'The day I was diagnosed I realised if I could only do one more thing I'd want to cycle around the world'

After cancer and a family bereavement, 26-year-old Luke Grenfell-Shaw set off to cycle from Bristol to Beijing

Luke Grenfell-Shaw (@bristol2beijing/Instagram)

In 2018, Luke Grenfell-Shaw was diagnosed with a type of cancer that very few people survive.

He had been working as an English teacher in Siberia when he got an ache in his left shoulder that wouldn't go away. After a trip to the school's nurse, he was back in the UK 48 hours later getting a biopsy. The primary tumour beneath his left shoulder was the size of an aubergine, and the cancer had spread to his lungs.

He underwent chemotherapy and surgery for a very rare and aggressive form of cancer at the age of just 24. During his first round of chemotherapy, his older brother John, 25, fell to his death in the Lake District.

As he received his treatment, he continued to pursue his passion for running and riding long distances. Halfway through his chemotherapy, he ran the Bristol Half Marathon in 1-20-08, while also graduating with a Master's degree from the University of Oxford.

"The day that I was diagnosed I realised that if I could only do one more thing with my life then I'd want to cycle around the world," Grenfell-Shaw told the BBC.

Equipped with a tandem bike, Grenfell-Shaw set out from Bristol in January 2019, aiming to ride 5,000 miles east to Beijing and joined by other people living with cancer along the way, wanting to change what people think is possible after a cancer diagnosis.

A photo posted by on

"I am cycling with the knowledge that my cancer could come back at any time," Grenfell-Shaw said, while also riding in memory of his brother John.

Grenfell-Shaw left Bristol in January 2019, making his way over to France and then the Netherlands, where a leaking tent was only the start of his problems.

As he cycled across Europe, the coronavirus pandemic then began to complicate matters and borders began to shut.

"I've no idea what I'm going to do," he said. "With each passing minute heading back to the UK seems to be the more sensible option".

A photo posted by on

He did return home, but five months later was back on the road again.

Since then, he's been making his way east, chronicling his journey on his Instagram as well as his website, Bristol2Beijing.

So far, Grenfell-Shaw has raised £65,000 for cancer charities, his fundraising goal being £300,000. The link to donate is here. He will ride 300,000km across 30 countries with three wheels (he lost one in Croatia).


In Romania, he also caught and recovered from Covid-19, before making his way through Moldova, the Ukraine and is now halfway across Turkey.

He will then cycle through Uzbekistan and Pakistan, en route to India and Bangladesh before traversing China to get to the capital.

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