There's a contest on the Pinkbike homepage to win something most weeks but it's rare that you see a pro rider giving away a bike to raise money for something they believe in, especially their custom bike from World Championships
. Last year, when he was on the YT Mob, Neko Mulally (@nekomulally
) raffled off his bike for a charity that matters to him, Cand'aid. After a season with a new team and new sponsors, Neko has chosen to do it yet again this coming Friday. Anyone can enter to win the bike here
, for a small donation. But, why is this cause so important to Neko? Let's find out.
If you know, or know of Neko, you know that he believes in giving back. On top of racing World Cups, Neko invests a lot of time and effort in furthering the sport of mountain biking. He is on the mountain bike committee at USA Cycling, the race promoter and founder of the Downhill Southeast races, and has helped develop Windrock Bike Park in Tennessee, promoting races there that work to include everyone possible, from World Cup level pros to average Joes. He does all this not to turn a profit, but because it provides an incentive to come, breaks down barriers, creates a gathering place, and helps grow the community.
While he doesn't expect everyone else to do what he's doing, he undoubtedly walks his talk, living that giving back in some way is critical for the healthy growth of the mountain biking community. Helping others and contributing to the good of the sport, especially as the growth of the sport inevitably leads to further commercialization, is the root of why we ride.
“Why is it important to give back”
Taking a little time to give back to things in life that have treated you well helps to ensure that those same experiences will be out there for other people on a similar path and that positive energy is something that the world needs. The sport of mountain biking and the community around it has been great to me so I try to pay that forward as much as I can.
What's the earliest you remember someone's selfless contribution impacting you?
I raced BMX as a kid and at the time I didn't realize how many people volunteered to make sure that the tracks were open and there were races to attend. I have so many good memories from growing up racing and it gave me something to be excited about and really look forward to at a young age. I think anyone who participated in sports growing up can relate. People taking the time to help out of the kindness of their hearts created an experience for me that shaped my passion for cycling and racing. If there was more of that in mountain biking, there would be more opportunities for people to get into the sport.
What's one way someone donating their time has helped you?
I'd say every race team I have been on, from a local club team to a national team, up to the World Cup teams I have raced for, most everyone involved has gone above and beyond the task they volunteered to help with or what their job was. Certainly, they could have found a job that paid better, but they wanted to be involved with something they were passionate about, and they went the extra mile to help the team or me as a rider countless times. That extra effort made a huge difference in my career and inspired me to do the same.
How did you learn about Can'd Aid?
I rode for Oskar Blues Brewery for five years and they are a huge supporter of Can'd Aid which is how I first made that connection. Even though I didn't ride for Oskar Blues this season, Can'd Aid does awesome things with trail advocacy and building new trails, getting kids on bikes by supplying bikes and helmets to those who don't have one, and helping those in need during natural disasters by canning water and shipping it to places that don't have potable water among other things. It's something that I wanted to stay involved with.
How have you been working with Can'd Aid?
Last year I raffled off my World Champs bike and donated all of the money to Can'd Aid to buy bikes for first-grade students who didn't have them. I was really proud that it raised $26,500 which bought 265 bikes and helmets. My bike raffle was the largest single fundraiser for Can'd Aid. I also conducted clinics through Can'd Aid and the Boys and Girls club to teach the kids how to ride.
What are some other ways you've been working to give back to the sport in general?
I started organizing races with the Downhill Southeast series in 2016 and have seen it grow a lot over the past four years. This year we added a free kids downhill race for ages 12 and under at every round and had a big turn out at all of them. Additionally, we had a "bring a buddy" system for women racing who could bring a friend with them that could race for free. With all of the races I organize, I try to do everything I would want from an event that I was attending and push for good race tracks and as low-cost entry fees as possible. Having events for people to attend helps provide an opportunity at the grassroots level, especially for downhill, and that helps grow the community.
Are there any moments from all of this that stand out in your mind?
Giving the bikes purchased from my Worlds bike raffle to the kids was really cool. A lot of the kids had never ridden a bike before and were not afraid to hop on and try. It was also awesome that the school let the kids ride them right away. I thought there may be some red tape, but we had a whole first grade class riding and crashing their new bikes. For most of the kids, it was their first bike and it was so cool to see how happy they all were.
How else have you seen bikes positively influence people outside of the sport?
I've heard from a few people that they were in a bad spot in life at the time they discovered mountain biking. The excitement that riding their bike created inspired them and took them on a new path and helped them overcome things that otherwise, maybe they wouldn't have. The mountain bike community is so strong - Brook for example, after his crash - the support he is getting during his recovery is huge. It's a tight group (mountain bikers), and mountain bikers help each other.
If someone was looking for a way to give back, what are some suggestions you have for that?
The thing is, it doesn't need to be much. Just being a good ambassador of our sport can help a lot. When you park at the trailhead say hello to the person parked next to you or ask them about their ride. If you're a pro, hang out in the pits and chat with people after a race. Volunteer to help at a local event. Simple things, especially kindness towards beginners, can go a long way.
Want to get involved? You can contribute and enter for your chance to win until this Friday, November 19th at 12am EST here
. 20 tickets go for $20 and there are steps all the way up to 2,500 tickets for $500. You can buy as many as you want. You can also purchase tickets in person at Oskar Blues NC from 5pm-8pm EST prior to the drawing. Neko is also giving away some riding gear including a Fox kit, Afton shoes, and a package from Handup Gloves. Worst case scenario? You've helped get a kid on a bike.