A man in a purple cycling jersey admiring the John O'Groats roadsign at the tip of the UK

Riding for refugees: from Land’s End to John O’Groats

We are so lucky at The Bike Project to have passionate fundraisers who make what we do possible. One of these incredible cyclists is Paul Kobrak who recently cycled the length of the UK fundraising a massive £4,384 and counting! We had a chat about his experience:

Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about yourself  I’m a slightly (well not really that slight) overweight man who took voluntary redundancy in 2019.  Already in my 60s at that point, the intention that I would work less and do more of the things I didn’t have time to do before.  Before that I was a radio producer making documentaries and podcasts mainly for Radios 4, 3 and 2 and the World Service, which was something I had been doing for over 30 years.  In my spare time (and in a thwarted effort to tackle my weight) I would cycle.

When and how did you hear about The Bike Project? I found out about The Bike Project when I was trying to find a home for my wife’s unused bike (and a bit of Googling on the internet).

What drew you to fundraising for The Bike Project?  I was drawn by the simplicity of what The Bike Project does:  give refugees the ability to get around more and as such greater freedom to settle into a new life away from what they were trying to escape.  Also, it tied in nicely with my love of cycling.

Please describe your fundraising activity. I cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats and sought sponsorship from friends, relatives and anyone who would listen – with the money going to The Bike Project.

What was your inspiration for your epic ride?  The initial inspiration came from two cycling buddies who did this a few years ago.  But also my wife said we should start doing the sort of things we want to do whilst we still could (I think she meant more travel, and not on a bike or in an accompanying car).  And whilst on holiday in 2021 in Scotland, it struck me that travelling the breadth of the UK might be fun.  However, with a bit of a heart condition (I had a stent inserted in 2016), I decided I would do it on an electric bike (which gave me the excuse to get one) and to do it in three legs (as it turned out, over 6 months).

Are there any rides or moments that stand out? Cornwall was tough (too many hills), the Lake District was wonderful (helped by great weather) and Scottish Highlands were utterly spectacular.  The friends that joined me for a few days (Ben & Gil) deserve special mention.  But top marks go to Fiona, my wife, who accompanied me along the whole ride (in the car – not following in my ‘slipstream’ but meeting me at each day’s destination), and also to Caitlin, my daughter, who surprised me as I finally rolled into John O’Groats. (You can check out all of the legs of the journey on Paul’s fundraising page)

Do you have any fundraising tips you could share?  Brass neck:  be bold (and shameless) in what you’re asking for and if someone doesn’t respond, ask them again (and again… and again… and again).  Don’t be embarrassed – it’s for an excellent cause.  Those that did sponsor me, I would give them updates on my progress with a few photos and anecdotes (which I also copied onto my fundraising page).  Do use The Bike Project fundraising page – it’s a very useful tool.

Why do you think someone should fundraise for The Bike Project? It is a worthwhile project and helps refugees (who have so much to deal with as they start a whole new life in a strange country) to help themselves.  The ability to get around under your own steam is so important. It is a freedom in its own right.

(In a perfect world), how would you like refugees to be treated in the UK?  As fellow human beings, they should be treated with respect and support.  They should also be admired for what they have achieved in getting here – the courage and strength they will have shown and will continue to have to show as they settle in the UK.  They have had to abandon their previous lives (which is a sacrifice that is difficult to imagine) and start again from scratch in a country that, at a Governmental level, is hostile and shockingly unwelcoming.  And yet they have – like we all have – a lot to offer.

Thanks so much Paul for your fundraising efforts, we really appreciate it.

Feeling inspired? Sign up to RideLondon 100 and join Team Bike Project for an epic day of riding for a great cause.

Recent posts