Cycling for autism: Gruelling 220-mile Manchester to London epic for fundraisers

Picture a tube fed boy, barely able to speak, struggling through life. Then picture a six-year transformation where the young lad leads a normal life.

This is the kind of support Ambitious about Autism have provided to children in the UK, who this year again have teamed up with cycling company Rapha to get 300 riders pedalling 220 miles from Manchester to London in aid of the charity on Sunday.

Autism is something Rapha CEO and founder Simon Mottram knows a great deal about with his son Oscar first attending TreeHouse School when he was five before moving onto Ambitious College.

“Simon will be there to give a pep talk at the pre-party. This issue is close to Simon’s heart,” said Rapha Racing Ltd events manager Jess Morgan.

“We are putting on the race again this year because Ambitious about Autism has provided huge support for his son.”

Funds raised will be put towards the construction of a new building for London’s only college specialising solely in working with young people with complex autism, as well as the charity’s other services and support streams.

The Rapha cycle event is taking place for the third year running. Last year, £143,000 was raised by 136 riders participating in the Manchester to London 2014 cycle.

NO PROBLEM: Autism is no issue for those diagnosed but society’s stereotypes can be

It is hoped that the figure, which currently stands at £60,000, will double this year. Donations can be made until November 1.

Martyn Craddock, 45, a parent trustee at the charity, will be participating in the cycle ride for a third time to raise funds and like Mottram, autism means a great deal to him.

“When (my son) Percy joined TreeHouse School, he was tube fed, he could barely say a word, he could not read or write.

“Now, six years on, he can do most of those things. The progress that he has made is astonishing considering the complexity of his condition.”

Sadly Mottram cannot be by Craddock’s side having injured his back, nonetheless he is due to attend a pasta party at Manchester’s Rapha Cycle Club this evening.

Ambitious about Autism work with pupils from the age of four and are looking for ways to make training available to teachers who work in mainstream education, which accounts for 70% of children with autism.

Rosemary Collins, 22, from Prestbury, was diagnosed with autism in July this year, though at the age of eight, she was told by doctors that she was not autistic because she was able to empathise with others.

“I always felt quite different to other people and I was picked on at school,” she told MM.

“Being autistic isn’t a problem, but society’s stereotypes and presumptions often are.”

The cyclists participating on Sunday will set off at 6am from Manchester Velodrome, and bring the 354km cycle to a close at London’s Olympic Velodrome, weaving along narrow country lanes through the Peak District, Midlands, and Chilterns, before completing the final stretch through East London.

Ms Morgan added: “Many of the cyclists have never done a race of this scale before. Some of the participants are over 60.

“We even had one twelve-year-old who wanted to ride, but unfortunately we couldn’t allow him to cycle 220 miles!”

In the UK, 100,000 children have autism. Ambitious about Autism is a UK national charity providing support to children and young people with autism through TreeHouse School, Ambitious College, family support, and other recreational activities. 

There are currently 90 pupils at TreeHouse School, North London-based Ambitious school, and 35 pupils at Ambitious College.

These services are aimed at creating more opportunities for the children and young people who access them. To find out more visit:

For further information on the cycle challenge, visit:

You can sponsor Martyn here:

Images courtesy of Ambitious about Autism, with thanks.

Related Articles