Meet the Team: The Five Eco-Warriors Cycling for Change
From left to right: Sal, Isaac, Alex Egan, Alex Pierrot, Lukas.
At Pedal 4 Parks we are aiming to locate and voice the environmental, sustainable and mental health initiatives being put in place across the country by people who, like us, have a deep connection to the benefits of outdoor spaces. In order to connect these eco-projects, educate the public and raise money for National Parks UK, we will be cycling 1,200 miles across land and sea, from the Orkney Islands to the Isle of Scilly. It takes unique determination, courage and creativity (or what we would call insanity) to commit to this expedition; here are the five eco-warriors who have stepped up to the challenge.
“Say YES to opportunity and learn how to do it later”
Philanthropic British adventurer and professional geoscientist Isaac Kenyon, more commonly known as Mr. Enthusiasm, came up with the idea for Pedal 4 Parks while in open water, with nothing but sun, sea, and fresh air inspiring his decision to set up a new challenge in supporting the protection and regeneration of our beautiful planet. Isaac grew up in Luton, Bedfordshire, a place that has been scorned as one of the worst places to live in the UK. Despite the diversity and culture of Luton, Isaac grew up with very little opportunity, and worry from his parents about his safety outside their home. As a result, he spent the majority of his childhood indoors.
It wasn’t until his time at university that Isaac finally had the chance to explore the significance of spending time outside. Even then, it took a long time for him to open up to the wider world and explore what nature had to offer: being the determined, highly motivated and enthusiastic student that he was, Isaac became a YES man, but for activities and roles that he ultimately deemed pointless. Spending so much of his time looking at screens and carrying out jobs for others on top of his own priorities and student society commitments, he suffered greatly with dread and anxiety, feeling trapped in what felt like a never-ending day of work at a computer. After chatting with his mother, Isaac took her advice and decided to go for a walk to clear his head; he ended up exploring every nook and cranny of the green spaces on his campus, discovering how peaceful it was, and how much clearer his mind had become. With this new insight and the positive impact it had on his mental health, Isaac set out to make green spaces and being outdoors his priority, sparking his passion for setting new physical challenges in aid of charities and in efforts to protect and preserve the world around us. Below are some of his remarkable achievements.
At 20 years old, he had completed the Bronze and Silver Duke of Edinburgh awards alongside his degree after only hearing about it while at university. In 2015, he swam the English Channel (without a wetsuit!!), hailed as one of the most difficult open water swims, whilst raising £3,000 with his team for charity. This came after competing in swimming competitions for his university society no longer challenged him to reach his full potential. In 2016, Isaac summited Mt. Kilimanjaro in just a 4 day ascent and 2 day descent, leading his team with Nyange Adventures, and raising £15,000 in aid of The FutureSense Foundation. In 2018, Isaac broke the British and World record for the lightweight longest solo continual ergometer row (indoor rowing machine) with an end time of 83 hours 1 minute and 3 seconds. More impressively, he also rowed across the Atlantic Ocean with three other team members in just 40 days, completely unsupported, starting their journey at La Gomera in the Canary Islands and ending their journey at the Caribbean Island of Antigua, raising £30,000 for two charities – BMSTC and Multiple Sclerosis Society. In 2019, Isaac gave an inspiring and motivational talk at TEDx Chelmsford about ‘Freedom & Opportunity from Being Outdoors’, and has since been a trustee for the charity Mind In Mid Herts (MiMH), a local, innovative and experienced mental health provider working in prevention, social support and recovery. He is also the NW Europe Energy Analyst for MapStand, a company transitioning into renewable energies.
Continuously striving towards creating a better future, Isaac is always looking for new expeditions, new challenges, and new team members to climb onboard his adventures, ready to share their passion and determination with the world and to have courage to be the first to make a difference.
“There needs to be a bit more outrage, I’m not the biggest eco-warrior out there but there definitely needs to be a lot more behavioural change, not just individually but on a larger institutional level.”
Alex Pierrot, more commonly known as French Alex, has been on the Pedal 4 Parks mission since its start. Alex works in central London as a professional IT engineer, and has relied on cycling to get him to and from the office, especially since moving out of central London. Despite living in London, Alex was (and still is) an active seeker of outdoor green space. Time outside every day is non-negotiable for him, and, despite London being one of the world’s greenest cities, the grey buildings and limited space were still too restrictive. Alex is also no stranger to a cycling challenge. In 2019 he completed the 100 miles across London and Surrey for RideLondon, cycling for charity and challenging his mental and physical endurance. Alex has spent most of his adventures travelling, either interrailing and couch-surfing across Europe, showing his easy-going attitude and giving him a much-needed faith in people! He is yet to offer himself to the elements of British environments, so the wild camping and cross-country cycling is an aspect of the trip that he is excited to face.
Alex defines adventure as getting out of the old to grow your mind and experience things that you never have before. The desire to challenge himself and go beyond his comfort zone is at the root of why Alex signed up to the cause. When Isaac first introduced the idea to him, Alex had just left the Nightingale Hospital in London after having suffered from depression for over 3 years. Upon leaving the hospital, Alex wanted to throw himself into a challenge that would prove his mental and physical abilities, so Pedal 4 Parks sounded like the exact focus he needed. Since then, the mission has become much more than an endurance challenge and as it has grown, so have Alex’s ambitions. His ambitions are now mostly driven by his desire to understand the individual changes we can make while sharing these discoveries with others. On the RideLondon cycle, Alex experienced first-hand the links between mental health and green spaces, as he challenged his mental illness and proved he could maintain a positive mental attitude throughout the challenge. Alex’s personal journey and open attitude towards mental health are inspiring. His drive to support mental wellbeing and the shared encouragement of the team has created a platform through Pedal 4 Parks to talk openly about mental health and the free therapy offered by green spaces.
“I realised the importance of challenging yourself on a regular basis and jumping out of your comfort zone. The opportunities for growth and the exponential learning curve far outweighs any negatives”.
For just a 20-year-old, Lukas has had one heck of an adventure. You must be thinking… but how can someone so young have had such an extraordinary journey already? Well, Lukas is still in education, currently completing a degree in Mechanical Engineering, BUT when you have a passion for something, there is no limit, only determination and organisation (occasionally also a lack of organisation, with spontaneity pushing through). Throughout school, Lukas faced many challenges with dyslexia, causing him to have to stay behind from his favourite classes (including sport), to work on his reading and writing skills, and often felt as though he was never good enough. With the school’s efforts in forcing Lukas to try and ‘catch-up’ on his academic skills, they failed to realise that they took a student away from the activities that made him who he is today. Sport had always, and will always be what built his self-esteem, confidence and trust, and it was during his time in secondary school that Lukas faced a life-changing opportunity.
At just 15, Lukas rowed on an indoor rowing ergo for a distance of 42.2Km, followed by a 2.1Km swim in support of Child Action Nepal following the Nepal earthquake in 2015, sparking his passion for endurance challenge. He then followed this amazing achievement at just 17 years old, when in Austria visiting his father. Lukas decided it was the perfect time to go on a spontaneous trek from Saalfeden, through Italy to Slovenia, ending his journey in Croatia, cycling a distance of over 800Km over a period of 5 days in aid of Teenage Cancer Trust. But these are not the only achievements in his name. At just 18, Lukas became the Guinness World Record holder as the youngest person to row across the Atlantic Ocean. Not only that, but also the first Austrian to row the Atlantic Ocean AND he completed this 3,000-mile journey solo. Entirely alone for 2 whole months, both at sea and in sponsorship, as no-one believed a young adult of just 18 years would follow through with such a physically and mentally demanding endurance challenge, Lukas successfully met the finishing line with just the support from his family and his own willpower. Now, at just 20 years old, Lukas, having met Isaac Kenyon at the starting line of the Atlantic Discovery challenge, Lukas has been invited to join the incredible Pedal 4 Parks team on their new adventure and expedition, travelling the length of the UK in support of the regeneration of our beautiful green spaces. As someone who understands the meaning and importance of being outdoors, and how much green spaces impact mental health positively, Lukas strongly believes in the Pedal 4 Parks mission and is excited to be able to spread their message to the public and push for a change, and a chance, to give back to nature.
“Life has been a bit full on in different ways to usual. People have gone through worry, anxiety, fear, restrictions, it’s been a lot going on for everyone and green spaces are what have helped people get through those.”
Sal Montgomery is no newbie to sporting adventures, dedicating much of her life and career to white-water kayaking. Loving sports from a young age, she found a deeper love for kayaking while at Keele University. Her ambitions continued beyond university as she set off for Africa to experience something more than the chilly midland waters. Sal is an example of how enough passion and love for a sport can make it your life. With more experience came more opportunities and today Sal travels the world exploring new environments on water. This includes a breath-taking 2019 expedition where Sal, alongside presenter and naturalist Steve Backshall, took part in visiting the last unexplored river in Bhutan. Click here for a clip from the expedition where you can see Sal in action! Although this sounds fun, Sal does not sugar coat the dangers of what she does. She has spoken openly about the challenges these trips can have on her physical health, but she is evermore grateful for the mental benefits it has brought her.
So back to cycling. Why would a professional kayaker choose to cycle the length of the UK? For Sal, the answer comes from her ambitious personality and appreciation for what outdoor green spaces have given to her. Like many full-time adventurers, Sal sees the outdoors as her home and pre-pandemic she was sleeping outside more often than she was in a building! Sal’s career has meant that she is always training for upcoming expeditions, so COVID has been a huge shock to the system as plans were postponed and travel ground to a halt. Sal has described herself as goal driven, so without a next expedition in sight, she was seeking something to fill that space. Pedal 4 Parks will be a journey unlike anything she has experienced but she is excited for the challenges it will bring and the things she will learn about UK green spaces along the way. Her work has often taken her away from the UK so this is a new opportunity to explore the beautiful locations on her doorstep while stressing the need to protect them. Sal, like many people, has relied on green spaces to support her happiness and wellbeing, but she is also not unconscious of the costs that this human reliance has caused along the way. Sal’s mission is to give back to nature what it has given her. Alongside the Pedal 4 Parks team, she is excited to share her love for the outdoors while finding new ways to protect it.
“People talk about a work-life balance, what we need to do is invert that, it needs to be life-work balance. Your first priority must be to yourself. It’s the ultimate act of self-love”
Alex Egan’s journey to “life-work balance” was driven by finding importance in the values and purpose of his work. He is the founder of Yellow Sub Geo, Yellow Sub Creative and Nuable which are businesses that all focus on sustainability and applied science, with the aim to make a positive change in the world. Recently, Yellow Sub Geo Ltd received its official B-Corp status meaning Alex’s company is part of the professional mission to change the structure of how business works. Joining the Pedal 4 Parks team on this mission is a no brainer for Alex as the educational vision sings to his own ambitions. Beyond his business initiatives, Alex is also an ardent cyclist, having already conquered an incredible 1,500 km cycle across France to raise money for a children’s charity. He is definitely no stranger to a biking expedition and has also spoken about his use of cycling to consume the beautiful green spaces around him in South Wales.
Alex believes that money should not be a business’ sole purpose and runs his own companies as healthy, well-balanced and engaged workforces to optimise output by putting his employees first. He is an advocate for scrapping the 9-5 office system and promotes remote working, which for him involves operating from his beach campervan where he can enjoy a surf between meetings. Alex’s change in mindset was born from frustration in his earlier corporate work when he realised that the lack of imagination within the machinery of business couldn’t be changed from the position he was in. By being the positive change he wished to see in business, Alex has gained a better perspective on his own mental health and has given his employees the opportunity to do the same. By being a part of Pedal 4 Parks, Alex is showing his competitors, partners and employees that promoting personal and collective sustainability is achievable while still working towards positive values, purpose and profit in business.
Alex is enthusiastic about change and is looking forward to being surrounded by a like-minded team and meeting motivational individuals along the way. He is excited to explore the green spaces the UK has to offer and importantly learn what more he can do to protect them. He has dedicated his life to making a change for a more sustainable and ethically successful planet. His attitude towards life and the environment is one that we should all take on board and with Pedal 4 Parks he hopes to share this outlook on a deeper and wider scale.
Behind the scenes we have an enthusiastic eco-conscious support crew who will be coming along the journey to interview the people we meet, record the experience and share live updates as our cyclists adventure across the UK. You may have already come across some of the team over on our podcast Mind the Green Space hosted by Alicia Thomas and Isaac Kenyon. If not then head over there after this to hear from some of our sponsors and advocates who have already shared their stories and support!
Hear what the team had to say about finally meeting each other!
From left to right: Sal, Lukas, Alex Pierrot, Isaac, Alex Egan (front)
Lukas: “Coming into the team almost a year ago now, i’ve seen how this project has developed, and how motivated and driven the rest of the team is. With the addition of a few new members not too long ago, it’s always a little worrying thinking, will you get along? Are your motivations the same? It can be risky sometimes, especially so close to the start. But, I couldn’t be happier! What an EPIC team!! Not only that, but all of my previous adventures have been solo, so this will be my first time doing a team expedition. I’m nervous, but excited. It definitely adds another dimension to the adventure!”
Isaac: “Meeting the team for the first time was a momentous part of the journey! It felt like we had always known of each other and have been friends for years. The way we all think is very much the same and we are all super driven and motivated to take action and make an impact with our eco-adventure documentary. There is a lot of fun in this team and we are all very optimistic, positive people who are excited to uncover the scalable solutions to our climate issues in the UK for National Parks and green spaces”.
Alex Pierrot: “I was thrilled to meet Alex and Sal in person a few weeks ago, as they are both uber-positive people. We got on effortlessly, and I am very grateful they have joined the adventure, they bring so much knowledge and experience with them”.
Sal: “It was awesome to finally meet the guys! Motivation, dedication and banter – what else do you need in a team?! The boys welcomed me in and instantly made me feel like an integrated part of the team. I’m stoked to be doing this epic journey with such legends!”
Alex Egan: “I’ve spent a lot of time and energy over the years building high-functioning teams of very capable and free-thinking individuals. What i’ve learnt is that ‘attitude’ and ‘culture’ are singularly the most important attributes of great teams. Self-motivated free-thinkers will rarely just ‘do as they’re told’ but if they are aligned with a common purpose, then trust breeds magic. Right from the get-go, and within minutes of meeting this amazing and eclectic mix of individuals it was so obvious to me that this little elusive sparkle of magic was abundant in spades. The adventure began right there and then. Super excited to be leaning in and part of it. Here’s to now! With considerable enthusiasm. #livelifeyellow“.
As the team eventually got to spend time all together during weekends of training, there were, of course, some ‘best bits’ moments captured by the team. For Isaac, one of his most memorable activities with the team so far had been at Torquay Harbour, exploring the Torbay Marine Conservation Zone while testing and learning how to use, for the first time, the Schiller water bike. Similarly for Alex Pierrot, he too enjoyed seeing everyone experience the water bikes for the first time and witnessing the joy and laughter that came with it. For Sal, so far, her favourite moments with the team have included her first weekend of riding with the boys in Brecon Beacons that had been followed by swimming under waterfalls and a sunset BBQ, but most importantly, within 10 seconds of meeting team member Lukas, they were quick to compete with each other in a jumping competition using Alex’s trampoline, after briefly forgetting that Sal had a broken foot. What could possibly go wrong?!?
Some precious and valuable memories and lessons have been made so far with and between the team, but there is still so much more yet to come with the full expedition still on the way. However, we can already see this incredible group of enthusiastic people were fated to join together in an eco mission long before Pedal 4 Parks had been founded. Here’s to some exciting new adventures! (and hopefully one less broken foot).
What you can do to help…
Sponsor Us! We are always looking for sponsors and support for our journey, if you are interested check out our sponsors page or email us as [email protected]
Can’t Donate? Don’t worry, you can still make a difference by reading and sharing our story. Be concerned and spread the word!
Check out our previous blog Keen to Keep Green: Pedal 4 Parks goes 14 Days South to find out more about the Pedal 4 Parks mission.
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