Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Finding ways to help, and outclimbing the guy in the recumbent

In the spring of 2010, I intended to spend two days in London after Paris-Roubaix, before heading back home. Those two days turned into ten, when the evil gods of Icelandic volcanoes suddenly decided to spew considerable amounts of smoke and ash into the air, thus landing planes at Heathrow. Oceans being what they are, driving back home was not an option (at least that's what I was told at the Europcar rental counter in the airport).

During my extended visit to London, I found myself riding around the city, sometimes literally, since I did loops around Richmond Park along with the locals in an effort to blend in. Sadly, I didn't have enough hi-viz attire on while riding, and I was instantly spotted as a tourist. Maybe the fact that I was riding on the right hand side of the road (as opposed to the left) had something to do with me being spotted as well.

During my extended stay in London, I was invited to stop by Rapha's headquarters, which felt a bit like getting called into the principal's office. I went, and the encounter looked a bit like this:

Despite my Santa hat (which I wear ironically, since my name is Klaus), and the fact that I was in full-color, while they were decidedly black and white, I was very well received. No one laughed at me (which is more than I can say about most social settings I find myself in), and I enjoyed my time there. Since the Rapha people put up with me for a good while, I decided to run an idea by them, one which I'd been thinking about for a while.

It was this: Would they consider making a Colombian-themed jersey to commemorate my accomplishments in cycling...like that one time during my commute that I went up that hill faster than the guy in the recumbent. They seemed mildly interested, but added that perhaps it would be best if the jersey commemorated Colombian accomplishments in the sport other than my own (though they admitted that they were impressed by my climbing prowess). I agreed, in part because I've always tried to expose people to the positive accomplishments of Colombians, rather than the negative things we are known for. Moreover, I wanted the jersey to be a vehicle to help raise some much-needed funds to help young cyclists in Colombia.

Since no one owns the colors to the Colombian flag, Rapha or anyone can make such a jersey anyway (some already have). I merely wanted some good to come of it, and they agreed.

You can see more of the jersey here. Note the "Merci Roubaix" base layer

I'd looked for other companies who might agree to do something along these lines, and find ways to help those cyclists in Colombia whose dreams and abilities are often bigger than their means. Sadly, due to my lack of connections within the industry, my calls were often met with replies like "who are you?", "please stop calling", and my favorite: "no, we don't want to have our carpets cleaned."

Although I have personally sent clothing and parts to kids in the city of Manizales through Cesar Grajales, I thought there had to be other ways of helping as well, so it's in that spirit that I'm always looking for other ways of getting some help to shoe who need it.

Through the process of the jersey's design, I helped by giving design feedback, providing them with rough ideas, content, and simple translation work. More importantly, I reached out to Rigoberto Uran and his cycling academy/club in the town of Urrao (which I have written about before), in order to connect them to this project. I wanted to find a way to help them, and I'm happy to say that things worked out (although the process was rather lengthy). So part of the profits from each jersey will go to the Urrao Cycling Club. It's also worth mentioning that other projects that will help the club are still in the works.

Simply getting funds to a small cycling club in Colombia can be a difficult. Even more difficult has been getting donated goods there, since there is no reliable or even remotely affordable way to get things down there...aside from taking them yourself. This, by the way, is still something I'm working on. As I've mentioned in passing before, part of the money from the Cycling Inquisition jerseys I've sold will go to this end, but that too is an ongoing effort. Do you sense a pattern here? Things are tough to accomplish when dealing with Colombia sometimes, and the process is lengthy.

The Rigoberto Uran Cycling Club in Urrao

It's at this point of the story that I will quietly slip into my industrial grade, volcano-safe, flame-retardant suit. I know that some have an objection to Rapha (a topic I have written about before). Personally, I'm fond of the people there, and I'm thankful that they took me up on this whole idea. When I speak with Juan Carlos, who runs the cycling club in Urrao, objections that people may have about a brand don't register. And why would they? Only the help that can come to the cycling club does. Particularly when the club and its members are not being used as a marketing ploy. My ongoing work on projects like this is simply intended to help them get some some much-needed assistance. Period.

Like the kids in the club, whose families struggle financially on a daily basis, the club is fighting for its life as state funding has been cut. So if you think of any other companies that might be able to help in any way, let me know. No goods will go unused, and no amount of assistance is too small. Logistics are tough, but the effort is well worth it.

Other matters:

According to Mundo Ciclistico, Mauricio Soler was able to ride a bike again a few days ago in his native Boyaca.

How do you know that your mother loves you? If she's willing to take a steel fork from a bike all the way to Colombia, and then go across town to get it worked on and re-chromed, and then bring it back to the United States...that's a start. If she's also willing to call and set up an appointment with a stranger in the other side of Bogota in order to buy a book about Colombian cycling history (that weighs almost four pounds) for you...you might be on to something. Luckily, my mother is willing to do both of these things.

All Cycling Inquisition jerseys have sold out. If you are still looking for a pair of socks however, you'll be able to find the last remaining pairs at the Gage & DeSoto store in Brooklyn.


  1. Hey Klaus,

    First of all, I'm a big fan of your blog. Like yourself, I was born and raised in Colombia (I'm from Cali) and moved to the US about 11 years ago. I caught the cycling bug early, though I wasn't particularly dedicated to it (the 6-7 am ride start times on weekends with my dad's group were a bit of a dealbreaker).

    Long story short, I picked up cycling again about a year ago and started looking back through Colombian cycling history, which is how I came to your blog. Despite being born in the mid 1980s, I missed out on some of the accomplishments of Lucho, Parra and Co. (though I do remember those two showing up at one of those Pacheco game shows sometime in the early 1990s). Reading your blog has been a great way for me to catch up on all these things and I appreciate that you take the time to write about Colombian cycling in general.

    I have to admit that I was pleasently surprised when I saw the Colombian jersey on Rapha's site. Despite the (mostly) excellent design of their stuff, I always figured them as Euro-snobs, and never thought that they would come up with some non-European-themed products. I'm glad that you had a hand in the development of their Colombian jersey and that part of their profits will benefit Colombian cycling

    Keep up the good work!


  2. Nice Klaus. My mom is cool but not that cool. Please let us know if the book is any good and when/where it will be available. Are you planning on writing a review?

  3. Christian,
    I'm happy to hear that I've played a small part in you reconnecting with that part of your Colombian past. The fact that you remember Lucho being on a Pacheco-hosted TV game show is amazing. So great.

    I agree. She is. She puts up with all kinds of requests like this.

    I'll probably do a review yes...and I think it might be tough to buy internationally, but we'll see.

  4. It sounds like the easiest way to ship goods to Colombia is with your mother. Maybe after she makes a few parts runs for Uran, Rapha will make a jersey commemorating her epic trips. Then the proceeds from that jersey will go on to fund the club, and soon all the kids in Colombia will be riding bikes with your mom's portrait on the head tube.

  5. jimjimjimjimjimjimjimFebruary 21, 2012 at 8:25 PM

    How cool would it be if a company like rapha, that profits from the history and romance of cycling, would have their products manufactured in Colombia.
    I feel good about purchasing products from cycling countries and I'm sure others do too.
    Regardless tip of the hat to rapha for taking the first step.
    Glad you were involved to see it done properly Klaus.

  6. jimjimjimjimjimjimjimFebruary 21, 2012 at 8:31 PM

    Oh yeah, good move on the chroming. It's getting more and more difficult to get that done well in the states. Pesky environmental restrictions.
    Moms rule!

  7. Pop Richmond,
    I like the way you think! Additionally, my mom probably likes the way you think even more!

    Colombia most certainly has the infrastructure and know-how to do high end textiles and manufacturing. Bogota and its surrounding areas doesn't, but Medellin does. They have a huge history in textiles, and could easily accommodate the demand. I'll be posting about my visit to the Hincapie factory soon, which is a perfect example of the wealth of talent there. George Hincapie's uncle runs the place, and he had worked his whole life at a mill owned by Coltejer (who coincidentally sponsored Ramon Hoyos as he won his first vuelta a Colombia back in the 50s). The factory was airy, pleasant, and the staff worked humane hours, and were well compensated. I guess outsourcing production is tough, and having existing vendors and systems makes things easier...which is why Asian countries are so popular (aside from the obvious issue of cost).

  8. i think it's worth pointing out that our mom two 2 forks to get chromed. klaus i can't believe you didn't mention that my fork was also in there, adding MORE extra weight to her luggage!

    "bikes with your mom's portrait on the head tube" -- best idea EVER. everyone should put a portrait of their mom on the head tube!

  9. jimjimjimjimjimjimjimFebruary 22, 2012 at 11:13 AM


    That's what I expected to hear. It's too bad that more companies don't go there for manufacture. Whatever the difference in labor will be offset by shipping cost reduced.
    I can't imagine it costs less to ship containers from China.
    Not to mention the huge container shortage in China because they all sit here empty. Nothing to ship back to them. : (

    Good discussion this week on INRNG on where frames are made. Had me thinking about Colombia as a great cycling resource that is ignored by the larger industry.

  10. Despite my Santa hat (which I wear ironically, since my name is Klaus)...

    Brilliant. Thanks for the laugh.


  11. Klaus,
    I received the Rapha email advertising the spring collection, visited the site and went straight to the Colombian jersey and immediately said to myself... "shit, Klaus had a hand in this somehow" and immediately clicked on my shortcut to Cycling Inquisition to validate my hunch. Well done! Not you, your mom (just kidding). Enjoy your blog and looking forward to going back to Colombia again but with a bike. BTW - you and your bro SkullKrusher need to go see one of the upcoming Bad Brain's show.
    Peace and meaningful textiles


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