Guest Blog by Jacob Seigel Brielle of Pedal Born Pictures.
“Please don’t slip.”
We are perched on a submerged rock in the middle of a river that roars through Andean foothills. My brother Isaac deftly balances our camera rig. I brace us both while juggling an umbrella to ward off the thunderclouds.
On one side of the river waits a group of local kids, preparing to pedal across on their journey home from school.
“Estamos listos!” I yell. They hit the river at full-send, shouting with joy. Some things are universal.
For the past decade, our company Pedal Born Pictures has worked with World Bicycle Relief to tell stories of how two wheels can change the world. This summer, WBR creative director Matt Pierce called about filming their newest program in Colombia. Pelican cases packed. N95s secured. No-stink merino in spades (thanks Kitsbow!). We jumped.
Landing in Bogota we got a glimpse of how bike-crazy Colombia truly is. Sitting at a cool 8,600ft, the capital city alone boasts 220 miles of bike paths. Locals on everything from 3-wheeled cargo haulers to carbon race bikes kicked our sea-level riding butts. No wonder this place produced Bernal and Uran.
After two days of riding around the city, we flew to the coastal town of Riohacha. Here we experienced first-hand the biodiversity of Colombia. One day we started off in a muggy mangrove forest with flamingos, had lunch in a water-starved desert town surrounded by cacti, and wrapped the day in a chilly cloud forest with thunderclouds threatening. Never been so thankful for wool layers that can wick and withstand such large temperature swings.
Everywhere on the roads and paths there were sturdy Buffalo bicycles: the purpose-built steeds that World Bicycle Relief has distributed to those in need through close partnerships with local community councils.
At the first school we visited, mini pelotons of students began to appear as the sun came up. Isaac hopped on the back of a passing teacher’s Buffalo bike to capture the action, Tour de France moto-style. Dodging goats and cacti, we ran alongside weathered farmers pedaling jugs of water back home from the well. We sent drones high into the sky to capture the vast spiderwebs of rural paths that connect many of the communities in the region. Paths that were much more suited for two wheels than four.
On our second to last day, we sat under a palm-thatched shelter interviewing Asurina and Angela. The two sisters were shoulder to shoulder on a vibrant hammock that one of them had woven. They told us how when their grandfather and father passed away from COVID, nobody would touch the bodies. They used their bicycles to carry them to the cemetery. Then they told us how today the bicycle helps them to fulfill a promise to their father: that they would continue to go to school in hopes of a better future. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Landing back stateside, we returned to garages full of our own shiny steeds. Pedal-equipped contraptions that bring us almost as much joy as those local kids rallying through the river. But for those kids, and many of the riders who we met in Colombia, the bicycle is so much more. It is education. It is healthcare. It is an improved livelihood. It is a better future.
Take a look at some of the stories we had the honor and privilege of telling in Colombia this year. Remember how much joy riding a bike makes you feel. Then, check out World Bicycle Relief and consider giving the gift of two wheels this holiday season.