SHARE A BIKE – SHARE A SMILE: How does a BMX NGO work?
Like me, you’ve probably seen @shareabikeshareasmile popping up on Instagram over the last couple of years. I actually saw comments on almost every BMX post I liked on IG… It was a bit full on. I wasn’t sure what the page was all about, if I’m honest, and at one point even considered the idea it might be a bot or some sort of scam. How wrong I was…
It was actually Gabo working like mad to establish a presence in BMX. Fair play to him, it was everywhere and was hard to ignore. And who would ignore it? Share a bike – Share a smile is a BMX NGO that donates bikes and parts to riders in developing nations.
Then came the video – Give & Take. A pretty amazing effort, SABSAS managed to collect clips from basically everyone who donated or received bike parts during 2021. (Scroll down for that)
Recently, I was able to finally meet Gabo at FISE in Montpellier, hear from him directly how the operation works and what he’s trying to achieve. Let’s get into it.
Words & photos: Robin Pearson
Q&A with Gabo Goldsack
– How and why did you start this project?
It just happened naturally. I’ve been doing this in the underground for many years until a friend of mine convinced me to start an ‘official’ project. It was not planned, I was doing it, I guess just as an extension of who I am. The first time I did this I was 14, I lived in Málaga for a couple of years and we had to go back to Argentina. Remembering how shitty BMX in Mendoza was, I decided to collect a bunch of parts to give away there. That’s how it started. Kind of…
– What was your childhood like, did that inspire you to help other people get into BMX?
This question made me think a lot and brought a bunch of emotions back. I had always thought that I had a cool childhood, we were always moving and having adventures but, that was me seeing it all with kids eyes. In reality, I had a tough childhood. We moved several times due to economic reasons, we had to get food out of the containers sometimes and I always thought that was some of game, my dad wasn’t a good father figure to say the least. I remember being beaten up and suffered other forms of abuse. At the age of 17 I had enough, I rented an apartment, took my mom and some of my siblings with me and moved out.
Experiencing all that kinda transformed me into a person that wants to take action, if I see someone I love struggling and I know I can help I’ll just do it. Doing this for many years combined with moving to Germany (richer country and lots of more BMX parts laying around) kinda gave me the perfect situation to keep growing this project that happens to be something really natural for me.
“Experiencing all that kinda transformed me into a person that wants to take action, if I see someone I love struggling and I know I can help I’ll just do it.”
– What have been some of the successes of SABSAS so far?
There are many. Keeping a good friend of my childhood out of drugs and seeing him ecstatic after riding BMX for the first time after all those years of drug abuse is still one of the best. He literally video called me just to say: “Gabo, the void I was feeling is gone, I cannot remember when was the last time I felt like this. You give me back my smile, you give me back my childhood!”
There is an 11 year old kid in Ecuador who is living in a 25 square meter house with his parents and two brothers. His bike was destroyed and he wasn’t able to afford to fix it so he was borrowing bikes to ride. We fixed his bike, he learned triple bars 2 weeks after that (yes, believe it or not) his video got kinda viral and after that he got his first sponsor. Plus, Jimmy from the agency Proyecto111 started helping him to travel to some contests. He has won 3 junior UCI events in Ecuador since.
We have also helped Ukrainian refugees. Seeing how their faces changed from being afraid and how sad they were looking the first time I met them to big smiles and hope in their eyes after giving them some bikes is something amazing.
The list goes on and on, I could write a small book if I wanted to share all of them!
– What have been some of the biggest challenges of SABSAS so far?
The most difficult by far is getting people to spread the voice of what we are doing. Following us and sharing what we do has a big impact and somehow that’s not really happening. Although we are doing a lot and there is no other project in BMX doing what we do. In one year and a half we have sent to Costa Rica, Argentina, Ecuador and Colombia from America, and to Uganda, Morocco, Cameroon, Kenya, Ghana… and I’m in Brussels at the moment about to send to Brazil and Rwanda so that will be already done by the time you’re reading this.
I believe this is happening because nothing like this has ever happened in BMX, at least not as an official project (I’m sure there were lots of people doing bits of help here and there like I was doing before this). It probably takes time for people to believe that something so radical is actually happening and isn’t some sort of scam. I encourage all of you to visit our Instagram site – @shareabikeshareasmile – check what we are doing and talk to the people we have helped. You’ll see that this is real and you’ll be amazed!
Money wise is always a challenge, we don’t have any sponsors nor financial support from anyone. At the beginning we were able to keep going with crowdfunding campaigns, but lately that hasn’t worked. Time to time we get to people donating money like Andina who organised a bowl jam in Amurrio and sold beers to support us. However, most of our money comes from selling T-shirts which I learned how to print myself to get a little more money for each t-shirt. That’s how this project is working at the moment, DIY until the end!
– Is it just you running it or do you have a team of people?
Yes and no. The day to day is mostly me, talking to riders, organising the parts we get donated, Instagram, etc. However, my girlfriend is helping me a lot specially with the german bureaucracy (we’re trying to get some support from the german government), there’s a small group of friends with whom I share my ideas and I value their opinion a lot (Kerrin, Rea, Pato, Jelle, Christian, Henrik) some of them were also helping me to print T-shirts and build up our booth at FISE, a friend and my sister are working on our webpage and a new logo respectively and last but not least, there are many shops and skateparks taking donations for us: The Loading Bay in Glasgow, The Cut & 360BS in Barcelona, Alliance & Kunstformbmx in Germany. As you can see, even though there’s a huge amount of things that I’m doing on my own, there’s a lot of people supporting the project as well.
– Have you had many big name riders getting involved?
There are a few and I believe there will be more as more people get to know the project. Nathan Williams, Hobbie Doan, Felix Prangenberg, Miki Fleck, Paul Thoelen, Julian Molina, Catfish and Logan Martin have donated either parts or money to Share a Bike-Share a Smile.
We’re doing a raffle with the frame that Logan Martin used to win the X-Games in Japan earlier this year so follow us and check that out here.
– How can riders help? Is there any link up in the UK where people can send parts?
The easiest way of helping is following our Instagram and sharing what we do (that way IG itself will share more of what we do) but, if you have some parts that you’d like to give us the people from The Loading bay in Glasgow have been helping us, get in touch with them and send your parts!
You can also send to us in Germany or give them in some of the shops/parks that are helping us or if you want to donate some money you can do it on our crowdfunding page. If you prefer you can also donate monthly on the same page, from 3 euros a month up to as much as you’d like to give.
I would like to say thanks to everyone who is following and supporting this project! That means a lot, specially to the riders we help with this project! Thanks a lot to Ride UK for spreading the word! BMX is sick!
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