July 2014

jamesdean's picture

Poverty and Charity in The Republic of Georgia. An action by Georiders

If you’re anything like us you’ll have given to this charity or that charity at some time or other, you’ll have at some point probably raised a bit of money for charity yourselves, I raised a little money for charity by cycling across Europe on my way here and even though that wasn’t my main purpose I felt good about it. The point been everybody likes to give a little, I have friends back in England that often do cycling journeys for charity, and if we’ve got it spare it makes us feel good to know that we’re helping someone less fortunate than ourselves.

However, I’ve never felt the full force of emotions experienced by giving to a charity and been there when the recipient actually received the charitable item or benefit of the money given until recently when some of the guys here decided to start giving in the name of Georiders to under privileged kids.

I’ve talked about the poverty here in The Republic of Georgia before it’s something that jumps out at you when you travel around especially outside the cities or on the out skirts of towns. The beggars are beggars, that is to say, they aren’t drug addicts or alcoholics (at least most of them, not that these aren’t genuinely needy people too!) but they are old people whose pension is not enough to feed them or young women begging for much needed funds to give their child a life saving operation as there’s no NHS to help them, old men with disabilities and young children with no education or safety net to support them such as social services for instance.

It’s one of the few things in Georgia that genuinely gets to me. It’s hard to see because you know there’s not much you can do about it, giving a few tetri (Georgia’s smallest currency) here and there seems hopeless. So when the guys started collecting for a few families in order to raise enough money to buy the kids some new bikes it wasn’t something I was sure about, shouldn’t we give them some food? Maybe put money together for clothes or just give them the cash raised? Well no, not really as one of the guys here pointed out, they do get by. By my standards and any western standards “getting by was not really getting by” but he had a point which I understood when we delivered the bikes. We gave to five families and hopefully the action will gain ground and we’ll give to more in the future.

The housing and areas where each family lived was appalling to be frank. The first two families lived in an abandoned school building without running water, electricity or even windows in the building. Truly impoverished surroundings, it was hard to understand how they’d come to be living like this but if I understood correctly, through very unfortunate circumstances, one family were refugees from the Abkhazian conflict and hadn’t been re housed and the other were a family who had lost their home through repossession. I unfortunately couldn’t understand the circumstances of the other three families due to my very poor Georgian, but they had ended up in similarly poor situations.

Arriving at the first two families “homes” we were met by 2, then 3 then a gang of eager kids who knew what was coming and had run some considerable distance to meet us as we cycled and drove to deliver their bikes. We did in the end take bags of fire wood and there were three bin liners full of clothes for the kids too, 14 in all between the families!

We didn’t have much time to see how happy the kids were once the bikes had been handed over as 2 of them grabbed the bikes and immediately disappeared to show them off to their mates, brothers and sisters. When they returned eventually the other kids took turns at riding them.

The third family lived a typical low end housing block left over from the soviet period, ‘sub European stand” as they are often termed, which means condemnable in the west. The girl who was to receive the bike had the biggest smile I ‘d ever seen with her eyes wide open in anticipation. Fortunately someone had had the foresight to find out that she couldn’t ride a bike yet and she received one with stabilizers and off she rode. I wasn’t there for the last few deliveries but judging by the photo’s and videos that came back the other children were equally happy with their new gifts.

Having seen the effect it had on the families and particularly the kids we have been discussing the possibility of integrating the action into our tours for 2015 and wonder what you, the potential customer, would feel about having some of your hard earned going to such an action, but also been there to give the bikes to the children and so experience this overwhelming feeling of altruism?

We can pick up brand new bikes for kids here in Georgia for around 150GEL ( around 60 Euros) so we’re thinking of giving 1 bike per two customers and we’d be interested in what you think? Would you want to take a break from the excellent riding here for a few hours to give a bike you’d effectively paid for? Would you be happy to see some of the profit we make going to such an action? Or would you prefer to see a reduction in the price of your holiday? Should we give people a choice? Answer on a postcard please… or preferably in the blog comments. And we’ll decide what to do based on your feedback.

jamesdean's picture

To 650b or not to 650b, the quest for the perfect bike set up.

I’ve been riding bikes for long enough to understand the benefits and downsides of new tech as it comes out or as the cycling industry dissect it’s benefits and tell us why we should replace our just bought new bike bits, as the tech is already obsolete now that there’s some new must have tech that will improve our riding endlessly, give us a must have “better experience” or that we can shave ten milliseconds off our strava stats at the unbelievably cheap price of a $1000 up-grade!

So, I can be as cynical as the next rider and I often am, but facts are facts, and the truth is as far as I can see, is that new technology generally does improve a ride and it’s a welcome thing. Eventually this expensive new technology filters down into the “affordable” arena at some point for most people. And at the end of the day, no one demands that we buy it anyway.

The cycling business is now big business, worth some 2.3 billion pounds in the UK alone in 2012! And so Research and Development has more money thrown at it than ever. Which can only be a good thing, if you enjoy cycling surely it’s a positive thing to have such improvements coming thick and fast in our beloved sport?

Well, we have a saying back in Yorkshire which is quite apt for my take on new technology, “why use ten words when two will do?” So here goes so with my simple take on a few recent technological advancements.

Which are the best wheel sizes 26”? 650b/27.5? Or 29er’s? Well… 650b/27.5 is definitely faster than a 26 inch wheel and 29 is faster than that, once it’s up to speed! Does this mean 26inch wheels are now obsolete? Definitely not, or at least not for the majority of riders out there still using them including me.

Wider bars definitely offer more control on the down hills but are sometimes a little uncomfortable on long rides, at least for me, giving me pins and needles through my hands which can be quite a pain in the, well… hands.

Shorter stems, around 50-60 mm are definitely more comfortable to ride with, offering more responsive turning and making it easier to get the front wheel off the ground to overcome obstacles, at least for me and the mates I know who’ve adopted the trend. Longer stems are still valid options for those that prefer to keep the front end down and help make climbing easier.

1x11 is the best gear set up? Well they are definitely less fussy to ride with, according to my friends who ride with them. Obviously, you only have one gear trigger to think about and 11 gears instead of 30 gears at the opposite end of the spectrum so it makes sense. Nevertheless, I’m happy with 3x10 and will be for the foreseeable future. I like having a wide range of gears and use all of them, making changes very frequently.

Carbon fibre breaks easily! Bullshxt! If it’s good enough for Steve Peat and Josh ‘Rat boy’ Bryceland to hammer the shxt out of down the world’s most difficult MTB terrain it’s good enough for the majority of us who won’t be attempting 72 foot gap jumps with a back flip thrown in. It’s lighter and stronger than alloy…FACT! It looks cool as f… FACT!

Dropper posts simply make adjusting the height of our saddle easy… Yes they’re expensive but yes they make life on a bike easier too. At least now they don’t need servicing every other week like my early crank Bros. version that was ace when it worked but spent more time in the service department than under my ass.

Okay, so I could go on as there are many other new developments out there but I won’t, as the perfect bike it seems to me is the one you can afford at the time and the one you’re most happy riding, regardless of the best, newest, most advanced technology. At the end of the day, riding bikes is all about, well… riding bikes and if you’re always focusing on the next best upgrade you may lose sight of why you ride in the first place, which is surely to enjoy the moment.

A friend of mine sums it up in just three words with his facebook group, “bike-just ride!” He’s a Yorkshireman of course.