Do you remember your first bike, and the joy and excitement of receiving a wonderful freedom tool? There are many ways to share that feeling with someone less fortunate this Christmas.
My first bike was a red tricycle, replaced by a foam-tyred AMF Roadster with training wheels. A used blue Schwinn Stingray followed before my growth spurt prompted my parents to buy me a Ross Europa three-speed in the late 1970s. In time I bought my own bike, a Sanwa 10-speed, and over time many road, mountain and city bikes crossed the threshold of my garage. The same feeling of freedom and joy flows with the first few strokes of the cranks, regardless if I'm wearing Lycra, denim or wool.
I had the privilege of launching Project Rwanda with Tom Ritchey in 2006. We experienced and learned about the needs of Rwandan families, especially the thousands of orphans as a result of the 1994 genocide. Tom developed a coffee-hauling bike to assist Rwandan coffee farming families build a better business to lead a healthier life.
This experience connected me to World Bicycle Relief, led by SRAM co-founder FK Day. World Bicycle Relief began after the December 2004 tsunami in Sumatra, providing bicycles for the relief and health care workers. Day's organization is working in Zambia and several African countries to provide 23,000 bicycles to healthcare workers on the frontlines of the HIV/AIDS crisis.
Bicycle adventure ambassador Hans Rey started Wheels 4 Life in 2005. He travels extensively, and realized how much of a positive impact bicycles have with people in need. His organization gives bicycles to needy families in Third World countries, with Rey presenting the bikes in person. Crankbrothers and Chris King have partnered with Rey to raise awareness and funding for Wheels 4 Life.
The time for making decisions on holiday giving is upon us, with Christmas just around the corner. Here are a few organizations I've identified for you to choose from as you consider ways to enable others to live a better life while sharing our two-wheeled joy:
Let me know about your first bikes, and the fondest memories you can remember. It feels good to reminisce, and even better to know we all have the power to help others. Bicycling has been my passion for nearly 40 years, and has given me much to be thankful for.
Gary Boulanger, US editor