Hundreds of bikers saying ‘thanks’ to NHS and essential workers will help Devon Freewheelers, in Honiton

A convoy of hundreds of motorcycles due to set off this month in appreciation of the UK’s Covid-19 NHS and essential workers will raise funds for the Devon Freewheelers, based in Honiton.

The NHS Ride of Thanks Devon, setting off from Plymouth on Sunday, September 19, has been organised by Andy Ash. It grew into a national event after word spread and bikers from across the UK set up more than 30 additional rides.

Mr Ash said the Devon Freewheelers Blood Bikes, with its headquarters in Honiton, was the ‘perfect’ charity to benefit from the local event because many of those attending could need the county-wide service in the future.

He said: “The Devon Freewheelers are bikers and many of us will, sadly, be requiring their services at some time so it seemed perfect.”

The ride will set off promptly on September 19, leaving Lee Mill industrial estate at 11am to a route up the A38 to Buckfastleigh, Ashburton, Dartington and Totnes, ending at Paignton seafront at around 12.30pm.

There is a voluntary donation of £5 for each bike, in aid of the Devon Freewheelers Blood Bikes.

Mr Ash said: “It became clear that though the NHS was the primary focus throughout the crisis, we also needed to show appreciation to all essential workers from truck drivers to shop workers, dustman, postman etc.

“This is a ride to show our appreciation for what the NHS and essential workers have done, and continue to do, on behalf of the people of the UK.

“All size motorcycles are very welcome as this is a procession not a race.”

Russell Roe, Devon Freewheelers CEO, based at the Heathpark Industrial Estate, in Honiton, said: “The Devon Freewheelers volunteers are so grateful to Andy Ash for organising the Ride of Thanks, and to the members of the group for nominating the Devon Blood Bikes charity to receive funds from the event.

“We are indebted to each and every rider who takes part on the day. Not only will they be showing their appreciation for what our county’s NHS and essential workers have done throughout the Covid-19 pandemic – and continue to do – they will also be helping to keep the vital, and free-to-use, blood bikes service on the road.”

Mr Roe added: “Some of our Devon Freewheelers volunteers are looking forward to joining the NHS Ride of Thanks Devon.

“Throughout the pandemic the Devon Blood Bikes charity has supported the NHS, for free, and now we would like to join forces with the county’s riders in thanking all those workers and staff who have worked tirelessly to keep others safe, and the country moving, since the start of the coronavirus outbreak.”

On the day the ride is being marshalled by the Widows Sons Masonic Bikers Association, who has also arranged the event’s insurance cover.

The Plymouth Motorcycle Club has offered its equipment and help for the ride’s start point.

And the Riviera Charity Riders, from Paignton, has worked closely with the authorities to give the event the green light to finish on the seafront.

Rides of Thanks were originally planned to take place in the spring of 2021 but with the UK still gripped by coronavirus lockdowns and restrictions, events were postponed and new dates announced.

The original idea had been for all UK rides to start at 11am on the same day with riders wearing something blue.

Some rides took place earlier this month, others were held in the summer, and the rest are planned for September 19 at 11am.

Mr Ash said: “Thousands of motorcycle riders all over the UK will be riding to show our appreciation and raise much-needed cash for a varied number of charities.

“Having a lot of local rides means that anyone on two wheels can attend; disabled people who cannot ride far, learner riders on small bikes and anyone else who, for whatever reason, cannot travel a long distance to attend an event but would like to show their appreciation.”

He added: “This is an event which has been many months in the making and has been delayed more than once due to Covid restrictions.

“It all started when a friend suggested we have a local ride to show our thanks. I created a Facebook page and began sharing it.

“Very soon it became clear that bikers from all over the UK wanted to be involved and so rather than having one ride where people would have to travel a considerable distance to get to wherever we had it, I decided that each area of the UK had their own ride.

“This ballooned to 30-plus rides in all four countries of the UK.”

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