Bikes to Rwanda
This is a blog about cycling. It’s also a blog about the environment and about technology. It’s mainly a blog about fundraising. I love to ride. There’s an incredible simplicity to cycling that I find attractive. From spinning and spinning (and crashing—lots) around my parents’ driveway on my neighbour’s bike when I was little to long solo rides as an adult, I’m happy when I ride. I ride to work, I ride with my kids, I ride alone.
The bicycle is a remarkable piece of technology, which asks the human body to propel it through an extraordinarily efficient motion. That motion is addictive and it has become my primary source of exercise: I’m one of those lycra-clad nut-jobs on a road bike you see out on country roads, miles from anywhere. On the flat, the pedaling rhythm is fluid, smooth, automatic. Going up, heart, lungs, and legs vie for your inner mind’s attention, begging you to stop. In short, cycling hurts. And I think that’s the point. As an academic, who lives a pretty comfortable life, I’ve decided that the lure of cycling stems from some primitive need to suffer. So in rain, sleet, snow, wind, and throbbing heat, I click my cleats into my pedals and ride. The bike is a tool. And it’s on the bike that I set myself challenges. How far, how hard, how long can I ride? Today, this week, month, or year? I don’t know if it necessarily makes me a better person, but I’m more relaxed if I have been riding more and I like the physical and mental challenge.
But the bicycle’s utility extends well beyond the bike boutiques and “cycling is the new golf” mentality that has permeated much the developed world (this is a feature of the road cycling world I hope I manage to resist). The bike is a tool and an important mode of transportation for millions of people the world over. And that’s really what this blog is about. While I ride for pleasure (to the extent to which the above might be described as such), it’s important to keep in mind that I have the privilege to ride a quality racing bike on paved and—let’s be frank—safe roads: with traffic controls, lights and crossings, and free of land mines.
Conscious of this privilege and thinking about cycling goals for 2011, I want to try to put the two together. Recently, I came across Bikes to Rwanda, which builds practical, cargo bikes for cooperative coffee farmers in Rwanda. From their site: “The goal is to improve quality of life in these communities through a bike distribution, workshop construction and maintenance training program that provides transportation resources for basic needs and enhances production of quality coffee.” For an overview of the larger project, see here. I like coffee, too, and am a pretty frequent visitor to Domestique Café Cyclo Sportif. Bikes and coffee: I’ll write more on this, but this is a great fit for me.
So here’s how this is going to work: I’m looking for sponsors who will commit to donating a penny for every kilometer I ride on my road bike in 2011 (races, training, etc.—but not commuting or riding with the kids). Feel free to sponsor more. I’ll even take half-pennies! Sponsors can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your full name, e-mail address, and the amount per kilometer you are willing to pledge. How far will I likely ride? In 2010, I rode somewhere between 3000 and 4000 kilometers; my goal for 2011 is 5000 kilometers (I managed 80 kilometers over the last week before the snow came down), and I hope to roust up 100 sponsors. At a penny a kilometer, that would mean $5000. On January 1, 2012, I will post the final tally and come collecting (I hope to have a PayPal account up and running by then). The proceeds will be sent to the Bikes to Rwanda program.
So what is this blog really about? Ostensibly, it is about charting the progress of my fundraising—logging rides and kilometers and sharing news—but it is also an opportunity to marry my love of cycling with my personal and professional interests in the history of technology and the environment. In addition to updates, I hope to also post historical, environmental, bicycle, and coffee bits and pieces, and I welcome your input along the way.