Hans Rey goes to Africa with his Wheels 4 Life charity

Trials star says bicycles can be a lifeline for poorest of the poor

Trials star and adventure rider Hans 'No Way' Rey has just returned from Africa, where he was distributing bikes through his Wheels 4 Life charity.

It was his third trip to the area around Ugweno in the Northern Pare Mountains, Tanzania, and the aim was to create a film showing the impact bikes have on the local community.

Along with cameraman Aaron Lutze and photographer Carmen Freeman, Hans handed over 53 bicycles, bringing the number of machines distributed in this area by Wheels 4 Life to a total of 135.

They also opened two bike and repair shops, with help from Tretlager Bike Shop in Winterthur, Switzerland, whose staff raised money for spare parts, tools and a welding kit.

Some of the money went into the construction of a brick building at the Nyotastar Center in Kivisini, although most of the costs for this structure were met by donations from local people. It will be run by Aminelli, the mechanic hired by Wheels 4 Life a year ago to look after the bikes, and Prefa, a 17-year-old orphan. The second bike shop is based in Joseph Barekeli Junior’s house in Toloha, a remote village where people previously had no way of getting their bikes fixed.

Hans rey visited tanzania with wheels 4 villages: hans rey visited tanzania with wheels 4 villages

The village of Kivisini in Tanzania now has its own bike shop and workshop

Hans said: "Carmen painted a beautiful sign for the [Kivisini] bike shop, from a plank of wood we received from one of our bike recipients who is a wood cutter.

"We organised the grand opening of the Kivisini shop and hired a cook to make a simple meal for about 200 people. Many people from Kivisini but also from the neighboring villages came, as well as many of the people who had received a bike from us and many of the pastors and other partners who are helping us distribute the bikes. It was a wonderful day.

"Elvida and Victor, who founded the Nyotastar Center, were also present. Without their help and support we could have not done this project or got the bike shops organized.

"It was also fantastic to see how many of the bikes we had given out in the past had really improved the lives of those people and their families, and how many of the bikes are being used by multiple people and for multiple tasks."

Hans rey visited tanzania with wheels 4 villages: hans rey visited tanzania with wheels 4 villages

People from neighbouring villages travelled to Kivisini for the official opening of the shop

Hans founded Wheels 4 Life in 2005 with the aim of providing bicycles to people in Third World countries in need of transportation. On this trip, the bikes were all bought in Dar es Salam, Tanzania's largest city. Twenty-eight were bought from a bike wholesaler, while another 25 came from World Vision's World Bicycle Relief programme. 

Hans said: "Part of our project is to try out different bike models to learn which ones work and which one don’t work or are too expensive. The World Bicycle Relief bike is a typical African bike, designed with more heavy-duty and higher quality parts than the bikes which are usually available in Africa. They come with stronger wheels, frame and carrier-racks. They also have coaster brakes and no unnecessary parts. The only drawback is the price of $131 – usually we pay approx $80-$100 for a bike in Tanzania."

Hans rey visited tanzania with wheels 4 villages: hans rey visited tanzania with wheels 4 villages

Hans hopes to find out which types of bikes work best in this part of Africa

Hans said the trip had taught him that the infrastructure is as important as the bikes themselves. He said: "People need to be educated, not only about how the bikes can help them improve their lives, income, careers, healthcare, etc… but they also need to learn to look after their bikes. Some bikes we found in terrible condition, while others maintained their bikes very well. We also learned that some people are so poor that they can't even afford any spare parts.

"Taking into consideration other factors like corruption and greed, we learned that it can be extremely difficult to ensure that the bikes end up in the right hands. As one can imagine, everybody in Africa would like to get a free bike, whether they need one or not. I think Wheels 4 Life chose the right method of distributing bikes in small quantities, where we can thoroughly consider every individual who receives a bike.

"Wheels 4 Life caters to the poorest of the poor, to give them mobility and a chance to better their lives or help them break out of the vicious circle of poverty. We also supply people with bikes who help the poorest of the poor, like healthcare workers, teachers or missionaries. There are millions of people who could greatly benefit from a bicycle, our mission is far from over and we continue to need your help."

The film will be released in the summer 2009. For more information about Wheels 4 Life, visit www.wheels4Life.org.

Hans rey visited tanzania with wheels 4 villages: hans rey visited tanzania with wheels 4 villages

This article was published by BikeRadar, the world's leading source of bike reviews, gear reviews, riding advice and route information
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