Croydon adventurer Alex Lewis-John taking on Europe 6,000km cycle challenge for Shelterbox
An adventurer is taking on the elements in a 6,000km cycling challenge from the Arctic to the Adriatic Sea, to raise money for charity.
Alex Lewis-John, from Croydon, is six weeks into his four month journey through Europe, from north to south, across 13 countries, starting Norway and ending in Croatia, to raise money for Shelterbox.
Shelterbox, based in Bournemouth, provides emergency shelter and supplies to communities around the world overwhelmed by disaster and humanitarian crisis.
The route Alex is on follows the imaginary line of the Iron Curtain, which represented the ideological divide between the Soviet Union and Western Europe, during the Cold War.
Mr Lewis-John, who discovered the charity whilst studying geography and environmental management at Exeter University, said: “When I was down in Bournemouth it was during the Haiti earthquake and I heard about this charity called Shelterbox, which got to the victims within days.”
He has raised just over £1,000 but says he is measuring success in how many boxes, which cost £590 each, he can fund.
He said: “I decided to do something extreme to get people to hear about it.”
The 24-year-old was inspired to take on the challenge by the 2012 Olympics, whilst volunteering at the 240km (149 mile) Richmond cycling road race.
Speaking from Lithuania he said: “I started in Kirkenes in northern Norway, near Russian border.
“From Kirkenes I crossed the border into Finland and spent the next three weeks cycling down as fast as I could because I was quite scared of meeting bears in the woods, but I only met reindeer.”
“I have my father and one of my brothers meeting me in Poland, so I have to make sure I make it there in time to meet them.”
Alex, who gave up a lucrative city job to pursue his passion for studying climate change, must cycle for six hours a day to reach his100-120km target.
He said: “I did very little to train for this but I did a lot of research on the clothes that I would require.
“My fitness has improved I have had to learn how to fix broken pedals on my own but nothing serious so far, but there is still time for my bike to fall apart or be stolen.”
On his bike he is only able to carry three small bags of supplies and equipment.
Mr Lewis-John added: “I was expecting quite a lot of problems with the bike but I have only had one puncture which is impressive because I usually get millions.
“I had to buy new gloves because I realised the ones I had weren’t sufficient and I almost got hypothermia.
“I have a Union Jack flag on my bike so people know what language to say hello to me in.”
The adventurer admitted the hardest condition he had faced so far was the wind.
He said: “I thought hills would be the hardest thing but with hills when you go up to know you will go down, wind is unpredictable and it ruins your momentum.
“That is my nemesis for the time being.
“My motto is to tell myself to ‘shut up and pedal.’”