Frequently asked questions about Extra Mile Challenges
Q. HOW GOOD A CYCLIST DO I NEED TO BE TO ENTER AN EXTRA MILE CHALLENGE?
A. All kinds of people enter our Challenges, from complete beginners to experienced cyclists. It’s not a race and as long as your team can average over 15mph you will finish each day in daylight, in time for dinner. Your team’s average speed can be increased by “leapfrogging,” explained below. Participants must normally be over 18, but otherwise there is no age limit.
Most people will need to prepare by practising regularly over a couple of months or more before the event. Build up gradually until you are confident that you can cycle a total of 45 to 50 miles in a day, with rests. Only those already cycling similar distances at pace on a regular basis should consider taking part without preparing specifically for the Challenge. Some of the terrain will be hilly – an inevitable consequence of the beautiful countryside we seek out. None of the cycling is off road, except perhaps on designated tarmac cycle paths. Read our Safety & Welfare Instructions.
Q. WHICH BIKES ARE BEST FOR THE CHALLENGE?
A. Racing bikes are best for covering the long distances involved, as the route is all on proper roads. Commuter bikes and hybrids with smooth tyres are OK but mountain bikes with wide, knobbly tyres are slower and require more effort. Some teams have brought a mix of racers and mountain bikes for particularly mountainous Challenges. Teams have even used tandems and a child’s chopper bike!
Q. HOW FAR WOULD I HAVE TO RIDE?
A. All our Challenges cover around 500 miles in 3 days, but teams ride them in relay. The average distance that each cyclist covers is 45 miles a day, typically in 4 or 5 stages. Less experienced teams tend to change cyclists more frequently, for example every 30 minutes. As it’s not a race, it is entirely up to each team to choose how far each rider’s turn should be. This may depend on fitness, terrain or other factors relevant to you.
Q. HOW DOES THE RELAY WORK?
A. Each team has 4 cyclists who take it in turns to ride a section of the route. Each cyclist must wear the number belt provided, which must be visible at all times whilst cycling.
Each team needs a vehicle capable of carrying 4 people, their luggage and 4 bikes. Cars, vans, 4x4s and people carriers are all suitable. There may be an entry surcharge for vehicles larger than a normal car or 4×4. Bikes can be carried on the roof, on a rear carrier or even inside larger vehicles. The support vehicle is the team’s home for up to 10 hours a day, so it needs to be comfortable, reliable and well stocked with drinks and snacks!
Q. WHAT IS “LEAPFROGGING”?
A. It is a variation of the changeover, which increases the average speed of the team, and so shortens the time taken to complete each day’s stage. The first rider sets off from the start and the vehicle (with other team members) goes straight to a pre-arranged changeover point. The vehicle parks up – off the road – and the next rider sets off immediately, before the first rider has arrived. The team vehicle waits to collect the first rider (it should not go back for him) then sets off and overtakes the second, driving on to the next changeover point where the third rider immediately sets off while the vehicle waits for the second – and so on. This does not shorten the distance cycled by the team, but by having two cyclists cycling at the same time for a period, it saves time. This is achieved at the expense of some rest time between turns. Slick organisation helps, and usually means that riders have slightly less contact with each other and the team vehicle than if only one rider is on the road at a time. This in turn makes it particularly important that each rider should familiarise him/herself with the directions for that leg of the route before setting out on it. A mobile phone is essential equipment for each rider on the road, and for the support vehicle.
Q. WHAT DOES THE SUPPORT VEHICLE DO?
A. It transports the team members not actually cycling at the time and positions itself for changeovers. A typical arrangement is for jobs to be rotated: one member drives, one navigates and one rests.
Q. HOW DO I FOLLOW THE ROUTE?
A. The entire route is arrowed by the experienced marshal team. Cyclists and the team vehicle can follow the arrows. A few weeks in advance of the event, teams receive a detailed turn-by-turn description of the route, designed to be plotted on the large-format Michelin road atlas. Teams are responsible for their own navigation, but in practice are greatly assisted by the direction arrows placed by our marshals. Directions and maps are also provided in formats that can be downloaded to Garmin sat-nav devices.
Q. WHAT DO THE MARSHALS DO?
A. Volunteer marshals mark the route and monitor the teams’ progress. Marshals’ cars are clearly marked and they are there to provide directions and assistance. Teams are, however, responsible for their own safety and should refer to our Safety and Welfare Guidelines.
Q. WHAT ACCOMMODATION IS PROVIDED?
A. The entry fee includes 4 nights’ accommodation, in 3/4-star hotels such as Novotel, Mercure and Ibis. The size of our party means that we often use more than one hotel in each location and standards therefore vary a little. Accommodation each night will be in twin-bedded rooms. It is therefore important that you select your team to ensure that room sharing is acceptable. Single rooms are not normally available because the price is somewhat prohibitive.
Q. WHAT MEALS ARE PROVIDED?
A. Breakfast in the hotels on all days, and evening meals with wine in the local hotel or restaurants, normally on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. On Sunday there is an end-of-Challenge gala dinner (not formal!). All this is included in the entry fee. We will pass on requests for special meals for vegetarians and those with other dietary requirements if your team leader notifies us well in advance (but we can’t guarantee that the restaurants will accommodate every special diet).
Q. HOW SECURE WILL MY BIKE BE OVERNIGHT?
A. Our hotels usually have their own car parks but these may not be locked. Locking cycle sheds or space in the hotel are unlikely. Invest in good quality locking devices so you can ensure that all bikes are safely locked to the team vehicle overnight. The special travel insurance arrangements available from Bullerwell & Co through Extra Mile Challenges include some cover for loss of your bike. However this may not be sufficicent for more expensive models. Check out the cover available through this policy, or your own travel or household insurance. Specialist bike insurance may be available to members of organisations such as the Cycle Touring Club www.ctc.org.uk.
Q. WHAT SORT OF CLOTHING SHOULD I TAKE?
A. First and foremost, padded cycling shorts!
Shirts in modern, technical fabric are the most comfortable during and between turns on the bike. Cotton, once wet from rain or perspiration, takes much longer to dry. Pack waterproofs and warm clothing for cold, early morning starts. Windproof, full-finger gloves will also be appreciated if the early mornings are chilly.
Clean casual wear is appropriate for dinner in the evenings. Jackets and ties are not the norm.
Q. IS FUEL READILY AVAILABLE ON THE ROUTE?
A. Bear in mind that most of the route will follow minor roads. Most “24 hour” pumps – eg at supermarkets – are automatic outside retail shop hours. The recommended plan is to fill up each evening: our overnight stops are generally in large towns where fuel is readily available. Otherwise, during the cycling days you may need to divert from the route to a town to find fuel.
Q. HOW MUCH MONEY SHOULD I TAKE?
A. Teams may be expected to provide their own dinner on one of the four nights. Check the published details for your Challenge. Most restaurants accept credit cards. For the nights when dinner is provided, it includes a modest wine allowance and water. Bed and breakfast are provided within your entry fee for all four nights. The channel crossing is included in the entry fee.
You will need to provide your own drinks and snacks (including lunch on the move, as time will be at a premium) during each day’s cycling and for the return trip on Monday. As time is short it is probably worth stocking up with non-perishables before departure.
There will be motorway tolls on the Thursday route out and Monday route home.
Otherwise you may need pocket money for additional bar drinks, souvenirs etc. – and of course if you plan to stock up your home cellar!
Q. WILL THERE BE PRIZES?
A. The Challenge is NOT a race so there will be no prizes for the fastest, first to finish etc.
The only award that we will definitely make is for the team that raises the most money for charity. Our one big driver is to give away as much as possible to other charities.
Any other awards are solely at the discretion of the organisers. On occasions in the past we have given prizes for Spirit of the Challenge, best dressed vehicle or a KCOC award (for a major cock-up) if we have seen something special.
The organisers’ decision is final in respect of all awards!
Q. CAN MY TEAM’S SPONSORS DONATE BY CREDIT CARD?
A. Yes. Teams or individual participants can set up their own page on the Virgin Money Giving website through which credit card donations to ExtraMile Challenges can be attributed appropriately to your team. Refer to the Charities page of this website for important details.
Virgin Money Giving
Virgin Money Giving provides a service and you can set up a team page for donations direct to Extra Mile Challenges. It is essential that you specify Extra Mile Challenges as your charity at this stage. We then receive all monies, allocate to your team as appropriate and present you with a cheque in favour of your chosen charity after all sponsorhip has been collected. Because of the amounts presented to the organiser’s charities, it is crucial that this process is followed and the organisers reserve the right to impose sanctions where funds raised through our Challenge are not received by Extra Mile Challenges.
However we are happy to accept donations direct by cheque, payable to Extra Mile Challenges. All the money Extra Mile Challenges actually receives for teams’ individual sponsorship, together with income tax we can reclaim from the Government on most personal donations, is passed to charity without deduction for expenses or administration.
Q. HOW WILL MY TEAM’S SPONSORSHIP MONEY BE DISTRIBUTED?
A. Each Team commits to a minimum of £1200.00 fundraising, before any Gift Aid. Every year Extra Mile Challenges selects a number of charities to support. One-quarter of all funds we receive from each team plus the tax reclaimed on all donations under Gift Aid will be shared between charities chosen by the organisers, and the charitable funds of the two supporting Rotary Clubs. The remaining 75% of your team’s sponsorship funds raised will then be passed to you to forward to a registered charity of your choice. We can pay it direct if you request.
All sponsorship money should be paid over to Extra Mile Challenges within two months from the end of the Challenge. Passing the team’s entire sponsorship through us maximises the amount raised for charity. That is because Extra Mile Challenges is itself a registered charity which can reclaim income tax from the Government on most personal donations under the Gift Aid scheme.
Extra Mile Challenges is supported by financial contributions from commercial supporters. They are highlighted on various pages of this website. Their contributions subsidise your entry fee and cover all administrative expenses of Extra Mile Challenges. Much organisational work, and the event marshalling, is done by volunteers from the Rotary Clubs of Milton Keynes Grand Union and Bedford Park. Extra Mile Challenges has no paid staff. Thus every penny we receive of your team’s sponsorship will be donated to charity, with no deduction by Extra Mile Challenges for administration or expenses.
Q: Can I raise money for a good cause (for example a named disabled individual) that is not actually a registered charity?
A: Extra Mile Challenges policy is to donate only to registered charities. We are not in a position to vet the suitability of individual cases, and must ensure that our proper governance criteria are met. One way to support an individual in need through your Extra Mile Challenge may be to identify an existing registered charity working in the relevant field. If you give them details of your intended beneficiary, they may be willing to allocate your fundraising to that particular case. Obviously it would be best to discuss this with the selected charity well before the event.