Tom Öhler

Take 5: Riders for Life

Words: Arek Piatek
Photography: Stefan Voitl

Tom Öhler explores the highlands of Guatemala on his bike - for the amazing photo ops and for a good cause

For Tom Öhler, charity means heading off on two wheels to deepest Guatemala to take action photos, which are then sold to buy bikes for the local schoolchildren. “It helps poor kids go to school,” says the Austrian trialbiking legend. “That’s what spurred us on. We even rode some of the trails for the first time. The adventure began on the Volcán de Agua, where an American had recently put down an MTB trail. The new route was tricky: soft, dusty and, in places, full of foliage that hid the holes.”

Tom Öhler

Here you will find out more about the project Wheels 4 Life

“This is a mountain range in the heart of Guatemala. For three days, we rode through forests and over cliffs, plateaus and hidden trails only used by farmers and their mules. Some of the paths were so well-trodden, they were great for really bombing it and jumping on.”


Tom Öhler

“This small town in the highlands of Guatemala was our base. Pictured is a camioneta de pollos [or ‘chicken bus’], the standard way of getting around. The name comes from when farmers used to take their chickens to market on the roof of the bus. A trip costs about 20 cents. That might sound like nothing, but many locals can’t afford it.”

Tom Öhler

“Riding down undeveloped routes took a lot of energy and we were lucky with the tyres. We spent the night in the standard minimalist accommodation here, known as cabinas: a large room with simple beds and blankets that can accommodate up to 20 people. There was no heating, no running water and sometimes no electricity. Candles and headlamps came in handy – at least it meant we could work out how far we’d climbed.”

Tom Öhler

“Guatemala’s amazing landscape reminded me a bit of Scotland and made up for all our trials and tribulations. Most of the time, we were about 3,000m above sea level, but, oddly, trees still grow here. Perhaps that’s why the Mayans named the area Cuauhtemallan (‘place of many trees’). This picture was taken in the most perfect sunlight. I was doing a tightrope stunt, balancing on a tree that had grown out of the ground horizontally. The tree kept bobbing up and down, so getting the photo took a few attempts.”

Get the best stories from The Red Bulletin 

Read more

Next story