Date: 
Tuesday, December 6, 2016 - 13:45

The UK’s first “home grown” bicycle has returned to its roots – a clump of golden bamboo outside the Rainforest Biome at the Eden Project – on the eve of an epic adventure.

Environmental champion Dr Kate Rawles is due to set sail today (Tuesday December 6) for South America and then plans to pedal her newly-made bamboo bike the length of the continent over the next year.  

Along the way she will be exploring biodiversity  - what it is, what’s happening to it, why it matters and above all, what can and is being done to protect it. 

Kate, from Ulverston, Cumbria,  is to sail by freight ship for Cartagena, Colombia and explore Costa Rica and Panama by bus and boat, and then cycle from Cartagena to Cape Horn, following the spine of the Andes.

She will be cycling up to 6,000 miles in total, riding passes that will take her over 15,000 feet and travelling through a huge variety of habitats, from deserts to rainforests, visiting all sorts of relevant projects, places and people en route.

Kate said: “I’ll be seizing the chance for spontaneous chats about biodiversity in truck-stops, campsites and cafes as I go. All adding up, with a bit of luck, to a pretty unusual mix of fabulous, challenging cycling, amazing vistas, random encounters, great stories, lots of punctures and the chance to help tackle one of the most important environmental issues of our time.”

The canes which make up her bike frame were cut from the clump thriving at the Eden Project in Cornwall. They were dispatched to the Bamboo Bicycle Club, a social enterprise in Bow, East London, where owner James Marr schooled Kate in the art of making a frame from a fast-growing plant considered the most versatile in the world. 

The club empowers people to build their own bikes. Learning to build hers out of a very sustainable material attracted Kate to James’s venture.

James said: “At Bamboo Bicycle Club we believe you’ve never truly experienced cycling until you've crafted a bicycle from scratch.  Kate is in the exciting position of having built her own bike and is now undertaking a fascinating trip. Her bike will travel with her over tough terrain through epic landscapes. It won’t just be any bike - it will be her bike!”

Shortly before departing on her epic trip, Kate brought her tough all-terrain bike to Eden, where she met key people including Director of Life Sciences Dr Mike Maunder and Rainforest Biome Team Lead Hetty Ninnis. Hetty  showed Kate some of the giant bamboos in the Biome and introduced her to the golden bamboo which was cut to make the frame. 

Mike Maunder said: “Kate will be travelling through a changing landscape. She will be traversing landscapes that have inspired Humboldt and Darwin. However South America is in transition with expanding human populations, habitat loss and climate change  combining to create new landscapes and it is uncertain how much biodiversity will survive in these new lands. Kate will be observing these changes and meeting with local scientists - we eagerly await her reports from the front line of conservation.”    

Kate’s latest ride is an ‘adventure plus’ follow up to The Carbon Cycle in which she rode from Texas to Alaska, with a focus on climate change. Her book based on that journey was shortlisted for the 2012 Banff Mountain Festival Adventure Travel Book Award and was a runner up in the UK People’s Book Prize. 

She has since given hundreds of talks about her travels to very wide-ranging audiences, from the Royal Geographical Society to local cycling and rambling groups and in her last talk before departing, to members of the Eden team who will follow her progress over the next year. 

Kate says that biodiversity loss and its impact on the earth’s life support systems is arguably an even greater threat to our survival and well-being – and those of millions of other species – than climate change. 

She said: “These two issues are of course deeply inter-connected. But I think we hear a lot more about climate change, now, than we do about biodiversity and I’d like to help change that. This is a huge issue. It’s about life on earth, and how we affect it.”

A short film of the bamboo bicycle build, made by Lizzie Gilson, can be viewed at https://youtu.be/ByggVZb0iV4.

To follow Kate on The Life Cycle journey, go to www.outdoorphilosophy.co.uk and @CarbonCycleKate (twitter and instagram)

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