Getting to Know the Buffalo Bike
By Jack Seifert, Cascade donor
Two years ago I was riding Chilly Hilly, thinking about other rides I could do in the summer. "What's with all these fundraiser rides? I have to pay for the ride and raise money? Shouldn't cycling be free?" Then I met 'The Bike.' She was beautiful, not in a sexy sort of way, more strong and capable and an easy joy to ride. Then I learned what she was for. This was not a bike you could buy in America. This was an Africa bike, made for the rigors of rural roads, transporting schoolgirls to school and milk to market. This is something I can fundraise for with a passion.
getting to know "the bike"
OK, you can't buy a Buffalo bike in the US. 'The Bike' is made by World Bicycle Relief specifically for Africa, and they train assemblers and mechanics and supply spare parts so this can be a long term relationship. But there are a few bikes in this country for demonstration purposes and I got my hands on one for last year's Red-Bell 100. Like I said, this bike is designed for Africa, not Pacific Northwest centuries. It weighs close to 50 pounds and can carry 300 to 400 pounds of whatever. There's one gear and a coaster brake. I truly wasn't sure if my knees could handle it. But I figured if little schoolgirls in Zambia can ride day in and day out and farmers can carry who knows how many gallons of milk on one of these babies, I can ride one for one day.
I had the time of my life. I decided I had two gears, sitting and standing, although I kept trying to shift gears with the bell. Since there's a big rack capable of carrying heavy loads I needed to carry something, so I strapped on a cooler full of lemonade and enjoyed sharing my bounty. I did walk up one hill to save my knee but no one was watching so it was ok. But mostly I felt a great joy of cycling and the power and potential of cycling, and specifically of the difference these bicycles make to the schoolgirls and farmers and everyone else in Africa that has access to one.
A BETTER COMMUNITY THROUGH CYCLING
I've been in cycling most of my life. I've been a courier and a mechanic and I've been touring across the US and New Zealand, and I've commuted by bicycle in the past. But for the last decade I've worked at home and worked on my home and my bikes have mostly collected dust. Until I met 'The Bike.' Now I'm excited again. No place to commute but I'm doing day rides and trips to the store and planning centuries and tours for this summer. Learning how Red-Bell 100 also supports Cascade's youth cycling programs has me thrilled too. I've donated a dusty bike and I've volunteered to fix bikes and help in other ways as well. Cycling is just plain good.
Which makes fundraising easy when you believe that. If you believe cycling is good and you explain World Bicycle Relief or Major Taylor Project people will donate money to your cause. Now, it's more fun if you put some fun in it, so I did things that I like to do, like make a bunch of BBQ and 'sell' plates, and host a Texas Hold-em poker tournament. By thinking creatively of value-added things you can do, you can create incentives for more donations. But I'm convinced the most important thing is believing in your cause and then getting the word out.
Jack Seifert is a massage therapist and personal trainer and was a top fundraiser for the first two Red-Bell 100s.
Interested in helping out WBR's work abroad? Ride for a great cause in the Red-Bell 100. The event also benefits Cascade's Major Taylor Project, improving the lives of young people in South Seattle through bicycling. Register today!
If you’re riding the Red-Bell 100 and would like to learn more about how to be a successful fundraiser, Jack is happy to coach you through ideas. You can email him at [email protected] or contact Tarrell Wright, Cascade's Development Director at (206) 240-2235 or [email protected].