The story so far
Bobby on a Bike began as a plan to cycle across the USA, the idea came to Neil in October 2000 whilst out walking his dogs, he'd spent many days, weeks and months as a teenager watching his father, Robin, undertake challenges for charity. It all started with the Gloucester marathon in 1982, back in the days of the original 'flared' trousers! Things went on from that, Robin completed numerous marathons, 3 London's, a Paris and a number of less well known.
The running began to incorporate walking, the first marathon walk he did was from Wellington, Somerset (his home town) to Wellington, Shropshire. Then came the 'biggy' - Wellington to Scotland and back again. Robin was a special constable at the time, with Avon and Somerset, he too was helped on his events by colleagues.
2000 saw Neil reach 35, and an 'ants in the pants' period of wondering what to do leading into his forties...on putting the idea of 2 months off work to cycle across the USA for charity to his bosses, it soon became apparent that this was not going to be happening, they picked themselves off the floor, trying to control the laughter...and politely said 'no'. So....it was back to the drawing board to think of a challenge that would only take a month, or the equivalent of the entire leave allocation for 12 months.
Canada to Mexico, 1,800 miles along the west coast of the USA was now the plan, originally known as 'cycle challenge 2002', but re-named 'Bobby on a Bike' by Neil's father in law, Norman (the support driver for 2002).
For you first timers to the site, a 'bobby' is a polite nickname for a police officer, taken from Sir Robert (bobby) Peel, who is seen by many as the father of the original British police constable.
The first ever Bobby on a Bike took place in April / May 2002, with Neil and Tony riding and Norman Wilcock in support. Their good friends, John Bishop and Glenna Trout, helped a great deal in organising American Police Dept support for the ride. During the planning and preparation a team of cycle cops from Antwerp visited Neil and Tony, rode with them for a day and helped to promote awareness and raise funds for their chosen charities.
The plan in the USA was to cycle from Police Dept to Police Dept, stopping each night to eat drink and be merry with fellow law enforcement officers, not forgetting to raise a few dollars for charity as they went. Despite a crash for both Neil and Tony, at the 81 mile point on the first day, the event was a complete success. Charities on both sides of the pond benefited from the event, with over £15,000 being divided, the beneficiaries being, The Prostate Cancer Charity, The National Asthma Campaign (UK), The American Lung Association and The Fred Hutchinson Organization (USA).
On May 12th 2002, Neil and Tony stood at the Mexican Border, having just cycled 105 miles, looked at each other and said 'where shall we cycle to now'?
...a further request to take 2 months off work to cycle USA coast to coast was politely rejected...
So, in May / June 2005 the Bobby on a Bike team cycled from Canada - Mexico once again, but in fewer days than before. The team changed slightly, with Chris Rodda taking on the support role, assisted by Neil's son, Matthew. Jeff Cribb joined the cycle team, originally offering to take the support role, but before he knew it, he was on his new TREK and pilling on the miles in preparation....and how glad he is he chose to cycle :-)
The charities to benefit from this ride were, Suffolk Help in Multiple Sclerosis and The Miles Alder Trust.
Once again, the event was a great success, they met some wonderful people on the way, all saying, this was the one thing that stands out, the fantastic support and hospitality from the American people...the trip even inspired one police dept to organise a return leg of BOAB.
Coos Bay Police Dept flew into the UK in May 2006, to cycle UK Coast to Coast, as with Bobby on a Bike, they created a website for people to read about their adventures, www.coosbaytouk.org. They spent nearly 2 weeks in the UK, learning about the different policing styles and roles, also completing a 400 mile cycled ride, from Suffolk to Somerset. Jeff rode with them to navigate, whilst Neil, his wife, Mel and friend, Kirsty supported them. The end of the ride saw the entire thing come full circle and finish with lunch in the sun, in Robin's back garden in Somerset.
To date Bobby on a Bike has donated £32,000 to charity.
Bobby on a Bike seemed at an end... but....June 2008 saw the hardest ride to date, 4,295 miles across the Trans America route of the USA. Joined by friends they'd met from previous rides, Jim Halloran, Robert Lounsbury and Nick Furman, Neil and Jeff, joined by newcomers to bobby on a bike, Paul Ward and Laura Hicks, cycled across the USA in 26 days, averaging between 90 and 100 miles per day.
The monies raised from the 2008 event have been shared between The Prostate Cancer Charity and East Anglian Children's Hospices.
2008 saw the total, bobby on a bike has donated to charity, rise to nearly £40,000.
Thinking it was time to sit back and concentrate on a book, Neil and Jeff spoke about cycling the 2006 Coos Bay to UK route across the UK... just because they could... however, after the sad death of their friend Gene Butler, who lost a very quick battle against cancer. They put the idea of a memorial ride for Gene, to his colleagues on the firearms dept at Suffolk Police, there was no hesitation... what a great way to remember a friend and raise money for the hospice that looked after Gene and his family.
It looks like there will be a reunion for all the bobby on a bike team, with Tonyreturning to ride with Neil and jeff again and for the first time with Paul and Laura...
The Coos Bay to UK ride, in May 2006, inspired what was to become an annual event...
The Ride for Gene in 2009 was the first of a 'big' team of cyclists taking on the UK Coast to Coast challenge...
2010 and the 'Help for Heroes' ride, 37 riders and a team of 6 support crew...
2011 a new, more challenging route was devised, taking riders East Coast to West Coast, Suffolk to Wales... a route that would be described as 'relentless from lunch on day 3... 47 riders started out at Aldeburgh, 39 finished on the Welsh coast! By the end of 2011, the 4th May Ride had donated £18,000 to Cancer Research UK. This would swell the amount raised by Bobby on a Bike to over £77,000.
2012 and 10 years since the first ride, Canada to Mexico...The 10th Anniversary year has to be a big one...it will see the largest ever May Ride group take on the challenging Suffolk to Wales route, 56 riders signed up and committed to ride the 4 days. Whilst that is taking place, Neil Smith, Jeff Cribb and Rob Bryan, will take on the 4 day, near' 400 mile route, in one go!!
In addition to this, only 6 weeks before, Neil, Rob and Jeff, will be attempting to complete the World's longest non-stop canoe marathon! The Devizes to Westminster. 125 miles, 77 portages, one race, non-stop. Nick named ...pedal to paddle, it will test their physical and mental strength more than ever before, even more so than cycling 26 days across the USA.
So...Bobby on a Bike continues...one man's dream, 10 years ago, to cycle USA Coast to Coast, has inspired more than 100, so far, to jump on their bikes and push themselves to the limit, realising that you 'can' if you put your mind to it, achieve the unachievable.
The 2013 May Ride in aid of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution raised the largest May Ride amount ever! With nearly over £23,000 donated.
The RNLI in Aldeburgh now play a part in every May Ride, opening their doors for tea and coffee, at 7am on the morning of Day 1 for each May Ride.
In 2013 we did a cake day for them on the May Bank holiday, giving them an additional few hundred £’s.
The May ride in 2013 saw the largest rider group take part, with 62 riders taking on the challenge. With really tough conditions on the last day, 13 riders didn’t quite manage to get to the finish line. But their grit and determination to keep going till they could no more, was inspiring.
Our beneficiary in 2013 was the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen Families Association (SSAFA) they ended up receiving over £15,000 from the event, and an amount that was to be there largest single donation from an event in 2013.
In 2013, Neil Smith and David Horne, support crewed a charity ride from Ipswich to Paris. In late 2012, double Gold Commonwealth Games Archer, Nicky Hunt contacted us for a little advise on organising a bike ride. After a couple of hours over coffee, we agreed to help her organise the ride and provide support crew for the actual event.
The ride was a massive success and upon completion, over £10,000 was donated to the charity Nick is a patron at, For Young People, based in Ipswich.
In 2014 the May Ride raised over £11,000 for the charity Care of Police Survivors (COPS)
It was an exciting year for many reasons, one that stands out was the publication of the 2014 Queens Birthday Honours list, notifying Neil that he had been awarded an MBE for charitable services, due to the work involved in Bobby on a Bike.
Plans are now in place for the 8th May Ride in 2015. It’s an exciting time, as our intention is to purchase a holiday caravan at Brynrodyn on the Welsh Coast. Once fully kitted out, the caravan will be used to offer free accommodation to people/families that may have been through difficult times. It could well mean the difference between a chance to get away or not.
Own an iPad or iPhone ? You can download the full story of Bobby on a Bike here in the itunes bookstore.