Finding ways to help, and outclimbing the guy in the recumbent

In the spring of 2010, I intended to spend two days in London after Paris-Roubaix, before heading back home. Those two days turned into ten, when the evil gods of Icelandic volcanoes suddenly decided to spew considerable amounts of smoke and ash into the air, thus landing planes at Heathrow. Oceans being what they are, driving back home was not an option (at least that's what I was told at the Europcar rental counter in the airport).

During my extended visit to London, I found myself riding around the city, sometimes literally, since I did loops around Richmond Park along with the locals in an effort to blend in. Sadly, I didn't have enough hi-viz attire on while riding, and I was instantly spotted as a tourist. Maybe the fact that I was riding on the right hand side of the road (as opposed to the left) had something to do with me being spotted as well.

During my extended stay in London, I was invited to stop by Rapha's headquarters, which felt a bit like getting called into the principal's office. I went, and the encounter looked a bit like this:

Despite my Santa hat (which I wear ironically, since my name is Klaus), and the fact that I was in full-color, while they were decidedly black and white, I was very well received. No one laughed at me (which is more than I can say about most social settings I find myself in), and I enjoyed my time there. Since the Rapha people put up with me for a good while, I decided to run an idea by them, one which I'd been thinking about for a while.

It was this: Would they consider making a Colombian-themed jersey to commemorate my accomplishments in that one time during my commute that I went up that hill faster than the guy in the recumbent. They seemed mildly interested, but added that perhaps it would be best if the jersey commemorated Colombian accomplishments in the sport other than my own (though they admitted that they were impressed by my climbing prowess). I agreed, in part because I've always tried to expose people to the positive accomplishments of Colombians, rather than the negative things we are known for. Moreover, I wanted the jersey to be a vehicle to help raise some much-needed funds to help young cyclists in Colombia.

Since no one owns the colors to the Colombian flag, Rapha or anyone can make such a jersey anyway (some already have). I merely wanted some good to come of it, and they agreed.

You can see more of the jersey here. Note the "Merci Roubaix" base layer

I'd looked for other companies who might agree to do something along these lines, and find ways to help those cyclists in Colombia whose dreams and abilities are often bigger than their means. Sadly, due to my lack of connections within the industry, my calls were often met with replies like "who are you?", "please stop calling", and my favorite: "no, we don't want to have our carpets cleaned."

Although I have personally sent clothing and parts to kids in the city of Manizales through Cesar Grajales, I thought there had to be other ways of helping as well, so it's in that spirit that I'm always looking for other ways of getting some help to shoe who need it.

Through the process of the jersey's design, I helped by giving design feedback, providing them with rough ideas, content, and simple translation work. More importantly, I reached out to Rigoberto Uran and his cycling academy/club in the town of Urrao (which I have written about before), in order to connect them to this project. I wanted to find a way to help them, and I'm happy to say that things worked out (although the process was rather lengthy). So part of the profits from each jersey will go to the Urrao Cycling Club. It's also worth mentioning that other projects that will help the club are still in the works.

Simply getting funds to a small cycling club in Colombia can be a difficult. Even more difficult has been getting donated goods there, since there is no reliable or even remotely affordable way to get things down there...aside from taking them yourself. This, by the way, is still something I'm working on. As I've mentioned in passing before, part of the money from the Cycling Inquisition jerseys I've sold will go to this end, but that too is an ongoing effort. Do you sense a pattern here? Things are tough to accomplish when dealing with Colombia sometimes, and the process is lengthy.

The Rigoberto Uran Cycling Club in Urrao

It's at this point of the story that I will quietly slip into my industrial grade, volcano-safe, flame-retardant suit. I know that some have an objection to Rapha (a topic I have written about before). Personally, I'm fond of the people there, and I'm thankful that they took me up on this whole idea. When I speak with Juan Carlos, who runs the cycling club in Urrao, objections that people may have about a brand don't register. And why would they? Only the help that can come to the cycling club does. Particularly when the club and its members are not being used as a marketing ploy. My ongoing work on projects like this is simply intended to help them get some some much-needed assistance. Period.

Like the kids in the club, whose families struggle financially on a daily basis, the club is fighting for its life as state funding has been cut. So if you think of any other companies that might be able to help in any way, let me know. No goods will go unused, and no amount of assistance is too small. Logistics are tough, but the effort is well worth it.

Other matters:

According to Mundo Ciclistico, Mauricio Soler was able to ride a bike again a few days ago in his native Boyaca.

How do you know that your mother loves you? If she's willing to take a steel fork from a bike all the way to Colombia, and then go across town to get it worked on and re-chromed, and then bring it back to the United States...that's a start. If she's also willing to call and set up an appointment with a stranger in the other side of Bogota in order to buy a book about Colombian cycling history (that weighs almost four pounds) for might be on to something. Luckily, my mother is willing to do both of these things.

All Cycling Inquisition jerseys have sold out. If you are still looking for a pair of socks however, you'll be able to find the last remaining pairs at the Gage & DeSoto store in Brooklyn.