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Under The Helmet

As the Bahati Foundation moves into its second decade of changing lives, its founder, Giant ambassador Rahsaan Bahati, is not slowing down

Giant ambassador Rahsaan Bahati riding in Los Angeles

You might know Rahsaan Bahati as the racer, winner of 10 national championship titles. Or maybe you know him from Zwift, where he’s the social impact manager and a frequent ride leader.
 
Maybe you’ve followed Rahsaan’s adventures as a Giant brand ambassador, including his journey to becoming a winning long-distance competitor in the Race Across America.
 
Clearly, the Los Angeles native is a man of many talents. But if you ask Rahsaan, there’s one thing that defines him most: his role as founder of the Bahati Foundation. Launched in 2010, the foundation was created to help improve the lives of young people facing the same challenges that Rahsaan faced growing up in South Central Los Angeles.
 
As a kid growing up in the inner city, Rahsaan was surrounded by gangs, drugs and crime. He found himself getting into trouble at school. He witnessed his share of violence in his neighborhood but now sees that he was lucky to have both parents at home, along with his five sisters and younger brother.

Giant ambassador Rahsaan Bahati training on Zwift

Young Rahsaan showed his talent on the track. Cycling opened his eyes to a different world.

Statistically speaking, the odds were against the kid from Compton. But Rahsaan’s life changed for the better when, at age 11, a middle school teacher introduced him to the sport of cycling. Suddenly, he found himself on a different path.
 
And that in a nutshell is the purpose of the Bahati Foundation: to show inner city kids that they have other options. That they can follow a different path, the one that Rahsaan found. The foundation’s mission is all about introducing cycling to kids in overlooked communities—not just as a sport, but also as a healthy and fun way to gain freedom and mobility in their lives.

CHANGING THE CULTURE
 
Long before he started the foundation, from his early days as a junior track racer at the Dominguez Hills Velodrome—site of the track racing events during the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics—and throughout his pro road racing career, Rahsaan had a desire to bring more people like himself into the sport.
 
“I didn’t always know that I wanted to start a foundation,” Rahsaan says. “But what I did know is that I wanted to change the way cycling looked from my perspective, which was all one color—white. I remember being at races in the U.S. and abroad and not seeing one single person that looked like me. From the racers all the way to the event and team directors and every job in between. I always asked myself, why is this? I never found the answer, so I decided to go about trying to change things myself.”

Giant ambassador Rahsaan Bahati riding in Los Angelesg

In addition to his work with the foundation, Rahsaan also serves as social impact manager for Zwift.

When he decided to build the foundation, Rahsaan was still in the prime of his racing career. He had finished college at Indiana University and was coming off one of his best years ever in 2008 when he won 15 races including the U.S. Pro Criterium National Championships. While racing in Europe, he made his decision.
 
“I could be the voice to get more kids into cycling who looked like me and were less fortunate than me,” he said. “I decided I would give everything humanly possible to make sure that people like me are represented in the sport of cycling. It wasn’t about trying to find the next talented racer, but more about bringing cycling to those communities that are overlooked.”
 
Now, looking back at the first decade plus of the foundation, Rahsaan has learned what works. The most meaningful way to make a difference is taking that first step. “It sounds simple, but the best way to help these communities with cycling is just exposure to the sport. From there, we take the next steps—fostering a healthier lifestyle for the child and parents, introducing bike safety and maintenance.”
 
Rahsaan has seen it succeed, and that’s the most rewarding part of the job. “That’s what makes me most proud,” he says. “Seeing young people become adults, absolutely crushing it in life. We’ve seen them further their education, land amazing jobs, and become entrepreneurs. That’s exciting!”

The Bahati Foundation helps kids in under-served communities by donating bikes and gear to them.

Giving kids an opportunity to ride bikes can be a path to a happier, healthier lifestyle.

LOOKING AHEAD
 
Heading into 2022, the foundation is busy with plenty of initiatives. One big one that has been on Rahsaan’s mind is a building a bike park in Los Angeles.
 
“This will be a place that kids can go to, a safe place to rip around on the bikes that we donate to them,” he says. “It’s great to see all the Giant and Liv bikes around the hood, but how amazing would it be if they had a protected safe place to ride? With the Olympics coming to LA in 2028, it’s a dream of mine to have a bike park in the next 12 months.”
 
The biggest challenge the Bahati Foundation has faced throughout its first decade remains the same today. “Without a doubt, it’s the lack of financial support,” Rahsaan says. “For ten years we have been trying to crack the code to get corporate backing. We haven’t yet to this point, but that doesn’t mean the work we do isn’t having a positive impact in our communities. Money is a tool, and we need tools to further drive home our mission and make sure our work is projected far and wide.”

Giant ambassador Rahsaan Bahati riding in Los Angeles

Every little bit helps, and there are ways for anyone to get involved. “We always need volunteers, donations, leads, tree shakers,” Rahsaan says.
 
The best way to get involved is to visit the Bahati Foundation website and join the mailing list. To find out how you can help transform young lives through the power of cycling, click here.

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