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88Bikes + Osprey Packs Go to Navajo Land

February 10th, 2012

Everybody remembers his or her first bike. Mine was a blue Schwinn — traditional bars and a seat with a metallic blue paint.  In particular, I remember my first ride without training wheels. My father ran alongside me in an empty parking lot pushing and balancing me and then I was free — spinning away from my Dad, pedal, pedal, pedal — already worrying what to do when I came to a stop because the bike would now TIP OVER!! That bike saw many miles and many tip-overs. Over the years, it was shamed by my envy of Schwinn sting-rays only to rise proud again, converted to BMX style.

Osprey was introduced to 88Bikes when we first entered the bike industry with our Osprey Hydraulics™ line of hydration packs. Their model is simple yet incredibly powerful: provide bikes — often the first — to young people living in challenging environments across the planet. In places like Cambodia, Uganda and Peru the addition of a bicycle to a young person’s life almost always is a life-changing event.

So, when we were offered the opportunity to help provide bikes to kids in Montezuma Creek, Utah on the Navajo Reservation right in our own backyard, we couldn’t resist. On a warm fall day, we made the hour-long drive from Cortez to Whitehorse High School where 88bikes founder Dan Austin and his crew were hard at work. We assembled dozens and dozens of Kona bikes, stenciled cool designs on fenders, handed out stylish helmets and helped kids adjust their bikes to the perfect fit. Most importantly, we slimed tire tubes to guard against goatheads, a prolific seed shaped like a spike, that seems to have a magnetic attraction to bike tires in the desert. Also, DesignBuildBLUFF, a program for graduate architectural students wishing to build off-the-grid sustainable housing on the reservation, contributed an incredible mobile bike shop built mostly from old car parts.

At last, we set off on a ride on the outskirts of town. Within a mile, half our team — including our film crew — had flats thanks to goatheads and no slime. Despite this adversity, we traded bikes out and managed to pull most of the ride off with the kids while getting some great footage. With the sun dipping low in the sky, it was time to head home. Kids and bikes were scattering everywhere with packs full of books on their backs, heading for home – now rolling instead of trudging.

We settled back in our van and started excitedly chatting about our experience. Our whole crew was practically floating with energy from our day. About four miles outside of town conversation suddenly dropped off as we gazed up the road. As we drew close, a lone cyclist pedaled along the shoulder of the road intrepidly. His new bike from 88bikes carried him forward with no apparent end in sight (not a house to be seen) but as we rolled by we could see the satisfaction and empowerment in his eyes. I think I had the same look all those years ago rolling across that parking lot — pedal, pedal, pedal.

Gareth Martins is the Director of Marketing for Osprey Packs.

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