Reposted with permission from GoPro
At the end of 2022, cyclists Ryan Torres and Leo Tenenblat embarked on an expedition to bike over 500 miles across the Atacama desert, into the Andes mountains, and up the 22,615-foot Ojos del Salado volcano. Dubbed “Project OdS,” their goal was twofold: set a new world record for the highest altitude reached on a bicycle; and raise awareness for World Bicycle Relief – a nonprofit organization that empowers people and communities through life-changing bicycles.
Ryan, an adventurer and student at the University of Pennsylvania, and Leo, an avid cyclist, and Silicon Valley executive, took GoPro cameras along for the ride to help capture and share their journey and demonstrate the true power of bicycles.
“We’re partnering with Project OdS as both organizations want to push further the definition of what a person on a bike is capable of,” explains Alex Gee, Community Marketing Associate at World Bicycle Relief. “In addition to biking across deserts and up the world’s highest volcano, a bike can allow a girl born in a rural town in Zambia to reach her closest school and receive an education, or a local farmer to pedal the distance to bring his produce to the town market.”
World Bicycle Relief is committed to helping people conquer the challenge of distance, achieve independence, and thrive. According to World Bicycle Relief:
To address this issue, World Bicycle Relief partners with communities to deliver specially designed, locally assembled, rugged bicycles for people in need. And they’ve provided more than 700k bikes to people in Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America. Since 2005, World Bicycle Relief has collaborated with thousands of communities to connect hard-working rural women, men, girls, and boys with the services and opportunities they need to thrive.
“Women, in particular, face significant cultural barriers to accessing education, healthcare, and employment. That’s why World Bicycle Relief’s approach prioritizes bicycle donations to women and girls,” explains Gee.
Ryan and Leo started biking in Copiapó, Chile, on December 14. The expedition was a mostly self-supported combination of desert crossing and high-altitude mountaineering – pushing further the definition of what’s possible on a bike.
“With so many factors like altitude, terrain, and self-support combined, we knew this would be hard, but the physical and logistical challenges were part of what made this expedition exciting,” says Leo Tenenblat. “More importantly, though, was being able to share this experience, especially the perspectives of the amazing Chilean people and the incredible scenery of the Atacama. It was a dream come true to partner with World Bicycle Relief, which aims to help people in remote areas like this.”
“Biking up the mountain alone, with the challenging terrain, high altitude, and freezing winds that threw me off my bike and into volcanic ash, was the most physically and mentally demanding experience of my life. During the toughest moments, my thoughts turned to World Bicycle Relief and the incredible vision they are fulfilling,” notes Ryan Torres. “The idea that a child might be able to receive an education thanks to this feat gave me the determination to get back on the bike and keep going until reaching a height of 20,623 feet.”
On December 21, Ryan and Leo set off toward the summit of the Ojos del Salado volcano, with Ryan ultimately reaching the 20,623-foot elevation mark – approximately 164 feet higher than the previous world record. They hope their mission inspires others to support World Bicycle Relief’s goal to deliver one million bikes and empower five million people by 2025.