Pembroke cyclists raise £6000 for a refugee MPhil

24 Pembroke students made the 85 mile cycle from Oxford to Cambridge; here’s their story of blood, sweat, and malfunctioning bike chains

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This article relies heavily on Pembroke’s ‘Kit Smart’ blog. A full account of the fundraiser can be found here.

It’s a heartwarming tale of compassion, charity, and endless bloody cycling.

When 24 Pembroke students mounted their bikes in Oxford and got ready for the massive 85 mile cycle home, they were setting out with a simple dream; to fund an MPhil course for a refugee at the college. At first, they had hoped to raise just £2000; they smashed that target before they even started cycling. Before the gruelling day was over, they had doubled it to a full £4000.

The road was their paper, the bicycles their pen, and together they wrote a poem across East Anglia

The road was their paper, the bicycles their pen, and together they wrote a poem across East Anglia

There was a wide range of cycling experience on show, with some having managed that distance regularly, others never having gone further than West Cambridge. Things got tough immediately, with the central college students facing a brutal gauntlet of steep hills – something of a nightmare for anyone who doesn’t have to brave the hill college pikes.

As they cruised towards East Anglia, the trek became a little less steep, but no less traumatising. First one student’s chain started repeatedly coming loose and then they had to navigate through an antlered deer park.

Eventually, as the day wore on and spirits began to fail, they reached a pub to grab some lunch, but even this proved itself a treacherous endeavour. Two desperately unfortunate students got there just as they stopped serving food, and one Jewish student who was celebrating Passover had to forgo the valuable carbs. At this point, they weren’t even halfway to  Cambridge.

They look happy but they're dead inside

They look happy but they’re dead inside

But they pressed on, raising cash with every altruistic leg pump. John, the head porter, who had been driving alongside the cyclists, offered support in the form of jacket transportation and sustained heckling. Five miles shy of the finish line, one rider’s tire punctured, and was stranded with a phone that couldn’t make calls. Fortunately, someone noticed and the group promptly rescued her.

By the time they reached Cambridge, they had raised £4000, double their target. At time of writing, helped by crowdfunding and a thousand pound individual donation, they had broken £6000, which is just enough for a one year mPhil. It looks like it was a particularly gruelling slog, and this heartwarming story of physical grit and perseverant cycling almost puts the daily misery of a hill college commute in perspective.

You can donate to their crowdfund here.