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Pro-Mountain Biker Hans Rey Gives Back To The Community

Crankworx is considered "the Superbowl of mountain biking"; it appeals to adrenaline addicts and it "brings the mountain biking world together in a town where shredding snaked trails through silver ferns feels like riding 'dirt gold'." For five days, it is a celebration of this active, spirited culture. Clif Bar, who is sponsoring one of the events, brought a few bike legends together to celebrate the event's final stop of its World Tour in Whistler, British Columbia.

Here's a taste of one of the competitions:

But there's more to the sport than merely winning competitions. The love of mountain biking extends well beyond the obstacle course and you'll usually see a tight-knit community of cyclists involved in grassroots endeavours.

For veteran athlete Hans Rey, he shares his knowledge with others through his personal passion project, Wheels 4 Life.

As a former Trials World Champion and inductee of the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame, Hans Rey is considered to be pioneer of mountain bike free ride movement and the Trials Ride Scene. His earnest love of the sport gave birth to his non-profit organization Wheels 4 Life. I chatted with him and his wife Carmen about the project's inception.

Briefly tell me a bit about yourself -- how did you fall in love with mountain biking?

Bikes, trials riding and mountain biking have been my passion, job and hobby. It's a young sport and I was fortunate to be in the centre from the early days. The sport is still evolving and getting bigger and broader all the time. There are so many different sub-cultures and levels; my goal is to do my part on all levels to grow it.

How were you involved with bringing the sport and contributing to its popularity in North America?

For me, it was always about fun and the lifestyle - everybody can enjoy it and practice it on their own terms -- and to their liking. There are so many aspects to the sport and its culture. My early films (videos/ VHS) had an impact and inspired many - long before Youtube and the internet opened the flood gates.

What have you done to progress the sport of mountain biking and trials riding scene?

One of my objectives have always been to give back to the sport and to the people I met on my travels. I hope to inspire and further the sport through my adventures, charity, or trail advocacy.

Tell me about Wheels 4 Life and its inception in 2005. What was the inspiration for your project?

Carmen and I founded W4L in 2005. Bikes have been good to us and we wanted to give back. Bikes have a very different meaning for people in developing countries. Mobility in form of a bicycle can be a key factor to break out of the vicious cycle of poverty. Our secondary goal is to run the charity very purely, often with little overhead -- to the point that nobody gets paid. I always pay my own expenses when I travel for the charity.

Carmen offers a story of what their charity has done to support local communities:

Mark was a secondary school student when his family announced that they could no longer afford the $50 per annum to continue his education (in many African countries, school is only paid for by the government until a child is 14, at this point you have to pay and typically travel long distances to the nearest secondary school). Our project leader, based in Lira, Uganda, Ogwal Moses, had secured 50 bicycles to give away. One of the bikes he gave to was a local school boy named Mark. Mark then took a year off school and worked as a builder's labourer, earning money and saving it. He used his bike to go to the river and fill the large containers with water to transport them back to site for mixing cement. He would transport bricks from the main town to the building site...anything to earn a wage. After a year, Mark had earned enough to return to school and finish his education. Now he is at University in Kampala studying to become a doctor. We're very proud to share such stories to show how individuals can empower themselves with a bicycle!

Since 2005, you've supplied 8560 bikes to those in need. Is there a milestone or additional goals you wish to reach by 2020 for Wheels 4 Life?

We do the best we can, we try to distribute 800 - 1000 bicycles per year. We hope to inspire others along to the way to also contribute to the less fortunate, be it through W4L or their own cause. If everybody in our position or similar contributes a little, the ripple effect will be enormous. For instance, one of our used bikes (ambulance bikes we supplied to healthcare workers) have even saved lives, in other cases, they made people's lives a little easier and provided them with an opportunity for income, education or healthcare.

What are some barriers or obstacles you've had to overcome in order to supply bikes to those in need in developing countries.

We try to cut out unnecessary middlemen, minimize expenses and go the extra mile to find the people who need the bikes the most and appreciate them. Our projects are rather small so we don't loose oversight; in fact, we know the names of pretty much every person that we provide bikes to.

If people want to support your cause, how may they get involved?

The best way to help us is to spread the word of our cause, organize a fundraiser (no fundraising attempt is too small for us); fundraising enquiries can be made to either: or or simply donate money to our cause. Unfortunately, we don't accept bikes as donations since we don't have the infrastructure to hold them; we also buy the bikes we distribute locally.

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