A Bike for Che. This is one of those really nice ideas that in most cases would be difficult to give much momentum, unless you happen to be in a group of like-minded, generous, passionate individuals. Bring on the guys at Ride On – an over 30s BMX group. Obviously a very charitable bunch, they clubbed together to get a new bike for an unknown (but talented) flatland rider in Nigeria.
It's one of those rare stories of pure success and good feelings for all involved. Something wholly positive to celebrate in the BMX community. It's breathing some trust back into humanity, and using BMX to do it. WIN-WIN.
Watch the video above and read on for an interview with Mark Locke, who helped steer the project and put the video together.
A Bike for Che
Q&A with Mark Locke
– How did you first hear about Che?
"Che popped up on a Facebook group we're in called Ride On, which is for middle aged guys who still want to ride their bikes, rather than just ride them round pubs and talk about the 80s. Which is fine of course, but Ride On's all about saying, 'Guys, it's not over yet, you can ride and progress at any age'. I'm not quite sure how Che ended up on there, as he's only 20-odd and you have to be at least 30, but somehow he slipped through the net. I think this was partly because the footage he was posting was shot on a really old phone and looked super fuzzy, so he could've passed for about about 35. So he started posting videos on there, attempting to do pretty basic flatland tricks on this cronky old midschool bike."
"It was just his passion that caught everyone's attention."
– Why was helping him out so important to you guys?
"It was just his passion that caught everyone's attention. He obviously just loved to ride, even though he was struggling with the bike, and it's a bit of a reality check when you see someone with so little who's trying so hard with what they've got. So when Shane Hawke (a Ride On member) suggested getting him a bike we thought we definitely have to make it happen somehow. It started as a pooling parts/second hand bike idea, then StMartin came in and offered a new frame and parts, so we started getting super pumped about building him a brand new state of the art flat bike, like the best bike he could have. We managed to fund the rest of the bike, with StMartin helping with discounts on some other parts, but then needed help with the shipping and customs costs, which were super pricey. At that point lots of other Ride On guys chipped in, from the States and the UK, so it's been a big group effort."
– Do you believe that good deeds get passed on and carried on in life? Positive energy, man?
"Ha, I dunno, hopefully! This grew out of another bike gift thing we did, One Flying Kidney, for our friend Stu who had kidney cancer. Stu was definitely keen to pay it forward somehow, as the bike gift we did for him had given him such a boost. And with Che I know he's already trying to help others out there, coaching kids and giving them any surplus parts he has, even if it's just grips. So he's definitely keeping it flowing, he's a good guy."
– Has anyone from your group been to see Che, or has anyone got plans to visit him?
"No but we're really hoping to get him out to Paris to ride with Alain Massabova (rider and owner of StMartin bikes) and make a film about that. He's got so good on dirt we can't wait to see how he rides on real flat."
"I know he's already trying to help others out there, coaching kids and giving them any surplus parts he has."
– In the mean time, is he keeping you updated with videos of new tricks he's learning?
"Yeah he's constantly posting progress, and he's progressing so fast now, it's pretty nuts! He has his own Facebook, CheFlatland, and he's also got Twitter and Instagram accounts that he can hopefully use soon, he just needs a decent phone. He struggled with progression for a long time, but he kept at it. Some think he just got this new bike and suddenly got super good but that's not the case, cos even with a good bike that stuff is hard, and especially hard on dirt. But he kept going, he persevered, and it's paying off. That's the bit that really chokes me, it's not the gift itself, it's what he did with that gift. He took it to a whole new level and that did not come easily."
– Do you think or hope this injection of BMX into his community will inspire others?
"I think that's already happening, there are other kids out there doing the same as he was, struggling to ride older bikes but still keeping at it cos they just love to ride, and we all know that feeling. And seeing him is definitely giving them motivation. He's even been doing little demos at events, trying to spread the word."
– What does the future hold for Ride On and the community that helped support this project?
"Ride On just continues to be Ride On, a breath of fresh air for the middle aged rider. It's a real encouraging environment run by Neil Waddington, and it's basically about keeping on riding, at whatever level, and not just giving up cos you're 40 or 50 or older. It's easy to get to an age where you think 'that's it, I'm too old for this now', but why is that the case? If you're in semi decent health there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to ride this tiny bike for many years to come. When you're 80 you'll look back and think, 'woah, 40 was actually pretty young'. So that's Ride On. Don't think it's all over, don't just sit and mythologise the 80s into glory days, cos there can be new glory days right now."
If you enjoyed A Bike for Che, check out One Flying Kidney!