Twenty-six year old Michiel Roodenburg and twenty-eight year old Joost Notenboom are on a mission to bring awareness of the world’s water crisis. The two men set off on bikes from Deadhorse north Alaska on July 4, 2010. Through their non-profit, Cycle for Water, they will pedal over 30,000 kilometers (roughly 18,642 miles) in an 18 month period. Michiel and Joost hope to complete their journey at the southern most tip of Argentina in Ushuaia.
Michiel was raised in Scotland by adventurous parents who focused on international cultures and languages. As a teenager he enjoyed “tracking elephants and building multi-platform tree huts in Gabon, West Africa.” Moved by one of the world’s top motivational speakers, polar explorer and environmental leader, Robert Swan, Michiel committed himself to doing something great.
Dutch born Joost was first confronted with the heartbreak of unsafe drinking water during his efforts as a volunteer in the African Bush within the Amakahala Game Reserve. His experience provided the foundation for his sustainability and natural resource management thesis focused on transboundary water management in conflict situations.
The two men met while pursuing a student exchange program in Tel Aviv, Israel. While cycling through dry regions of Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iran the men developed a passion for spreading clean water awareness. They witnessed heartbreaking scenarios of parents struggling to supply clean, safe drinking water for their families. Both credited their biking experiences through the Middle East and Africa with planting the seed for Cycle for Water. The bike excursion showed the importance of clean water and the blaring reality that over 1 billion people are without such a basic necessity.
With clean water propelling the motivation, the men set out from Alaska on Calfee Design bamboo bikes. Calfee Design was started by Craig Calfee in 1987 near Santa Cruz, California. An ever expanding company, bamboo bikes were created as a publicity stunt in 1995. Positive feedback for the bamboo frame was overwhelming leading to production for the general public in 2005.
Bamboo provides a smoother ride with the ability to create vibration damping. To prevent splitting the bike is smoked and heat treated along with hemp fibers tying together lugs. Each bike is individually customized for the rider with a built to order concept making each bike unique. Overall, Calfee bamboo bikes use the least amount of carbon dioxide emissions during production. Design, custom fit and eco-production made Calfee bike a perfect selection for Michiel’s and Joost’s journey. The choice of bamboo allowed the men to lower their carbon footprint and prove “challenges can be overcome using sustainable solutions.”
Along the sixteen country expedition, Michiel and Joost are pedaling with a bottle of Alaskan Beaufort Sea water. Their goal is to bike essentially all of North and South America carrying the bottle until reaching Tierra del Fuego in Ushuaia, Argentina. The act provides a symbolic completion of water’s natural cycle. Throughout their journey they consistently stop at local villages to learn more about the area’s respected water needs. They hope to both learn and spread awareness on issues of rain catchment methods and the challenges people face in collecting daily water supplies.
As of their latest posting on June 15th, the pair was in a little city called Popayan outside of Columbia. Thus far they’ve completed 362 days of the journey, providing many interviews and spearheading the initiative of clean water for all.
Photo Credit: tn.gov/environment/parks/economic_impact/