"You are capable of far more than you think" we told the world when we set up The Adventure Syndicate. And it appears we were right, and perhaps should start listening to our own advice a bit more.
We weren't sure about launching a crowdfunder to publish our inaugural print journal, but we knew that Lee's account of the Highland Trail 550, interspersed with the voices of other riders and beautifully illustrated with James Robertson's photographs, was a piece of work that should be read far and wide. We wanted to share this brilliant and insightful essay - and the ethos of the Syndicate itself - with as many people as possible.
But like many would-be crowdfunders, we found ourselves squeamish about asking for money. Lee, the picture of strength and decisiveness on the trails, became increasingly uncertain and uncharacteristically bashful as the launch date approached. Would people really want to pay good money to read a few thousand words about bicycles, sore feet and sleeping on bridges? It was OK, we told ourselves. Maybe we wouldn't meet our funding target within the month we'd set ourselves. We'd still learn some valuable lessons, and perhaps we'd eventually find some other way of bringing the journal to life.
Within 24 hours of going live we realised we needn't have worried. The counter crept up to 80%, and then 90%, as we checked back, again and again, captivated by its progress, reaching for phones and laptops with the same eager compulsion with which some of us had followed Lee's progress in the race, four months previously. Within two days we were fully funded, the journal was set to become a reality - and yet the donations were still pouring in.
Meanwhile, Adventure Syndicate events up and down the country were selling out, often within a day or two of being announced. We put on an extra Long-Distance Ladies event in Bristol, owing to popular demand, and all the tickets were gone within 24 hours. We had so many requests to speak at bike shows and festivals that we had to start saying no, otherwise we'd have no time to left ride our bikes. We started to realize that we'd created something much, much bigger than we'd anticipated, and the world was almost more ready to listen to our message than we were to deliver it.
So, now we're 80% of the way towards our new stretch target of £6,000, and with three weeks still to go, we're casting our net a bit wider. We're delighted (and a bit emotional) to see how eager people are to support our work - and there's a lot of work still to be done. One of The Adventure Syndicate's main priorities is to reach as many women and girls as possible, in person. To speak with them, ride with them, fix bikes with them, find out about their ambitions and limitations, and help them expand the former and remove the latter.
And, thanks to the generosity of all those who've funded us - and all those who will - we're going to be able to do so much more of this. So, we're extending our funding target to £10,000.
£4,500 of this will cover the cost of printing our journal, and posting it out to all those who've so generously pledged.
The other £5,500 we'll spend on getting our message to as many women and girls as possible - focussing on the people we think we can help most: those who aren't already part of the cycling scene, who've never heard of the Highland Trail 550, who've never ridden a mountain bike, who are most in need of being inspired, encouraged and enabled to believe they are capable of more.
An extra £2,560 will pay for 8 school workshops, anywhere in the UK. (These cost £320 each, covering preparation, travel and a speaker's fee. Please get in touch if you know a school who might be interested.)
An extra £1,000 will subsidise 20 free places on our 'Women & Bicycles' weekends in Oxford and Nottingham, enabling even more women to be part of the action.
Another £1,000 will part-fund a bikepacking course in Swanage, enabling women who might not otherwise have been able to afford it to discover the simplicity and excitement of getting outside on their bikes (and in their bivvy bags), and build their skills and confidence for future expeditions.
We're already bowled over by the amount of support we've received, and we're extremely excited about the opportunity this gives us to extend our work to those who need it most, and to keep the Syndicate going into 2017.
Thank you so much to everyone who's backed us so far - and thank you to those of you who will finish reading this and head straight over to our Crowdfunder page to make a pledge, or simply pass the link on to their friends, announce us all over Twitter and Facebook, and generally help us spread the message far and wide. You're helping us change the world, and we're so glad to have you with us. Together, we're capable of more than we ever thought.