The Big Bike Revival: Helping refugees

Mohammed preparing to lead a ride with the Portsmouth Red Cross
In 2019 Big Bike Revival events helped refugees and asylum seekers to cycle. Cycling UK's Megan Cliff spoke to Nasser and Mohammed to find out how their lives have been changed by cycling.

The opportunity to enjoy cycling again

Mechanical engineer Nasser Alkadre was one of a small group of Syrian refugees who joined a Big Bike Revival ride, led by not-for-profit social enterprise, Rebike Cumbria.

“I used to ride often in Syria,” said Nasser. “As a little boy up and down the tracks with friends, but now I have no bike. Being here today means I can get the opportunity back and enjoy it again.

I used to ride often in Syria... Being here today means I can get the opportunity back and enjoy it again

Nasser Alkadre

“I would like to save for a bike, it would mean I could get out to see my friends more often but at the moment we walk. It can take much longer.”

Research shows that asylum seekers and refugees are more likely to experience poor mental and physical health than the local population. So for many, getting access to a bike can be life changing, helping them integrate into their new communities and providing cheap transport.

This year, our Big Bike Revival partners have run events to support refugees to be more mobile and active. 

After the ride, participants chatted to one another, initially struggling with language barriers. But thanks to Nasser's quick thinking and a helpful smartphone translation app, conversation was able to flow.

Nasser was then able to explain his passion for volunteering and that he wanted to share the skills that he has learnt through years of professional work in Syria. 

He hopes that by attending English language courses he will soon be able to return to volunteer at Rebike so he can share his technical skills and continue to give back to his community.

Paying it forward 

300 miles away in Portsmouth we spoke to volunteer ride leader Mohammed.

Mohammed came to Portsmouth as a refugee many years ago, and is now an integral member of the Red Cross Big Bike Revival Group.

“I like cycling and having people come along,” he said. “Everyone enjoys the ride and it finishes with smiles. It makes me happy knowing they are safe on the bike and learning something new.”

Mohammed has helped around 50 people join community bike rides over the past few years, and helped organise the popular Refugee Celebration rides.

Alex Cuppleditch, former Portsmouth Cycling Development Officer and now Head of Volunteering at Cycling UK said, “Mohammed is an incredibly dedicated, motivated and humble volunteer. 

“He has built a range of skills by being involved with the group. He is not only a qualified ride leader, but he is also a bike mechanic.” 

“He is always willing to help, a truly integral part in the group,” Alex continued. “He is always willing to learn and the personal skills he has developed while being a volunteer are incomprehensible.”

The passion and energy Mohammed has for the Red Cross Big Bike Revival group is clear. “I just love that I get to be here, a part of the group,” Mohammed said. “I am blessed to have this in my life. 

“I love having new people here, you know, from outside of my community. We get to make many new friends and share this journey.

I love having new people here, you know, from outside of my community. We get to make many new friends and share this journey.


“Sometimes I cycle past people that have been part of our group and I can wave to them, other times when they move away it is sad, but I know they are having as much fun as I do when I cycle.”

Mohammed wants to support and mentor future ride leaders at the Red Cross after seeing the impact it has had on the lives of the participants. 

Get your community involved

The Red Cross Big Bike Revival group have had such a successful Big Bike Revival summer they’ve decided to become a Cycling UK Community Cycle Club

As an affiliated Community Cycle Club they’ll receive support and guidance from their Cycling Development Officer over the next 12 months. 

Community Cycle Clubs are helping to support more than 50,000 people cycling.