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Video: London man takes Santander Cycles hire bike on world tour for charity

Chris Astil-Smith's travels took him to cities including New York, Las Vegas, Paris and Dubai...


A London man has taken one of the city’s Santander Cycles hire bikes on a world tour to help publicise his attempt later this year to swim the English Channel to raise money for a charity for terminally ill children.

Chris Astil-Smith, aged 24, visted New York City, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Rome, Paris, Dubai, the Taj Mahal and New Delhi during his three-week trip in January, reports the London Economic.

The entrepreneur, who was accompanied on his trip by friend and videographer Alex Tyrwhitt, has so far raised more than £6,000 for the charity Dreams Come True, with the pair hoping the video will be shared and result in more donations.

He’s also hoping that the £300 late return fee he copped from Santander Cycles will be donated to the cause.

As you can imagine, carting a 23-kilogram bike around the world is no easy matter – getting a road bike broken down and packed away in a bike box can be enough of a headache, let alone a clunking hire bike.

There were also issues with airport security staff, including in New York City, whose Citibike cycle hire scheme coincidentally uses identical bikes to London’s Santander Cycles, apart from the branding.

“They asked a lot of questions about the bike but surprisingly in Heathrow we went straight on through with it,” Astil-Smith said.

“In Dubai they pulled us in for questioning about the bike as they were a bit suspicious.

“In the end they let us through because we convinced them it was just our normal bike and we wanted to cycle around the city. Bearing in mind no-one cycles in Dubai, haha.”

“The trip was awesome. It was really intense and full on,” he continued.

“The bike’s really heavy and getting from anywhere was an adventure, especially the airport to our accommodation.

“USA wasn’t too bad as they have big cars but Rome and Paris needed a little more strategy.”

Talking about the late return fee imposed by Santander Cycles, he said: “They take a £300 fine out of the account if you don’t dock the bike back after 48 hours.

“They assume the bike is lost or stolen so that’s the max fine we got. They should definitely donate that £300 back to the swim though for all the exposure.

“They did write to me on Twitter, they said they loved the video.”

Turning to his swim across the Channel later this year, he said: “I’ve seen people do amazing things for charities but they never get the exposure they deserve.

“I wanted to create a funny, shareable video that links to a great cause.

“Dreams Come True is one of the smallest UK charities and never gets any exposure because they don’t put donations into advertisements which I really liked.

“I wanted to create something that would raise their profile also,” he added.

It’s not the first madcap caper we’ve seen on a ‘Boris Bike’ – in 2013, Rob Holden rented one and drove down to Mont Ventoux, riding the bike to the summit then headed back to London in an attempt to complete the round-trip in less than 24 hours and avoid a late fee.

> Video: Boris Bike versus Mont Ventoux

Last year, a group of cyclists took on another of the Tour de France’s most famous climbs – the Alpe d’Huez – on Santander Cycles bikes.

> Riders on Boris Bikes conquer Alpe d’Huez for charity

Simon has been news editor at since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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