The Alt Tour's next stage
Lachlan Morton and WBR head to Colombia to help distribute bikes made possible by Alt Tour donations
This week, the long ride of Lachlan Morton’s Alt Tour makes its most meaningful stop yet: Colombia.
From here, the Alt Tour road keeps going, as many of the bikes made possible by last summer’s donations will be distributed to young women in hopes of easing travel to schools in rural areas.
Last year, Morton raised more than $760,000 for World Bicycle Relief during the Alt Tour, his 5,500-km solo race against the Tour de France peloton on the route of the Tour. This week, he is travelling to Colombia to see the difference bikes can make and help distribute the Buffalo Bicycles that WBR built with the money thousands of dot-watchers and fans donated to the cause last summer.
Buffalo Bicycles are built to handle long-distance rides on rough roads with heavy cargo, so people in rural communities can access hospitals and schools and carry goods for their work. In rural Colombia, walking is still the primary mode of transportation for nearly nine million people. EF Education First and Rapha donated funds to buy 1,000 bicycles as a start to the Alt Tour last July. Cannondale raised another $31,000 with a prize draw for Lachlan’s Alt Tour bike.
The Alt Tour was inspired by Tours de France ridden long ago and Colombian racers like Rigoberto Urán. When Lachlan struggled to find meaning in cycling earlier in his career, he looked to riders like Rigo, who use the laurels that they have earned racing to support everyday people in their home communities.
“Guys like Rigo and other Colombian racers have come from relatively little means and become superstars at a global scale, but they still have that deep-rooted attachment to home,” Lachlan says. “They go back and spend a lot of time there and really contribute to their own communities. It’s nice to see what professional sports can do—not only to individuals, but also to communities as a whole.”
In Colombia, Lachlan will see first-hand what those bicycles can do. First, he will visit World Bicycle Relief’s Barranquilla assembly facility, where local staff build Buffalo Bicycles. Then, on May 19 and 20, he will help deliver hundreds of them to people in the San Pelayo municipality of the Mid-Sinu community in rural Cordoba, and see how their new bikes will allow them to travel further afield than they ever could before. It will be a special experience.
“When you can give someone a bike in a situation where it can really be life changing, that is an incredibly rewarding thing to be a part of,” Lachlan says. “I am also interested to see, on the community level or the broader scale, the impact that bikes can have on a community.”
World Bicycle Relief’s research shows that bicycles can help children get to school and stay in school, enable health workers to reach rural communities, and provide farmers and other entrepreneurs with the means to carry more goods faster, saving them valuable time. Women and girls, in particular, benefit greatly from access to life-changing transportation.
The bikes funded through the Alt Tour will largely be donated to young Colombian female students. Lachlan is looking forward to meeting them and going for a couple of rides.
This will be his second visit to Colombia. During the first, he rode with his brother, Gus, from Medellín to Bogota over the course of a couple of weeks.
“It’s a beautiful country,” Lachlan says. “The landscapes are incredible, but what stuck with me the most were the people there. They are incredibly positive and optimistic, and just have a genuine love for their country.”
Lachlan shares their optimism. He is very happy that the Alt Tour will mean that people in rural Colombia can travel to hospitals, their work, and their schools. That’s the most important thing.
One of the kids who gets a new Buffalo Bicycle might even become the next Rigo.
“Just purely through there being a really strong culture around the sport, the number of great riders that Colombia has produced far outweighs the resources they have,” Lachlan says. “I think that community support is ultimately what dictates how successful a country is when it comes to cycling.”
The same holds true for many things. Bicycles contribute to strong communities by helping people conquer the challenge of distance, achieve independence, and thrive. Lachlan is excited to bring thousands more bikes to rural Colombia through his partnership with World Bicycle Relief. You can follow along here and on social media for the journey.