27 year-old cycling enthusiast James is on a mission to change lives
James Whateley, from Surrey, has raised an incredible £88,000 for people living with multiple sclerosis (MS), after turning his passion for cycling into a nationwide fundraising initiative.
James Whateley first set up Bike the UK for MS in 2014, and since then has organised over a dozen accessible rides up and down the UK to raise funds for the MS Society. He’s now on a mission to raise an additional £75,000, and inspire more budding cyclists to join his cause. After having to cancel all rides in 2020 due to Covid-19, James is recruiting new riders for the adventure of a lifetime in 2021. This includes a 1,000 mile ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats, and a shorter 150 mile ride across the country from the Irish Sea to the North Sea.
As well as generating funds to support the MS community, Bike the UK for MS’s mission is to raise awareness of the condition and connect people. Participants spend rest days volunteering, joining local MS Society support groups across the country, and running accessible cycling sessions.
James says: “MS Society groups are a lifeline for a lot of people, and visiting them along the way reminds everyone why we’re doing what we’re doing. Fundraising is one thing, but helping people with MS get back out there on the bike – sometimes for the first time in decades – is just amazing.”
“For example we recently funded cycling lessons and provided a range of adapted bikes for a local group in Bath. And we helped one man living with MS – a wheelchair user who was also blind – get on a bike for the first time since his diagnosis. It was so overwhelming for him that he just started crying.”
James took inspiration for the group from a chance encounter on his gap year. While cycling coast-to-coast across the USA James met Don Fraser, the founder of Bike the US for MS, and was so inspired by Don’s mission that he set up a UK equivalent, and partnered with the MS Society.
James says: “Our ethos is that cycling should be accessible to everyone, so we’ve always prided ourselves on being open to riders of all abilities – from complete beginners to experienced cross-country riders. Cycling can be seen as a competitive sport, but our rides have a really supportive, relaxed feel – no one’s pressuring you to keep up. And seeing people who weren’t confident cyclists at the beginning completely transform themselves is incredible.”
Martin Mears, Head of Community and Events at the MS Society says: “Over the years James has built a passionate and dedicated community of cyclists at Bike the UK for MS, and we are so grateful for their ongoing support.
“More than 130,000 people live with MS in the UK. It damages nerves in your body and makes it harder to do everyday things, like walk, talk, eat and think. Living with the condition can be relentless, painful and exhausting – but thanks to fantastic supporters like James we can make sure no one has to go through it alone.”
To find out more about Bike the UK for MS, or sign up for a ride, please visit: https://biketheukforms.org/