If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Ride of Respect 2011

On 14 March last year, I got home from work, flicked on the TV news, and saw that there had been a mass rideout of bikers at Wootton Bassett. The charity event had been held in aid of Afghan Heroes, and had been attended by an estimated 10,000 bikes and 15,000 riders and pillions. The event raised a whopping £104,834 for the charity, which had been started by a group of mothers who had lost their sons in Afghanistan. The story of the ride is an amusing one. An 18-year-old rider, Lizzie Stevens, made a call on Facebook for a ride through Wootton Bassett, to join a run organised by her bike club. When the numbers grew beyond the handful she expected, Lizzie handed over organisation of the ride to an older rider, Julia Stevenson. Julia decided to make it a charity ride, and decided on Afghan Heroes as the recipient of the donations. The whole thing snowballed, mainly through the Facebook page, and in the end the numbers were overwhelming and the event was huge. The story is told here.

As soon as I saw the footage of the rideout, I kicked myself. If only I had known it was happening, I would have been there, and I made myself a promise that if the event were repeated in 2011, I would be a part of it. I kept going back to the website, but all I could see was 'work in progress'. Finally, I checked it today, and it is open for registration.

I have booked the day as holiday, I have registered and paid my donation, and I am going.

The event will be held on Sunday 3 April (Mothers' Day, of course). Bikes will assemble at Hullavington Airfield, just off the M4, and will proceed in groups at 15-minute intervals to Wootton Bassett. Organisation is going to be tight, given the numbers anticipated, and I have opted to arrive between 8.00 am and 9.00 am (later slots have all been taken!) and join the queue. Minimum donation is £10, and there is a fair bit of merchandise like stickers, t-shirts and patches to soak up some more of your spare cash.

Wootton Bassett is, of course, the place where the people line the streets to pay their respects and, by implication, the respects of the country, to the fallen from the Afghanistan war as they pass homeward from RAF Lyneham. The town came to me to represent the affection, support and gratitude felt by the ordinary British people to the boys and girls who risk their lives to defend us, as compared with the shabby and deceitful treatment the troops were getting from the last government. You don't have to agree with the war itself to feel admiration and humility in the face of such courage and commitment. Lions, led by lions, and sent to war by spivs and charlatans.

If you ride, and you fancy a day out in deepest Wiltshire, then get along to the website and register. The organisers have set a limit of 10,000 bikes, and after that registration will be closed. From the availability of time slots on the registration page, I would guess that more than half the places have been taken, so if you are thinking of going I would advise that you did not delay any further. For those that can't make it all the way to Wootton Bassett, there are also regional rides going on in Essex, Shropshire, Eastern England, Kent, the North-East, Scotland and the Borders. Details here.

If you are going to the main ride at Wootton Bassett, and if you are the gregarious type, drop me an email with your mobile number and we could try to meet for a coffee-style drink and a turdburger at some point in the day.

It's a charity that I feel is hugely worthy of support, and I am greatly looking forward to being a part of this event. Please consider attending, or donating, or both.


  1. "It's a charity that I feel is hugely worthy of support..."

    Indeed. And there's fewer and fewer of those lately.

  2. Sadly, I shall be building a set/directing a technical rehearsal that day, and have no option to reschedule that, otherwise I'd be delighted to join you for a coffee.

    Will have to settle for making a donation, I'm afraid.

  3. Shame, that. I wondered if you might be up for it. But Real Life (tm) takes precedence, always. Hope the rehearsal goes well, and I will take you along in spirit.

  4. I went on the first one of these and was amazed at the turnout of the people in Wooton itself. A wonderful crowd of locals who line the roads to and through the town waveing and cheering as you pass through. The spectacle on the airfielf is something else as well. Trully all sorts of machine in attendance from those that look like they are off over hill and dale to get to the town to those who look like they might need a push! Richard it's a shame that you could only get an early arival time as later on all the bikes are stacked up to see at the airfield but your dispatch times are staggered and the early one's don't get to see all the later arivals. I still don't know if I can make it but I do however have the blessing of Ruth if I do want to go.

  5. Hi rebelman: thanks for this. I'm looking forward to it. I've seen some photos from last year, and the bikes lined up on the airfield looked like nothing else - bikes as far as the eye could see in every direction. I was there for the massed start at the Toy Run last year and the noise was awesome, and that was only 2-300 bikes. I can't wait to hear what several thousand sound like.

    If you're up for it, give me a shout and perhaps we could ride up together, or meet up on the M4 or something.

  6. Hope so too, and trust you'll enjoy the run out.

    And hello there rebelman, nice to know you're still around. Hope life's treating you well!

  7. Hi Richard

    I went pillion with my husband last year and the sound is sensational !!! Remarkable turnout of bikers and amazing responce from everyone in Bassett.

    See you all there this year :-)

    We live in swindon so a coffee could be on the cards if we see you !!

  8. I doubt if I would find you in a crowd of 10,000 on the strength of that :) If you want to drop me an email ("Contact" above) we could swap mobile numbers and see if we can manage to meet up for a brew at some stage. Thanks for your comment and the kind offer.

    The sound is going to be the best bit, I think. The biggest mass ride I have been on was about 2-300, and that was ear-shattering.


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