Teaming up with our sponsors and distributors globally, Pinkbike's Share The Ride raises money to bring disadvantaged children from all over the world the opportunity to share the joy of being on two wheels by providing them with bicycles, helmets and locks. Since its inception in 2013, the foundation has raised over $200,000 and brought smiles to hundreds of children around the world. Once again, our industry friends have come to the table with tons of incredible prizes for you to win this year, including a Cannondale Habit and a Norco Bicycles Range, with more being added all the time.
By Vanessa Stark.
Photos by Robin O'Neill
It’s October 2nd 2018, myself, photographer Robin O'Neill and eight other mountain biking obsessed women from B.C. are standing on a raised stage facing a school yard full of six to 17 year-old kids. Most are wrapped in a beautiful vibrant Peruvian blanket, no doubt hand-woven by their mothers. Their inquiring eyes peer at us from beneath Chullos (traditional ear flapped toques/beanies) and bowler hats.
Here in Peru’s Sacred Valley, schools are identified by numbers, not names and this small rural school Huama Institucion Educative 50161 is nestled in at 3000m/9,800ft high, deep in the mountains of the Lamay district. Accessible only by a winding unpaved road and with very few vehicles in the town, the villagers have limited access to the outside world.
Our group of friends from Whistler, Squamish and Pemberton are in Peru mountain biking with Whistler-based Big Mountain Bike Adventures
and their guides, Peruvian brothers Nico and Chente Chirinos Pastor. Today, we are honoured to have the opportunity to be presenting donated bikes, helmets and bike gear to school kids from a small poor rural village through Pinkbike’s amazing Share The Ride program.
For a decade leading up to this day, Big Mountain ran scores of guided trips that went through the village where the only interaction was a quick stop and a few photographs with the curious local kids, and sometimes lunch at a homestead. "It was tough to not be able to give back," says owner Chris Winter. "We've been looking for sustainable ways to give back, but nothing has worked over the years." Local guides Nico and Chente recalled times when they received hostility from the villagers, getting yelled at and even rocks thrown. They then approached the leader of the village and ended up negotiating a positive solution where they built a mountain bike trail and they now pay a small fee for each group that passes through the village. The small gesture has instigated a friendly relationship between the villagers and mountain bikers.
Just below the stage is a row of 13 brand new mountain bikes and helmets that are about to be donated to the school. The bikes will be shared by all the students through their school’s physical education program. The school yard is full of wide-eyed kids, some holding hand drawn signs.
After the Peruvian flag is raised and the anthem is sung, there are several speeches. We are graciously thanked by school officials and in turn we express our gratitude for the warm welcome. We are then treated to music and a beautiful traditional dance performed by the older students. As the dance finishes there’s an air of impatient excitement among the kids. Finally, it’s time to try out the bikes!
The first person to step forward is a young teenaged girl dressed in a beautiful vibrantly embroidered traditional Peruvian skirt. In the rural culture of the Sacred Valley girls are taught to be submissive and reserved, they tend to have children at a very young age and do not to do things like ride bikes. Perhaps the presence of 10 mountain biking women helped empower her to be the first to courageously step forward or maybe she was just feeling that magical lure that bikes have, that universal feeling of joy and freedom.
This young lady was followed by an influx of boys and girls eagerly wanting to have a turn on the bikes. We all helped them try pedaling around the school yard. Some kids tried to pedal backwards at first then proceeded to catch on very quickly, some pedalling on their own. The kids’ enthusiasm was overflowing and contagious. Everyone in the schoolyard was smiling and laughing.
As the event wrapped up, we were presented with a small feast of roasted Cuy (guinea pig), potatoes, maize and lima beans. It was a kind and generous gesture made by the people of this small poor rural town. Pinkbike's Share The Ride program, Big Mountain Bike Adventures and guides Nico and Chente have agreed to keep supporting Huama Institucion Educative 50161 in the coming years. The seed is planted and this first Share The Ride event in Peru is a step in the right direction to extend the magic and joy of riding mountain bikes with these kids who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance.