Today we’re honored to feature this guest post by 88 Bikes Founder Dan Austin.
While galavanting through the hinterlands of Mongolia a couple of weeks ago, my brother Jared and I spotted an idyllic ger, set on a hillside, lit up in the sun. We hiked through the stubbled grass and were met halfway up the hill by three teenage girls, a couple little kids and an old fellow who looked like he’d been squinting into the sun across these eternal fields for the better part of eighty years. I asked him the question I always ask when traveling with 88bikes, but didn’t expect an answer. I was shocked when, after our fixer translated my question, the nomad’s rutted face broke into a huge grin.
Tell me about your first bike.
Mongolia is not a country known for its bike culture; bikes are, in fact, hard to find and expensive. But even here, in the land of horses, motorcycles and Genghis Khan, the nomad gave me an answer similar to those we’d heard everywhere from Africa to Southeast Asia.
“It was a Russian tank from the forties… it was heavier than me! I rode it everywhere!”
“Do your granddaughters have bikes?”
We turned to the girls: “Would you like bikes?” They lit up. “We’ll be back in a month,” we said. “And we’ll have something for you.”
The 88bikes Foundation endows orphanages, ashrams, centers and schools throughout the developing world with bikes for the kids. These heroic tikes have surmounted incredible obstacles–war, poverty, slavery, disease–and they’ve typically escaped with their smiles and their optimism in tact. We don’t usually trawl the countryside for bike recipients, but we made an exception this time. In the crisp, sunny Autumn before the first snow flies, we’ll return to that ger (hopefully they haven’t yet moved on!), and give these kids the opportunity to enjoy the same happiness their grandfather enjoyed seventy years ago.
Every kid should enjoy her childhood, and every kid should have a bike.