Hundreds of bikers to take over Devon’s roads

Thousands of bikers all over Britain are taking to the highways to say thank you to the NHS – thanks to a bright idea from two Devon riders. The NHS Ride of Thanks will bring hundreds of motorbikes to Paignton seafront on September 19 after Andy Ash and his friend Fred Colton decided to do something to demonstrate their gratitude to those who have gone above and beyond during the Covid-19 crisis. Similar rides are taking place all over the country as a result of the duo’s brainwave.

Plymouth-based Andy explained: “It’s 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.” Bikes will leave the Lee Mill industrial estate at 11am sharp and will head up the A38 to Buckfastleigh, Ashburton, Dartington and Totnes before arriving on Paignton seafront around 12.30pm. “Motorcycles of all sizes are welcome,” said Andy. “This is a procession, not a race.”

Riders are being asked to chip in a GBP5 contribution per bike, with the money going directly to the Devon Freewheelers ‘blood bike’ charity, who deliver essential supplies around the county.

Andy Ash, organiser of the NHS Ride of Thanks

Marshals for the event will be members of the bike club The Widow’s Sons, while Plymouth Motorcycle Club and Paignton’s Riviera Riders will organise the start and finish. The bikers have worked with Torbay Council on the event, and the seafront will be closed to traffic to allow the bikes to gather. “This is an event which has been many months in the making,” said Andy. “It has been delayed more than once due to Covid restrictions.”

The event began when Fred suggested a local ride to show thanks to NHS staff and key workers.

Andy spread the word on social media and it soon became clear that bikers from all over the UK wanted to be involved. Rather than having one ride where people would have to travel many miles to take part, it was decided that each area of the UK should have its own ride. The idea ballooned to include more than 30 rides all over the UK, and a date was set for April this year.

Covid meant it had to be postponed to July, and then again to September. “We have already raised in the region of GBP25,000 for good causes,” said Andy.

Hundreds of bikers to take over Devon's roadsAndy Ash, organiser of the NHS Ride of Thanks

“Each area chose its own charity to support. It became clear that although 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, dustmen, postmen and others.

“The group title would have been too long, so NHS Ride OF Thanks is an umbrella title. “My idea was that as we were all separate but joined by the cause, we should all start our rides at 11am on the same day, wear something blue and stay off motorways so learners could be involved. “Obviously this didn’t happen and the event splintered a little due to Covid restrictions.

“But 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.” Get the best stories about the things you love most curated by us and delivered to your inbox every day. Choose what you love here

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