Ex-Royal Navy engineer Craig Owens is a man on a mission

Having become a self-confessed “Teletubby” on leaving the Navy, Craig now cycles over 6,000 miles a year in an effort to raise awareness for veterans.

In summer 2016, Craig with the help of some close friends (Neil, Mark, David and Kev) organised the first ever Northern Ride to raise awareness and funds for veterans. This year he’s hoping to have more than 100 cyclists pedalling the roads of northern Britain.

Craig said: “The planning for the next ride on Saturday 17 June is already well under way and we’re hoping to make it even bigger and better than the inaugural ride last year.”

Getting on the bike

After 23 years in the Navy, Craig looked to be settling for a more sedate lifestyle, until his expanding waistline drew caustic comments from his wife Jacqueline and daughter Natasha. In a dramatic change of lifestyle, Craig has now lost almost five stone and cycles on average 6,500 miles every year.

“I’ve now done the Royal British Legion's Pedal to Paris event numerous times and a ride from Sandhurst to Portsmouth dockyard, raising money for veterans, and I cycle virtually every day around Teesside.”

He has a passionate belief in the work of the Royal British Legion, but also personal reasons for getting on his bike and making a difference.

“I started to see a lot of lads at the back end of my Service who were in need of support and advice, and I simply saw the Legion doing a lot of good.

Cyclist Craig Owens

Craig Owens taking a brief break from the bike.

“As it turned out, I needed some impartial advice when I left, having sustained some injuries working as an engineer, and I got the help and the contacts I needed through the Legion to sort out my medical pension. Through doing these rides, I’ve also met lots of other people who have benefited from their work. 

“I know every penny counts and I know all the money received is used in the right way. The Legion doesn’t turn its back on anyone. It’s a cause that’s close to my heart and those of the people I cycle with. When I needed some advice I was able to approach them and I have friends who’ve done the same.”

Craig's Northern Ride

The Northern Ride isn’t just about raising money.

“Our emphasis is to raise awareness and if we manage to raise sponsorship as well, then that’s a bonus," says Craig.

"We want people to come along and enjoy the day, take in the atmosphere and talk to each other. It’s not just for veterans; it’s for anyone who wants to know what charities such as The Royal British Legion are all about."

Peter Milne is Community Fundraiser for The Royal British Legion in Durham, Sunderland and North Tees – he said: “I am very excited to be working with Craig and his team again. The funds raised make a real difference to our beneficiaries and promote the important work we do, especially in the North East.

"The Royal British Legion takes pride in supporting Challenge Events like this. The local support has been fantastic, and it’s great that The Royal British Legion Billingham Branch once again will be involved in the awards ceremony."

Father-of-two Craig is also hoping that businesses across the region will step forward with sponsorship to support the event, with Primal Europe Ltd, Cab App and Torq already signed up.

Both routes will start at the Sporting Lodge Hotel, Stainton, and finish at the TA centre in Coulby Newham, Teeside, and the Ride will raise money for the Royal British Legion and Phoenix House Recovery Centre in Catterick.