Two-wheel world aids social empowerment and greener future
Kayden Kleinhans was working in the UK when he decided to make a serious change in his lifestyle. He packed in the suit and sedentary office work for a job as a bicycle courier in London. Impressed with the simplicity, affordability and environmental benefits of two-wheeled travel, Kleinhans realised that he’d clocked onto something good. In fact, as far as he can help it, he hasn’t travelled by any other means since. Determined to spread the bicycle gospel, Kleinhans began setting up the Global Wheeling Foundation, an organisation promoting bicycle culture as a means to environmental consciousness and social empowerment. To raise funds for the foundation, Kleinhans has embarked on a global bike ride starting in Manchester in the UK and ending at the Burning Man Festival in Nevada, United States, crossing a total of 40 countries in between.
The Big Issue caught up with him on a pit stop in Cape Town during his long ride across Africa.
“Global Wheeling is an environmental NGO. Our driving force is bike empowerment. We have a programme called Bums on Bikes, where we’re trying to put more bums on bikes and reduce cars on the streets for a greener and happier city.
We’ve also got the Recycle a Bike programme. The funds that we bring in are used to bring over containers of second-hand bikes from the States, the UK and Europe. There are organisations based overseas that actually collect bikes and are looking for people to take bikes to Africa. The bikes get fixed up and then they go to people who need them out here, predominantly people from previously disadvantaged communities.
Carbon offsetting is another of our aims. We have the Plant a Tree programme where we plant trees around the Western Cape.
We’re hoping in the future, when we’ve got a bit more cash to set up a service in Cape Town for people to buy a bike at a cheaper price, to foster bike culture in Cape Town.
I’d love to bring bicycle culture to Cape Town, the kind of culture that you find in Denmark and Amsterdam, where people hop on their bike, go down to the shop with their big wicker basket, get their groceries and they put their kids on the back. It’s the way things are done. I want to make people conscious, to think twice about hopping in the car to go and get two litres of milk from a shop that’s only a kilometre down the road.
The bicycle is such a fantastic tool to overcome environmental and social issues. Imagine Cape Town’s CBD with loads of people on bikes — all of a sudden we now share a common denominator, whether Cape Malay, Indian, Afrikaans, English or Xhosa. If we share a common denominator, that’s a social tool. That’s cohesion as well. So, not only is it health and fitness, it’s environmentally friendly and also a fantastic social tool to unite people.
The Global Bike Ride that I’m doing now is a major fund-raising drive. It started in the UK and it is supposed to finish in the US. I’ve just done 16 countries and 12 000 kilo-metres on a bicycle — no motorised transport, completely solo, unsupported. And that’s just to highlight the beauty of a bicycle and the fact that, yes, it’s a viable option and we don’t have to use motorised transport to bomb around the city all the time.
The bike ride goes through Europe and down the West Coast of Africa. Cape Town is the halfway point and the finish point is
Nevada in the States. So it’s about 40 countries and roughly 40 000 kilometres in total. Initially the time frame was two years but I think maybe it’s going to be three years. It’s taking a little bit longer than I anticipated. On a beautiful tarred surface you can do 120 kilometres in a day. But sometimes you can be in an environment where you’ll struggle to do 25 kilometres because the terrain is so heavy going. Humidity doesn’t help either as you sweat out a lot of liquid.
I crossed the Sahara desert on a bicycle, solo and completely unsupported, which not a lot of people have done. You can only take as much as you can carry, so it’s a very fine line between carrying too much stuff and inhibiting yourself, and moving forward at a nice pace but carrying too little. In the Sahara desert you have to ration yourself on food and water. You cut things in halves and quarters and put them in little bags. The Sahara, on a personal level, was a very special thing for me.
When I got to the Nigerian border they refused me entry. They said they’re not going to issue a visa to a person on a bicycle. The reason was that kidnapping for ransom is too much of a risk for someone crossing Nigeria on a bike. So I was stuck in West Africa with nowhere to go, I couldn’t go back, couldn’t go forward. So I hopped on a plane and came down to South Africa to try regroup and reroute things. I might have to change the route, which is fine so long as I cover my 40 countries.
It’s quite a paradox because a lot of people think Africa’s this unfriendly, unsafe place. There are places where it’s a little bit rough and heavy, but we’re very warm people, very hospitable. You’ll have more people wave at you in one day in Africa than in one month in Europe.
All of our donations go directly to the charity, not a penny gets spent on keeping me on the road or running the online platform — that’s all volunteer based. Our sponsors help to keep me on the road.
If readers would like to get involved they can contact us on email. They can donate a bike or they can give cash donations. If it’s a nursery, for example, and they want to give us some trees, we’re more than happy to take those trees off their hands. If people want to come and give us a hand to plant trees they can do that as well.”