Cycling enthusiasm but also disdain
Cycling in Africa is one of the central components of BIKE AID's concept. On the one hand, there are countries like Eritrea, Rwanda or Burkina Faso, where cycling is the number one sport.
But equally, there are countries in Africa where the sport of cycling is of little importance. Where the bicycle is considered backward, merely a working tool for the poorest. Where large off-road vehicles are considered a sign of social advancement, whose owners derive from this the feeling of superiority over poorer people and express with their aggressive driving style the disdain for a human life on a bicycle.
Anyone who wants to become a cyclist in the land of runners is laughed at
Kenya is the country of runners. Winning a big marathon and making social advancement thanks to sponsorship contracts and prize money. Many Kenyans have achieved this and infinitely more are chasing this dream. Including the dark side of doping.
But young people chasing the dream of becoming cyclists? True, a certain Chris Froome was born in Kenya, but a cycling boom he, along with Bradley Wiggins and others, started in Britain, not Kenya.
Sule Kangangi was among the first in Kenya to discover cycling as a sport. Born in Eldoret, not far from the runner's town of Iten, he was ridiculed for it by the other youngsters. Did he earn a lot of money with it? No, but it gave him great pleasure. An unusual answer for Africa..
Child labor for $8 a month
As a child, he was borrowed by his parents for 8 dollars a month to supervise cattle on the pasture. Playing sports as a youth, coming home hungry and thus not contributing to the family income, hard to imagine.
But Sule prevailed, becoming the first Kenyan to finish on the podium in a race on the International Professional Cycling Calendar, paving the way for riders like Salim Kipkemboi to follow. He traveled around the world with BIKE AID in recent years, racing in China or Saudi Arabia, and was allowed to compete with the greats of the Tour de France in the Tour of the Alps or the Route d'Occitaniea. He became a professional athlete.
Cycling just for fun?
During one of our first stays in Germany, one of our African riders once asked us what these older gentlemen were doing on their bicycles, the seat post a little too low, the knees sticking out far when pedaling, in order to avoid the small belly of affluence, in order to immediately enjoy themselves at the next beer garden. A bicycle as a means of transport if you don't have a car or a piece of sports equipment for a professional athlete, yes. But cycling for pleasure?
Last year, Sule took on the Everest Challenge, presumably as the first black African to do so. 8,848 meters of altitude on a single road, cycling up and down again and again. At the latest since Corona one of the top goals on the bucket list of every MAMILS. In the Western world, these excesses of extreme cycling can be laughed at, as they are an expression of affluence, especially when a man in his midlife crisis rides up and down his own driveway 400 times to celebrate himself as a great hero on his Instagram channel.
For Sule, however, the Everest Challenge is an expression of a self-determined life, a not insignificant event with which he emancipates himself from the laws of the third world and thus gives other young people courage.
1.000km for 2.2mio. Kenya shilling
Or exactly like his following action. He rode his bicycle 1,000km from the capital Nairobi to the coast to Mombasa and back in three days. With the aim of collecting donations for disadvantaged children. The #Sule1000 campaign was followed by hundreds on livestream, several TV stations reported, cyclists from all over the country traveled to accompany him piece by piece.
The enthusiasm of the children speaks for itself when he presented the donations at the orphanage in his hometown and told about himself and his experiences around the world.
Sule has mastered the difficult path from child labor with no prospect of education to a professional athlete who travels the world. The way to the freedom to decide for oneself what to do, to do it with joy and to give courage to others.
Sule is full of energy, he is currently helping to organize the first Gravel Race in Kenya or supports the talent scouting at the legendary Black Mamba races, where children compete against each other on the 25kg heavy cargo bikes.
Sule for National Coach!
We are grateful that Sule presented the jersey of our team in international cycling for 4 years and we will continue to accompany his way. He belongs to the first generation of African cyclists who can pass on their experience from international cycling to the youth. He is a great character, who can inspire children, who can still move a lot for cycling in his country, as an athlete, event manager, motivator or maybe in the future sometime as a national coach, so that Kenya can finally host a national championship, which it would have deserved long ago.