour – storming your way triumphantly back to Marrakech riding as a bizarre team of two Bianchi’s and a Brompton is a memory that will take some beating.

Have to thank my riding partner Chris Gurney, Tiffany and Stewart for locking wheels on the run in and Mike and his team for organising everything – fabulous!