- Life Style
Biking is a relatively new phenomenon in Egyptian society. Nevertheless, it’s on the rise -- Egyptians increasingly bike their way to work or practice riding in their neighborhoods.
To make it more organized, a group of Egyptian cyclists launched a group, Global Biking Initiative Egypt (GBI Egypt) as a branch of the Global Biking Initiative (GBI) to enhance the cycling experience and to participate in the international GBI annual event.
GBI was founded in 2009 after 50 cyclists cycled from Düsseldorf, Germany to Newbury, UK and succeeded in raising 23,000 euros for various charities. Every year since, a cycling tour across Europe organized by the GBI involves people from all over the world and is supported by sponsors. In 2009, 200 participants raised 100,000 euros; in 2010, 260 participants raised 211,000, euros and this year, 300 participants will join the tour hoping to collect yet more money.
Mohamed al-Ansary, a 25-year-old GBI Egypt team member, said the results aren't just rewarding financially.
“Whatever I said, you cannot imagine the moment you finish cycling to find almost all [of Düsseldorf] waiting for the participants, clapping their hands and giving them water and bananas,” said Ansary, who works in marketing and business development.
GBI Egypt started when two Egyptians joined the event in 2008, along with 54 participants from five other countries. The next year, 33 Egyptians joined the event and raised awareness about plight of Palestinians in Gaza, fundraising for Gaza hospitals in cooperation with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
This year, 150 people applied to join the team, but only 38 of them were selected to represent Egypt. Anyone who wants to join the team must pass rigorous tests and be committed to trainings as well as travelling to annual GBI event. Ansary said they used the Cairo-Sokhna highway assess their level of biking fitness.
Whoever succeeds in going the full trek and returning the next day fulfills the required criteria. The team includes different age groups composed of men and women, Muslims and Christians, all 37 years old or younger. This year, they aim to promote tourism by attending the event and also by performing activities in Egypt.
“Biking is not just a sport, it’s much more. It helps you release any negative feelings and start a new lifestyle,” explains Ansary.
Ansary said he used to be overweight before he started to bike regularly. He felt proud he could raise funds for charity purposes in a healthy way.
“I have the habit of eating ice cream daily, so I had to find a way to lose weight,” Ansary laughs.
“You enjoy your time, lose weight and do charity -- what on earth gives you the same benefits all in one?” exclaims Ansary. He added that biking also allowed him to meet people from all walks of life to share experiences and celebrate achievements together.
Ansary agreed that biking is not at all easy in a crowded city like Cairo, but this doesn’t stop some of his friends from using their bikes daily traveling to work.
“One of my friends, who is mother of two, bikes from her home in Heliopolis to her work in Sheikh Zayed on daily basis. We hope that after the revolution, major changes will take place in modes of transportation after planning new roads that accommodate bikes,” he said confidentally.
The team also aims to raise awareness about biking and prevent misconceptions associated with the sport, such as that it only suits young people or can’t be done in crowded places. He said the bikers' numbers in Egypt continue to increase.
For Ansary, the trek is a way of exercising the cyclists' bodies as well as their perserverance.
“The experience is very challenging, because if the team gets tired in the middle of the tour, the other teams will know which team called the bus to drive them out of the place. And we won’t let Egypt’s name down, ever.”