Blood Bikes Cumbria – FAQ

This page has the answers to the questions we are most frequently asked about Blood Bikes Cumbria

What is Blood Bikes Cumbria?

Blood Bikes Cumbria is a charitable organisation that transports blood, plasma, platelets, samples, vaccines and other urgently required medical items for the North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust between premises in North & West Cumbria and hospitals / laboratories in the Newcastle area.

Blood Bikes Cumbria is part of NABB the Nationwide Association of Blood Bikes. Blood Bikes Cumbria is a registered charity (Charity number: 1159026)

We operate our service 365 days a year and do most of our riding at night, sometimes in unpleasant weather. Our volunteers ride/drive our fleet of liveried blood bikes/cars to ensure we present a professional Image.

Why do Blood Bikes Cumbria use motorbikes rather than cars?

Motorbikes have advantages when it comes to transporting time sensitive items such as blood. It’s far easier for us to progress through traffic for example, so journey times are far more predictable and generally quicker than cars. However, motorcycles cannot currently carry live blood when the temperature is below 3 degrees Celsius, so a blood car will be used. If you are interested in being a driver you can read more here.

Due to insurance constrains volunteers are not normally allowed to use their own motorcycles/cars.

What sort of motorcycles do you use?

We currently operate a fleet consisting of Yamaha FJRs, Honda Pan European & Deauville plus a GTR Kawasaki. These are tourer type motorcycles designed to be ridden for extended periods and distances, that offer some protection from the worst of the weather and which have reasonable luggage capacity.

Our bikes have full high visibility markings in order to ensure they can be easily identified as ‘Blood Bikes’ and to help our riders and their precious cargo be seen, and stay safe.

What sort of cars do you use?

Fleet consisting of Hyundai i30, Toyota Aygo (supplied on loan by a sponsor), Vauxhall Mokka provided on loan by Henry Surtees Foundation for use in the daily run of delivering blood and plasma to the GNAAS (Great North Air Ambulance Service) at Langwathby, Penrith.

Can I use my own vehicle?

No, not normally. However, personal vehicles can be utilised in exceptional circumstances.

Where are the bikes and cars kept?

Our riders/drivers will normally be ‘on call’ several times each month and they take possession of the Blood Bikes Cumbria  bike/car, for the time that they are on call, so that they can respond immediately to a request for assistance. Riders/drivers who wish to work from home need to have a garage or other secure place to store the bike while at home on call.

Where are the cars and bikes kept?

  • Carlisle:- 2 X Motorcycles & 2 X Cars
  • Whitehaven:- 2 X Motorcycles & 1 X Car
  • Penrith:- 1 X Motorcycle & 1 X Car
  • Keswick:- 1 X Motorcycle & 1 X Car

How do you transport blood etc?

Blood and blood products such as platelets are packed inside special insulated boxes and these are then secured to a special rack on the bike. The boxes are designed to maintain the temperature of the load during transportation. Our bikes also have panniers where samples can be transported along with non-temperature sensitive items such as instruments or documentation. When the temperature is too cold, a blood car willl be used.

What areas do you cover?

We currently cover hospitals North & West Cumbria and transfer samples from our area to the Newcastle area. We also deliver blood and plasma to the GNAAS (Great North Air Ambulance Service) at Langwathby, Penrith.

Are there any qualifications required to be a rider volunteer?

All riders/drivers are required to have an assessment ride/drive on their own motorcycle/car with with a qualified member.

Yes, all our drivers are required to have held a full car licence for at least 2 years and hold a recognised advanced driving qualification (such as IAM Roadsmart, RoSPA, Police, Ambulance, Fire or one of our listed qualifications). If you want to drive for us but don’t yet have a suitable qualification, we can put you in contact with one of the local advanced driving groups so you can gain the required qualification.

All riders are required to have an assessment drive in their own car with an Approved Member before being able to volunteer for shifts, and an annual assessment ride thereafter.

Do volunteers have to pay a membership fee?

Yes, a one off payment of £15 is required to cover the cost of your ID card and Hi-Viz logoed jacket.

Are the riders/drivers required to have special training?

Yes, our riders / drivers receive training on the safe handling of all the items we carry and the procedures required. Riders / drivers undergo route training so they are familiar with the routes to and from our destinations.

If you are considering volunteering as a rider it’s also worth remembering that we operate our service 365 days a year and do most of our riding at night, sometimes in unpleasant weather. Therefore we look for experienced riders who ride their own bikes regularly throughout the year. If you are someone who generally only rides on sunny Sundays, this probably isn’t the job for you.

Riders and drivers are required to provide their current UK driving / riding Licence. This check normally only needs to be carried out once.

Is there a uniform?
Riders must have their own protective motorcycle clothing such as boots, trousers, jacket, gloves etc and are expected to use their own helmet (white is preferred). A plain coloured helmet with no markings (stickers or decals) is acceptable.

We ask that Drivers, Admin staff and Fundraisers wear Blood Bikes Cumbria logoed clothing or H-Viz jacket when representing the group. Please note that shorts are NOT permitted. For operational Drivers, we ask that you purchase a polo or ‘business’ shirt, and for a £20 deposit (returnable) for the black fleece jacket that we provide for you.

How much time would I need to give?

For riders and drivers and controllers, we are looking for people who can volunteer for two 12 hour shifts a month. Riders and Drivers are welcome to cover more shifts if they are able to. We appreciate everyone has different personal commitments with family\work etc and we have enough riders to cover short periods where you may not be able to volunteer (such as going on an extended holiday). We do however need riders who are committed and are going to share the load.

For those volunteering to help out with fundraising we are happy to take whatever time you can give, even if it is just a couple of hours at an event in your area (such as a supermarket collection) every couple of months.

Do riders / drivers only work at night?

Weekdays, weekends and Bank Holidays we operate 12 hour night shifts 18.00 hrs to 06.00 hrs. In addition Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holidays we have a 12 hour shift 06.00 hrs to 18.00 hrs

Are there other ways people can volunteer to help apart from riding/driving?

We have people who help us with fundraising and publicity activities etc. Fundraising is a really important part of what we do as without the funds we wouldn’t be able to keep running. If you have a talent or skill you think could be of benefit to us, or can spare a few hours a month to help us fundraise please let us know.

Do the volunteers receive any remuneration?

No, all of our volunteers, including the committee give their time for free.

Why do you do it?

Everyone has their different reasons, but volunteers will generally be strong supporters of the NHS. They may have a particular reason to be grateful to the NHS or feel that as motorcyclists they’d like to do something to help, just in case they themselves need help sometime in the future.

We know what we do ‘makes a difference’. It can help save lives and also saves our hospitals substantial sums of money, often tens of thousands of pounds, which can then be used to directly benefit patients. The opportunity to achieve this, by doing what we love – riding motorcycles, is a compelling mixture for Volunteers.

Who are the volunteers?

It’s a wide variety and cross section of people from all walks of life. People like you.

How far will you travel on a call out?

Most of our journeys tend to be between our area hospitals and the central Blood Bank in Newcastle, so typically anything between 80 and 200 miles. However, we can and do go further if necessary. Where we need to transfer items across the country, for example to deliver samples to London or Manchester for analysis, we generally liaise with blood bike groups in other areas to quickly relay our cargo to where it’s needed.

How can I help?

We provide our services to the hospitals for free, so we rely 100% on donations from the public, from charitable groups and on company sponsorship to fund our work. Financial donations and sponsorship are therefore always very welcome.

We are also grateful to companies who can donate or heavily discount the products or services we need to operate.

If you would like to make a donation please see our fundraising page .

If you would like to find out more about our company sponsorship packages please contact us via

If you’d like to find out more about volunteering or want to become a member please contact us via