World Bicycle Relief – the international non-profit established by SRAM cofounder FK Day to provide bikes to people in developing parts of Africa – launched an ambitious fundraiser earlier this year, in co-operation with popular blog FatCyclist.com and its founder, Elden Nelson. The target is a whopping US$250,000 (enough for 1,866 bikes) and the pair is now less than US$8,000 away.
This isn't Nelson's first fundraising project with World Bicycle Relief – he generated more than US$150,000 last summer. However, after a trip to Zambia where he could see the impact of the donated bicycles for himself, Nelson said he felt compelled to do more.
"I'm lucky enough to have a large readership, and – having received a lot of kindness during my own tragedies – want to pay it forward by supporting good causes," Nelson told BikeRadar. "I've settled on the fight against cancer as one of those causes, and World Bicycle Relief as the other."
"I've been to Zambia and seen what they do," he continued. "It's amazing to see, firsthand, how far a girl has to walk to school, or to get water, or to go to the market. And then to give that child a bike and know that she'll be able to do all those things and still have time to study – and get a better job because she stayed in school, and that her whole family's life will be better… Well, it's an incredible experience."
The donated bikes aren't remotely fancy by first-world standards – they're heavy and equipped with a singlespeed drivetrain and a rear coaster brake – but they're designed to be supremely durable in environments that aren't exactly rife with mechanics and spare parts. Compared with having no bike at all, though, Day considers it a life-changer for its effect on mobility – both in the literal and economic sense.
The Buffalo bikes aren't just useful for transporting people
"A bicycle is an industrial revolution in an individual's life," he says on the organization's website.
Nelson launched his current initiative on 6 November and, at the time of writing, the grand total is US$117,424 – not exactly the US$8,000 deficit we referenced earlier. But, according to Nelson, World Bicycle Relief has secured corporate and individual sponsors who have agreed to match contributions made before midnight on 24 December – meaning US$8,000 is effectively more like US$133,000, which will supposedly be enough for 1,800 bikes plus training for 36 mechanics.
Nelson isn't relying solely on goodwill for people to contribute, either. He's built up an impressive tally of donated prizes, including two Specialized S-Works bikes, a trip to The Ranch resort in Malibu, California, with actor Patrick Dempsey and pro cyclist Tom Danielson, and VIP entry to Levi's Gran Fondo (plus signed Tour de France jerseys and numbers).