A KEEN long-distance cyclist is tackling six ultra-length challenges in four months to raise money for a mental health charity which helps his father.

Ben Rickaby, 42, says he loves the adventure and escapism of cycling, which has also helped his own mental health.

Ben, who grew up in the Addingham area and now lives with his girlfriend in Silsden, took up cycling about 12 years ago and has taken on some ultra-distance events in that time.

This next series of challenges will raise awareness and funds for Mind in Bradford.

The first five events he has planned for the Spring and Summer will build up his stamina and experience for the GB Duro in August, which is 2,000km (1,242 miles)from Land’s End to John O’Groats on road, gravel, single track, and everything in between.

Ben, who works at the University of Leeds, said: “All of the events are totally unsupported so there is no outside help, no drafting other riders, and carrying all that we may need to survive the event (sleeping equipment, food, spare clothes).

“The event in August even specifies that you must sleep under the stars each night. Most rides involve 18hrs-plus each day in the saddle.”

The first event is this weekend - May 1 to 3 - called the Dales Divide, a 600km (372 miles) route with a mixture of road and off road, with 9,000m of ascent.

It started in Arnside from where Ben cycled to the East Yorkshire coast and then back to the West Coast which he fondly named it as a ‘coast to coast to coast’!

His aim was to complete it in less than 72 hours.

The next event later in May is the aptly-named Hell of the North West 800km (497 miles).

This is a gruelling route across the most testing climbs that the North West of England has to offer.

In total, the six events add up to a mammoth 5,000km (3,106 miles).

Ben said he has seen how the services at Mind in Bradford have helped his dad over the past few years, and wants to raise awareness of their work as well as cash to support the charity’s activities.

He said on the fundraising page: “Mind in Bradford is a tremendous supportive charity for people who are struggling with emotional and mental health problems across Bradford, Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven. Around one in four of us experience a mental health problem at some point in our lives.”

Lydia Gray, fundraising and development officer of Mind in Bradford, said: “Ben is taking on an enormous challenge, and hopefully a great adventure.

“We are so grateful to him for choosing to support us, and all money raised is spent on our services here in the Bradford district.”

Mind in Bradford is an independent charity which is affiliated to Mind. Services include Guide-Line, which offers mental health support and live chat; Sanctuary crisis service; wellbeing groups for adults; the Community Companions befriending service; and Know Your Mind, a new service for children from the age of eight. The charity has continued its services online and via phone throughout the pandemic.

To find out more, and sponsor Ben, visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/benrickaby