In 2016, Steve McKeown and a couple of mountain biking buddies set about raising money for Cancer Research UK after hearing some sad news from their friend Jim Trotter. Jim’s wife Lisa had just been diagnosed with bowel cancer two months after being given the all clear from the breast cancer she had bravely fought. It was decided as Lisa’s fight was so tough, the least they could do was face a really tough challenge themselves.
We knew of quite a few other nutter bike riders who would be up for a big challenge and settled on an epic off-road mountain bike ride from Knaphill to Brighton… and back. We decided to call the group Saddlesore.bike after the website they had created and make the ride back from Brighton more interesting and challenging by taking the route of the Downslink bridleway that connects the North Downs Way and South Downs Way National Trails. Ninety eight miles in one day.
So, with 40 riders and 150 supporters, they set off from The Garibaldi on 18th June 2016 for the first ride and with the support of 150 people raised just under £7K for the charity.
Spurred on with this success, the challenge has become an annual event and The Downslink ‘brand’ has started other fund raising events such as quiz nights, a charity gin festival as well as having donations and help from many local businesses and sports clubs. This year, The Garibaldi hosted the ‘set off’ and ‘after show’ parties and provided all day entertainment for families including pig racing, face painting and bouncy castle.
Tragically Lisa died in November 2018 and in honour of her memory, the Saddlesore event in June 2019 with some other donations has raised a whopping £29,000. The proceeds will be split with Woking and Sam Beare Hospice and Woking Age Concern. At the end of this year’s ride, Lisa and Jim’s children Sadie, Kitty and Seth gave out the medals to riders, following in their mum’s footsteps.
2019 saw two additional events introduced that were organised by Gail Smith and Carolyn Long. The Quiz night in January and the Gin Festival in April were held at the Vyne in Knaphill and both were sell-out events. Both were very very successful and contributed to the 2019 fundraising total. Great fun was had by all, new friendships were made and money raised for the two charities. It looks as though these will be repeated for 2020.
The Downslink Challenge team are:
Steve Mckeown – Organiser
Gail Smith – Organiser
Carolyn Long – Organiser
Richard Roberts – Managing Director Trident Garages – Event sponsor
Mike Overton – Lunar Design – Website & Social Media
James Palmer – K8 Design & Media – Graphic Design for T shirts and Leaflets etc
Martin Durrad – Garibaldi landlord…all things pubby!
Mark Everard – Trade sponsorship
Suzy Woolley – Spreadsheet guru (essential for rider’s info)
Helen McKeown – Marshall organiser
Rachel Prior – Photographer
The Band “Blackbird” – Evening entertainment
Paul Smith, Dave Long, Colin and Kerry Voice, Paul Woolley, Ian and Sally People, Jim and Lucy Green, Sandra Wheeler, Joy Cassidy, Josh McKeown, Frankie Brayshaw, Paul Benstead, Jackie Emms, Viv Everard, Andrew Franklin, Andy Mumford, James Brierley.