Now into its eighth year, The Rickshaw Challenge is one of the most visible, hard-hitting and worthy fund-raisers in the UK. In many ways, it is also one of the greatest displays of youthful endeavour, which not only grabs at your purse-strings but also at your emotions.
The event places young people in the television firing-line, by making them work so hard that it might border on the realms of ‘slave labour’, were it not for the fact that each of six riders is a volunteer and each possesses a valid reason for wanting to complete the challenge. Their stories alone are inspirational. For the previous seven years, the route has been over hill and dale, often in vile weather conditions, on the roads of the UK. This year, the route is slightly different.
The start is in Calais, northern France, at the entrance to the 31-miles long service tunnel that supports the Channel Tunnel. Not normally open to the public and surrounded by comprehensive security systems, it adds even more kudos to the 2018 exercise. It features a gradual descent to the bottom of the English Channel, before demanding a long and arduous climb to the Folkestone exit.
Around 423 miles will be covered over eight days. There is nothing ‘easy’ about this challenge and the BBC has altered the route significantly, to take in more of the west of England and the Welsh border country, before reaching its conclusion on the concourse outside BBC Media City, Salford Quays, Manchester (November 16th).
Since 2011, The One Show's Rickshaw Challenge has raised over £21million for BBC Children in Need, with every penny making a difference to the lives of children and young people across the UK, who need it most. This year's team of riders, supported as usual by The One Show’s Matt Baker, himself no stranger to testing exercises, is made up of Abby (16) from London; Harry (17) from Plymouth; Kayla (16) from Derry/Londonderry; Kieran (18) from South Wales; Maisie (16) from Southampton and Phoebe (19) from Leicester. Naturally, the Rickshaw Challenge also has a support crew that includes a couple of engineers, a doctor and catering/comfort team for the participants.
While the original, weighty and quite basic rickshaw served well, the amazing team of advanced engineers from McLaren Applied Technologies, in conjunction with their colleagues from McLaren Racing, contacted the BBC with a proposition at the end of 2017. The Woking, Surrey-based company has been a long-time contributor to the Children in Need appeal. However, as a major-league solutions provider, the staff put their heads together to design something not radically different but altogether more accessible and functional than the previous generation rickshaws.
Designers and engineers worked closely, in their own time, to create a pedal-powered vehicle that would put the riders' needs first. Each design element is a manifestation of the team's intent to build a better rickshaw. Inspired by the iconic rickshaw silhouette, the new design is focused on improving accessibility for the different statures of riders and their occasional passengers.
Rather than creating a lightweight, high-performance vehicle, which might have been expected with McLaren’s background in motor racing, the new design features a rapidly reconfigurable seating system, which enables a wider range of riders to take part, allied to an innovative drivetrain system that not only improves reliability but enhances the ergonomic ease by which the rickshaw can be pedalled. It also incorporates integrated outrider braking mounts that improve safety overall.
As has become customary at the McLaren Technology Centre, its staff is supporting BBC Children in Need not only by building the rickshaw but also with internal fundraising activities that will take place alongside the challenge. Naturally, because inclusion has always been a central message to every Rickshaw Challenge, if you log onto the website (https://rickshaw.bbcchildreninneed.co.uk/), you will discover that a number of enthusiastic individuals are also carrying out their own cycling challenges and raising funds for the charity. Viewers of the daily ‘One Show’ programme can follow Team Rickshaw's progress on each day of the event. The full route, which includes a real-time update of the rickshaw's progress, is available at pudsey.viewranger.com.
Chief Operating Officer, McLaren Group, Jonathan Neale, said:
"We are incredibly proud to be supporting actively this year's BBC Children in Need Rickshaw Challenge, which lays the ground for our long-term support of this important charity. The team has thrown both heart and soul into building an accessible and well-engineered new rickshaw for an amazing and rewarding project. All of us at McLaren will be cheering on Team Rickshaw with every turn of the wheel."