Miles and mechanical mishaps: A mighty effort for ShelterBox

A man from Cumbria has taken to two wheels in an epic but eventful challenge for people around the world left without shelter after disaster. 

Phil Gibbs, 51, took on a gruelling 112-mile cycle ride across the Lake District, with climbs of 3,500 metres, to raise crucial funds for the international disaster relief charity, ShelterBox.  

The race, known as the ‘Fred Whitton’, is a popular sporting event famed for being a tough ride with cyclists faced with steep climbs across seven mountain passes.

A police officer from St Bees, Phil said:

“I’m a keen cyclist in Cumbria so this event has been on my radar for some time, and it did not disappoint! It was a very memorable ride, especially because of the hiccups I had along the way.  

“I was off to a good start, happy with my pace and everything was going well, until about four hours in when at the top of a steep climb, my electronic gears packed in whilst in the lowest gear. Thankfully it was at the top and I was able to freewheel down the other side of the hill – breathing a sigh of relief.” 

After mechanics couldn’t fix Phil’s broken gears, he opted for plan B, asking his sister if she would collect and deliver his other bike from his home. 

Phil continued:

“I’d lost two hours and sight of every other cyclist. The event organisers were clearing away the road signs as I passed, and the second feeding station was gone. It seemed one minute I was surrounded by 2,500 other cyclists and the next I was on my own, for a good 70 miles! But whatever happened, I was determined to finish the race! 

“I eventually cycled through the finish line 12 hours, 17 minutes after starting (actual time 9 hours 33 minutes!), just as the heavens opened. It wasn’t the time I was hoping for, but I am still thrilled to have completed the race, and even more thrilled to have raised a few hundred pounds for ShelterBox.” 

Despite many proverbial road bumps, Phil completed the race raising over £500 for ShelterBox. 

The Cornwall-based charity, ShelterBox, specialises in emergency shelter and works across the world to support people who have been uprooted from their homes after disaster or conflict. By providing shelter aid and other essential items like solar lights, blankets, mosquito nets, and water filters, the charity supports people to rebuild and recover when they have lost their homes and been left with very little.  

Phil added:

“Despite what my friends think, I didn’t just take this on for bragging rights. I took it on for a personal challenge of course, but more importantly to spread awareness and try to persuade people to part with some of their hard-earned cash for a very worthy cause.”

Since it was founded in 2000, ShelterBox has supported nearly three million people in around 100 countries. It’s currently responding in Gaza supporting thousands of people, alongside its partners, with tents and other essential items like blankets, water carriers, kitchen sets and sleeping mats.  

Fundraising Assistant at ShelterBox, John Stanbury, said:

“A story of grit and determination. Phil did an impressive job rolling with the punches, and the hills! 

“We’re always so grateful to our supporters for the weird and wonderful fundraising challenges they take on. ShelterBox relies solely on public donations so it’s supporters, like Phil, who make our work around the world possible.”   

As well as Gaza, ShelterBox is supporting people in Mozambique, Malawi and Syria. It has launched an urgent appeal to help fund its projects in countries like Somalia where people are disproportionately affected by the climate crisis, and stuck in cycles of disaster, unable to recover before the next extreme weather hits. 

People wanting to find out more information about ShelterBox can visit: ShelterBox.org.