EMPLOYEES from the Mini plant in Stratton are getting on their bikes for a 200-mile challenge to raise awareness of mental health issues.

Seven staff members will visit three car manufacturing plants in Swindon, Oxford and Birmingham during a two-day round trip on August 25 and 26 which will put their pedalling powers to the test.

Roopi Chahal is the mental health ambassador for the Swindon plant and helped organise the fundraiser with Gail Fernside after being inspired by an idea from one of the workers, Paul Clark.

Paul has worked at the plant for 37 years. He said: “I had some health issues in February, the doctor told me I had a stress migraine, so they suggested I chat to Roopi.

“He asked what I enjoyed, I said cycling - getting out in the fresh air enjoying yourself really helps - then one thing led to another and we came up with this challenge.”

Along with a monetary donation, the M4 Van Centre is providing one of its vans and drivers to follow the cyclists’ progress and make sure they’re alright.

The team have been fitting in practice laps in-between their shifts and are currently reaching 75 miles in one day.

Colleague Simon Randall, who has worked there for 27 years, said: “Getting up on the second day and doing another 100 miles after the first will be the hardest part.

“It’s quite daunting - we will probably enjoy it more once we’ve done it! It’s nice to do something like this for a good cause.

“There is a stigma around mental health and men don’t talk about their feelings, especially in a factory setting, but everyone knows someone who has struggled.”

Roopi said: “I work in a male environment where these issues are coming up more and more, though men tend not to talk about them, which is why raising awareness like this is so important. One in three people have mental health issues and it’s a cause that’s really close to my heart. The initial response from the workforce was amazing."

Paul and Simon, will be joined by Paul Higgs, Peter Hayes, Mark Adams, Sean Herbert and Mark Brown. They hope to raise £10,000 to split between Mind and The Alzheimer's Society. To donate, visit uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Team/MINIProductionTriangleCharityBikeRide