From Sapperton to South Africa

Cap's Bicycles owner Gord Hobbis and Brek Boughton load a truck with donated bikes that will be part of a shipment to South Africa.
— image credit: Grant Granger/NewsLeader

The two-ton truck is overflowing with bicycles of all shapes and sizes, some ready to ride, others in parts.

They've all lived long lives, but they're about to embark on their longest journey, someplace where they'll have to a much better fate than being banished to a landfill or buried in a backyard junk pile.

For the past year Cap's Bicycles in Sapperton has been gathering used bikes. Last Friday, they packed up the last lot of them and took them to a warehouse in Port Coquitlam. There they will join others already collected to fill a container of more than 400 bikes to be shipped to South Africa thanks to a big helping hand from the New Westminster and Port Moody Rotary clubs.

When the container gets there the Bicycle Empowerment Network will turn it into a bicycle shop. The top will be cut for ventilation, doors and windows put in, and a chain-link fence put up around it. The bikes will go on the roof and, poof, the container is converted into a place to repair and distribute bicycles. A couple of the residents will be trained to become employees of the bike shop. The bicycles will be sold on a cost recovery basis and others are given to health workers in remote areas to make it easier for them to get around.

The local initiative is the pet project of Cap's employee Brek Boughton, who embarked on a winter bike ride to the Arctic Ocean last winter to raise money and awareness for the project.

"It's fantastic," says Boughton. "Cycling is important to me. It can solve a lot of our problems in the developed world and the undeveloped world."

Bicycles reduce greenhouse gases and help people improve their health, both here and in third world countries, he points out. "In that part of the world you get a lot more bang for your buck. You can do a lot more for cheaper than you can do here."

When Cap's owner Gord Hobbis gazes over all the bikes stacked in the truck it surprises him a little.

"It's been amazing how many bikes are out there in the system that people obviously don't want," says Hobbis. "It's great bikes can be reused and recycled, but there's part of me that says we sure create a lot here in North America that takes up space. It is good to see bikes not end up in the landfill."

Boughton is also preparing to resume his northern journey which he abandoned late last January. He left last November and made it all the way to Jakes Corner on the Alaska Highway, about 80 kilometres south of Whitehorse. However, having to propel 450 pounds, including his six-foot-four frame, through ice and snow took its toll on his knees, and his toes suffered some frostbite.

"The last day I was in agony," says Boughton. "My plan is to work it harder leading up to that point so the muscles are ready to go."

In early December, he'll head over to Vancouver Island and ride up to Port Hardy to catch a ferry to Prince Rupert, and then another to Skagway, Alaska. From there he'll ride 150 kilometres over the White Pass, the route Klondike Gold Rush miners took in 1897, into Jakes Corner to resume his trek to Tuktoyaktuk on the shores of the Arctic Ocean.

Boughton has made some tweaks to his bike and his gear. He's built a stronger rim for his back wheel which cracked from the cold weather and he's taking a warmer sleeping bag. He intends to wear bigger boots because last winter his toes were numb from his heavily-insulated boots being too tight, which is why he didn't realize frostbite had also set in.

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