North West 200 toast for group of bikers who lapped the world three times during lockdown

A team of bikers who completed three laps of the world as they delivered medical supplies and PPE during lockdown will go on a lap of honour at the upcoming NW200.

By Graeme Cousins
Friday, 22nd April 2022, 4:31 pm

Phil Johnston of the Volunteer Bikers Group explained how a team of local riders put their engines to good use when the pandemic struck.

He said: “In a very short space of time, we amassed a group of 200 motorbikes and riders willing to support our service. Since then we have completed, in miles, the equivalent of three laps of the world, and delivered very close to 10,000 deliveries throughout Northern Ireland and even Republic of Ireland, as well as collections from Scotland, England, and would you believe Norway, destined for Northern Ireland.

“We declined any financial support, and this included an offer of fuel sponsorship. Each rider self funded their own machine. We instead decided to raise some funds for the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice.

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Volunteer Bikers Group at Stormont

“We have delivered to new born babies – including a Moses basket for a newborn – right through to elderly folk living alone. One lady, aged 94, even found a new love for motorcycling and wanted us to teach her to ride a motorbike.

“We have challenged the perception of motorcyclists and shown how there can be a good, friendly and supportive side to these boys and girls.

“We have had riders who are pilots, teachers, motorcycle instructors and everything in between, simply wanting to help.”

The group won the Irish Motorcycle Award for ‘Services to Motorcycling’ and a Sunday Life ‘Spirit of NI’ award. They also received nominations for BBC Sports Personality of the Year ‘Unsung Heroes’.

Volunteer Bikers Group - Paul Johnston, Michael Price, Richard Webber, Phil Johnston and John Lawson

At the upcoming NW200 the public will have a chance to thank the volunteers.

Phil said: “We always promised the riders we would have a ‘thank you’ event to allow them to be publicly thanked for their efforts to this cause.

“Many of the riders have never physically met, but we had a shared cause of wanting to help. We concluded our service a few months back, once we could be sure that none of our service users had any further requirements and they had established supply channels to receive whatever they needed.

“With thanks to Mervyn Whyte and the NW200 team, we have now received permission to conduct a lap of thanks of the NW200 race circuit on Sunday, May 8.

A delivery of PPE from the Volunteer Bikers Group

“This is a unique opportunity, and one which so far over 100 of our team of riders have said they want to be a part off.

“It will be in some ways remarkable imagery of the volume of motorcyclists we had supporting this much needed service on what will be the first return of the NW200 following COVID absence.”

Some of the Volunteer Bikers Group