Little did Aaron Edge know what lay in store when he grabbed an opportunity to do the Trans Pennine coast to coast bike ride.

The 215-mile route from Liverpool to Hull is a Herculean challenge in itself but, for a 16-year-old who couldn’t ride a bike, it took things to a whole new level.

The Hull teenager had managed to hide the fact he had never learned to ride a bike until the Yorkshire Bank Bike Library set up shop in one of the garages at his youth club, St Michael’s in Orchard Park in 2017.

But it was only when Outdoor Education Lead Mathew Rogers invited Aaron to take part in the challenge that Aaron admitted he couldn’t ride a bike.

Four weeks later, however, Aaron completed the four-day trip along with a group of his friends and Mathew. It’s been a challenge he has completed every year since.

“I really don’t know what I was thinking,” Aaron said. “I just went for it because it was over the summer holidays and there’s not much to do around here. Going to Liverpool cycling and back sounded fun!

“After coming to St Michael’s for about three years – I was 14 years old – I found out about the library. When Mathew offered me a spot on one of the rides, I remember taking him to one side and telling him that I couldn’t ride. It wasn’t something that I was proud about or open to admitting, but I remember Mathew saying that they could help with that.

“The ride itself was terrifying. I’d been riding just for a little bit. I think the worst part was when we came up to the actual Pennines on the Trans Pennine track and you had to ride beside a motorway. I had a helmet on, I was fully equipped, but I only had a metre between me and the huge lorries going by!”

There are 61 donation stations across Yorkshire where unwanted and unused bikes are donated and refurbished for use across 61 libraries where people who don’t have access to a bike can borrow one for free.

The project was launched as a legacy of the Tour de France Grand Départ in Yorkshire in 2014 and is a joint partnership between Yorkshire Bank and Welcome to Yorkshire. To date more than 6,000 bikes have been cleaned up, repaired, avoided landfill and are now available for children and families to borrow free of charge for a range of activities, including include guided rides, basic bike skills, maintenance courses or simply just for riding.

For Aaron, the opportunities provided by the library have had a tangible effect not just on his growing sense of adventure, but on the logistics and workings of his day-to-day life.

Aaron said: “Before the Yorkshire Bank Bike Library gave me the chance to ride a bike, if I wanted to go and see close friends I had to walk about an hour-and-a-half across town just to go and visit them, but when I was supplied with a bike it cut that journey down to about 15 minutes, which was really beneficial,” he continued.

“I always used to ask my parents for bus money to go to the other end of Hull or into town and it wasn’t always a yes, so my friends would go out and I’d stay at home. So having a bike has definitely given me the ability to get from my house to wherever I need to be.

“If it wasn’t for the Yorkshire Bank Bike Library, I’d probably be sat at home a lot more than I am. I wouldn’t go out much, would be very antisocial, wouldn’t have much to do at all. It gives me a lot of freedom.”

Mathew, who runs the programme at St Michael’s Youth Project, believes that Aaron’s story is the perfect example of what the library was created to achieve.

“The great thing about the Yorkshire Bank Bike Library is that it gives young people like Aaron and thousands of others across Yorkshire the opportunity to access and use a bike, he is everything the scheme is about” he explained.

“He’s from an area of high deprivation and doesn’t have access to a lot of kit. We engaged with him, gave him the skills and he continues to grow and thrive. These are tools that he’s never had before and he’s really grateful for it - you can see that in how he rides.”

  • St Michael’s Youth Project Yorkshire Bank Bike Library is one of 61 bike libraries and 61 donation stations. This unique initiative is a joint partnership between Yorkshire Bank and Welcome to Yorkshire, with the simple aim of making cycling more accessible. Find out more about Aaron’s story here, and how to get involved in the Yorkshire Bank Bike Libraries here.