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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Meet the Dewsbury cyclist who has raised almost £200,000 for charity

Irfan Mohmed got into cycling four years ago after joining the Jo Cox Way charity bike ride. Since then, he has opened his own bike business and organises charity cycle rides raising thousands of pounds.

Two cycling clubs from Kirklees have raised just shy £200,000 for charity through a series of bike rides across Yorkshire and beyond.

The cyclists from Team Ride and Pedlaz CC, created by Irfan Mohmed, 43, from Dewsbury, raised the massive amount through lengthy charity bike rides that came about after some of the core team recognised that people wanted to get outside and exercise when the gyms were closed.

People across the UK have been “stuck at home” either because of the furlough job retention scheme, where people were paid 80% of their normal wage to stay at home or from home working due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Mohmed oversees two community cycling groups. Team Ride is a male-only cycling group and is open to all men regardless of age, ability, or ethnicity and Pedlaz CC, a cycling club that is open to anyone who has an interest in cycling.

Mr Mohmed owns his own bike shop and organises charity bike rides alongside his day job.

Mr Mohmed, who trained and graduated as an Imam in 1998 from the Institute of Islamic Education Dewsbury, UK has spent the last twenty years working as a builder and volunteering as a youth worker, delivering the Duke of Edinburgh Award to kids in Kirklees through the community group Kumon Y’all. Today, he works as a constituency support officer in MP for Batley and Spen Kim Leadbeater’s office when not working at his bike repair business.

At the beginning of 2020, Mr Mohmed opened up Cycleogist, a bike maintenance and repair service. He said: “It was a hobby that became a business. As gyms were shut last year due to the pandemic, there was a huge demand for bikes and bike maintenance.

“People have enjoyed getting active again and being part of a group with a shared interest.” Mr Mohmed organises the charity rides through Cycleogist for health and safety and insurance purposes.

Mr Mohmed’s spark for cycling began after taking part in the Jo Cox Way bike ride from West Yorkshire to London, four years ago. The gruelling 280 bike ride from Batley to London is in memory of Batley and Spen MP, Jo Cox, who was murdered in Kirkstall in 2016.

He said: “I hadn’t cycled properly until about four years ago. I would ride for a few miles as something to do with the kids on the weekend, but my love for riding really started with the Jo Cox charity bike ride to London a few years ago.”

Talking about his bike mechanics business, Mr Mohmed said: “Cycleogist was set up at the beginning of 2020 and everything else happened by chance.  Last year, I set up a Pedlaz CC, a community cycle group with around eight other people.

Mr Mohmed took part in the Jo Cox Way bike ride a few weeks ago.

Now, we have ten times that, with a community of around 70-80 people. The last charity bike ride we did, I only had space for forty people, but I could have booked double the amount of people on it, easily.

“To start, we set ourselves a target of raising £50,000 for the various charities and organisations that we fundraise for, but we have knocked it out of the park. We have managed to raise well over £200,000.

“This is through the generosity of people who take part. Everyone who is part of the club is completely community-centric minded and wants to give back. Local organisations and businesses are also super supportive of us too. We usually have food provided for the cyclists after a long ride and this is given to us by local restaurants, so we don’t have to pay for it and that little bit more can be donated.”

The charities and non-profit organisations the clubs have fundraised for include Dewsbury Town Masjid, which needs funds to complete its renovation and modernisation works, Friends for Al Aqsa, a British-based NGO defending the human rights of Palestinians, The Jo Cox Way, and Rahma Mercy, a charity that promotes education and welfare in the Balkans, primarily Albania.

Over the year, the crew of cyclists have taken to the roads to raise money for people in Palestine four times, spurred on by the violence that people in the occupied territories faced by the Palestine-Israeli Crisis that happened around Ramadan.

Mr Mohmed also chose to raise money for people in the Balkans through Rahma Mercy as it is an area of the world that has been close to his heart for more than two decades. He said: “I initially went out to Albania around 1996, at the time when communism was breaking down. The country was annihilated by it, and I have been involved on and off with raising money for the country ever since.

Mr Mohmed distributed funds to people in need in Albania in 2019.

“In 2019 I was deployed with the charity out there. You raise money beforehand and pay your way there. When you are in Albania, you distribute the funds you have raised yourself. It was an amazing experience.”

The bike rides that Mr Mohmed plans are not for those who fear exercise. The latest bike ride for Dewsbury Town Masjid, was a round trip of 60 miles, riding from Dewsbury town hall to Bolton Abbey in North Yorkshire. The ‘Ride 4 Rahma’ bike journey was an epic 70-mile round trip to York from Mr Mohmed’s hometown.

Talking about choosing the routes for the bike rides, Mr Mohmed said: “Wherever you are in West Yorkshire, it is going to be hilly with steep inclines at parts. As soon as you move out into places like York it gets a bit easier with flat ground.

“Road bikes are recommended for these types of rides. Of course, some people do turn up with mountain bikes but because they are heavier with thicker tires, it is going to be way more difficult than riding with a road bike.”

Bike riding improves both physical and mental health.

Health benefits from cycling include increased cardiovascular fitness, increased strength and flexibility, an improvement to joints and strengthened bones.

However, cycling also has a positive impact on mental health. Riding a bike can help keep stress at bay, reduce anxiety, and fight against depression, as well as help in the practice of mindfulness.

“The men’s cycle group is there so men can leave the house for a few hours, have a vent about something if it is bothering them, and relax for a bit”, says Mr Mohmed. He added: “Men tend to bottle it up and not share their problems so establishing a group where they can do this is incredibly important.

“There is a really good mix of men from all walks of life in Team Ride. The youngest cyclist on our last trip to York was 17 and the older men in the group are in their mid or late fifties.”

The next charity events will be held next year, with a focus on supporting current riders in the club. Members have the club kit to look forward to in the next few weeks, where they will be fitted out with brand new gear for their next rides.

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