Meet ‘2 Muslim Night Riders’- the friends merging fitness and faith

Type ‘cyclist’ into google and you’ll be met with some fairly typical images most often associated with the sport; elite-athlete-looking, caucasian men sporting neon coloured lycra and goggles. 

Cycling is many things; a respected sport, an eco-friendly mode of transport and a fun way to pass a Sunday afternoon, but ‘inclusive’ cannot be so easily added to this list. 

Data from We Are Cycling UK shows that those who identified themselves as ‘white other’ were, by a clear margin much more likely to cycle at least three times a week.

It’s not just ethnicity which divides cyclists from non-cyclists; people living on the highest real income took a lot more cycling trips per year than those on low and middle income levels. 

Noor Sheikh, 37 and Sham Irfan, 40 were keen to break down the barriers to cycling when they started their Facebook page and YouTube channel 2 Muslim Night Riders during the UK’s second lockdown. 

They began documenting their cycling adventures in October 2020, exploring Manchester after work on cold lockdown nights when the city effectively became a ghost town. 

What started out as a mission to get fitter and find mental clarity became a unique re-discovery of the city they have both lived in for years.

Sham notes: “The surreal feeling of riding into the city centre when it was so quiet made it a much better experience.” 

The first video on their channel follows a night time ride around Manchester City Centre

Noor has a background in video creation and social media and the two friends decided to document their rides as a means of inspiring others. 

Noor explains: “I said to Sham ‘Hey let’s put something together where people from our background, and generally anyone can see that we go cycling alongside having kids, working and going to Mosque, maintaining our religious duties.’” 

The duo note that when they started documenting their cycles, 95% of the comments on their pages came from people of similar backgrounds who were both intrigued and inspired. 

Sham explains: “A lot of people from our background were asking- can I do this as well? Because they thought they had to be part of a group or have the right training or clothing to start.

We just say to them you don’t have to, you can just be yourself, go out there and enjoy yourselves.” 

Interest has spread rapidly- they now have over 12,000 followers on their facebook page and 5.59k subscribers on their youtube channel.

Their followers are a global community, with fans across the UK, and in Pakistan. 

The friends, both practising Muslims, have found that their faith works in tandem with the mental and physical benefits found in cycling. 

They occasionally share quotes from both the Prophet Muhammad, and other Islamic writers on their page, accompanied with details and images of their latest cycling route. 

“There is a very spiritual personal element to our faith which unfortunately the media does not portray.” notes Noor. 

They talk about how cycling requires self discipline and mindfulness, two things which are key to their religious practices. 

Noor explains: “With our channel and page, one of the ideas is not to promote being a Muslim necessarily,  but the aspects of Islam which aren’t shown so often- its beauty and the sense of inner peace and mental discipline it promotes.” 

Nature is a key motivator for the friends who note how cycling has helped them to get outdoors. 

This has not only improved their health, but also enhanced their appreciation for the green spaces in and around Manchester. 

Sham notes how this links back to their religious journey:  “It’s written down that you should not, for example, rip a leaf of a tree when you walk past it- there really is a lot about environmentalism within Islam.”

Looking forward, the duo have big plans for their page.

Most recently, they have been invited by the University of Manchester to give a lecture this month with another national cycling group. 

Previously they have featured on podcasts with the CEO and founder of Cycling System Academy Sean Lally and have been interviewed on BBC Radio 5 by Sunny Rudravajhala. 

They have also created a limited series of branded t-shirts which started out as personal proto-types and quickly gained popularity as their page grew.

Noor noted: “It’s been quite shocking really- I never thought people would want to wear this sort of stuff. We’ve got comments from women saying- ‘Look, I am a hard-core atheist but I would love to wear one of your t-shirts and support you guys.’” 

So far they have been giving the t-shirts away to friends, family, and followers who request them, maintaining that their platform isn’t about making profit but sharing their journey and inspiring others. 

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16 November 2021 3:13 pm

Hi this is Inspiring..!

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