Risk, responsibility, independence. Who knew simply riding a bike could prepare you for adulthood?

From getting to work and school to hanging out with mates, cruising around on a bike is an important part of Aussie culture. It’s one of the reasons why the Happiness Cycle has spent three years visiting 34 communities to give away 10,000 bikes.

Riding all the way to Rio

Hobart local Geoff Papi-Watson was pretty happy to get a free Happiness Cycle bike last year, after his sister introduced him to the program.

“She asked me if I’d like to do it and I thought, yeah, why not?” said Geoff. “You get a free bike. I’ve got a fair bit of knowledge about that sort of stuff, so I put my name forward.”

Mentoring, and the way it helps build confidence and communities, is a big part of the program. Geoff was encouraged to train with Happiness Cycle mechanics to help other kids assemble their new bikes.

What Geoff didn’t know was his volunteer mentoring would lead to an incredible award: the opportunity to go to Saõ Paulo, Brazil, and carry the flame in the Rio 2016 Olympic Torch Relay.

“I’m still in a bit of shock,” said Geoff when he returned to Hobart. “I keep pulling the Olympic Torch out of its case and thinking, you know, is it actually real? I still can’t get over what a once-in-a-lifetime experience it was.”

The Happiness Cycle

Every teen who registers to attend an event gets a free Reid bike, along with maintenance training and safety tips to help them get the most out of it. 

Skills for life

The national program established by Coca-Cola South Pacific in partnership with Bicycle Network came to life in 2013, and was created to motivate teens around Australia to get riding.

According to Michael Tomaszewski, Education Support Teacher at Yarram Secondary College, the positive ripple effect of such a memorable experience is huge and ongoing.

“All of our students were blown away with receiving a new bike,” he said. “This morning when asked how their weekend was each one replied “great!” What was great about it? “Went bike riding!”

Joining forces with Beacon Foundation in 2014, the initiative now connects with 13-17-year-olds through their schools and community groups to reach communities most in need.

According to Bicycle Network chief executive Craig Richards, bike riding can instil life skills that prepare us for adulthood, like the ability to recognise risk and understand the responsibility of being on the road.

“We’re encouraging teens to interact with their peers through bike riding, while learning life-changing skills,” he said. 

The Happiness Cycle

Evans High School student Avin Omer, 13, from Blacktown was presented with the 10,000th bike by Roberto Mercadé, Coca-Cola South Pacific President. 

 

The promise and freedom of a free bike has now been taken up by 10,000 kids across Australia. Of those surveyed, 25% are riding every day, and 42% riding 3 to 5 times a week.

“The gifting of the 10,000th bike is such an exciting triumph,” said Roberto Mercadé, Coca-Cola South Pacific president. “Knowing we have provided thousands of teens with the ability and independence to get to school and work, and be more involved in their community, is truly a wonderful feeling"

Blacktown teenager Avin Omer, is the recipient of the 10,000th bike. She is planning to pass on some of the cycling tips she learnt at the Happiness Cycle to her brothers and sisters, who she plans to let use her new bike whenever they like.

“I am so excited to be involved in the Happiness Cycle as I will get to learn how to build a bike and fix it myself,” she said. “I come from Syria and we lost everything except our clothes when coming to Australia, so this is very exciting. I have seven brothers and sisters and I know that they also will be very excited to learn from me how to look after a bike. I will also share my bike with them.”

The Happiness Cycle