Cranksgiving Philadelphia, Kayuh Bicycles fit right into the city

Philadelphia’s biking community is as close-knit as their riding jerseys are to their backs.

Cj Arayata and Gary Wilpizeski held the third annual Cranksgiving Philadelphia in Penn Treaty Park on Nov.24. Cranksgiving is a charity bicycle ride and food drive for people who can’t afford a Thanksgiving dinner of their own.

Started by bike couriers in New York in 1999, Cranksgiving participants ride their bicycles to an end destination while stopping at grocery stores to collect food items that are then donated to hunger relief organizations. It is now held in 41 cities around the country, as well as three international locations in Canada and Budapest, Hungary.

Arayata and Wilpizeski grew up in Downingtown, Pa. and had been riding in the York, Pa. event for four years until they both moved closer to Philadelphia. Commuting to York was no longer an easy option, so they organized the first Cranksgiving in Philadelphia in 2011.

“It became too much of a hassle to get out there, so we figured why not start our own?” Wilpizeski said.

“It didn’t make any sense to us that it’s so close, that nobody’s making the effort to put on this event [in Philadelphia],” Arayata said.

Wilpizeski and Aryata are the only organizers of the event. Between the two, they are responsible for contacting sponsors, coming up with the bike route and figuring out which food items are at different stores.

“Fitting Cranksgiving into this time of year can be kind of hectic, but we manage to get it done and it works out perfectly somehow,” Wilpizeski said.

“There’s a lot that goes into it logistically, but it’s definitely feasible between the two of us,” Arayata said.

Last year, the event brought more than 60 participants and collected almost 800 pounds of food that was donated to Philabundance, the region’s largest hunger relief organization.

At the end of Cranksgiving, prizes were given out for achievements such as most charitable or fastest rider. These prizes were all donations from businesses in Philadelphia, one being Kayuh Bicycles, owned by Izzat Rahman.

Donating items such as T-shirts and Ethnotek bags – one of the items found at Kayuh – is beneficial for participants and is good for the business as well, Rahman said.

“It’s definitely one way to get the word out about the business and the brands we carry,” Rahman said.

Rahman is a Temple alumnus who moved to Philadelphia from Malaysia in 2009 to study business. It was during this time that he and another Malaysian student came up with the idea and business model for Kayuh and entered it into the annual Fox School of Business’ 2011 “Be Your Own Boss Bowl” competition, in which they became one of the finalists.

Rahman then took the business model into the real world with a storefront located on the corner of 19th Street and Girard Avenue.

Kayuh means “pedal” in Malaysian, and Rahman said his background is something he’s proud of and hopes to use as a message to other international students: Starting your own business is not an impossible task.

“That kind of gave me a reason to at least take a chance and see whether it was doable or not,” Rahman said. “I knew that if I didn’t pursue the business, I would probably either regret it or miss my opportunity to start my business at an early age.”

Arayata and Wilpizeski said that, in the future of Cranksgiving Philadelphia, they hope to organize it so riders can personally give their collected food to Philabundance staff, which would mean a lot to many participants.

Rahman said he plans to expand Kayuh Bicycles soon and hopes his business will continue to grow.

“My vision is that Kayuh Bikes will not be just another mom-and-pop store in people’s minds, but be a household name,” Rahman said. “Not just in homes of Philadelphia, but the world over.”

Cranksgiving is another testament to the city’s growing biking community.

“It just seemed like a natural fit for Philadelphia,” Wilpizeski said.

Albert Hong can be reached at albert.hong@temple.edu

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