Learn more about The Mikes Bike's Foundation's Africa Projects from CEO, Ken Martin.Read More
Our 54th container of donated bikes recently landed with our partners in Kenya. After Fredrick and the rest of the Cycloville crew did such a fantastic job with the first container they received (that was back at our #47), we couldn't wait to get another one out to them. The Kenyan government, however, couldn't be less helpful, as the customs authority presents all sorts of ridiculous demands just to bring donated bikes into the country. It really makes us wonder what's happening there, but it does make it quite clear why there aren't more bikes in the country already.
This second container for Cycloville has been joined by another recent container arrival from our friends at Bikes Not Bombs in Boston. These two containers are forming a new logistics center in Machakos County, very close to the capital of Nairobi. From this place, Fredrick and his team will distribute bikes and gear to their own shops, and to other small shop owners in the region. Staff will be working at the center full time, will have access to housing, and will be training local youth in mechanics and logistics.
When a container lands in a part of Africa that doesn't have the cool side-loading trailers, a huge crane must be called in to lift the container off the chassis and drop it into its new home. This one arrived full of bikes, and work quickly began converting it into the new logistics center:
Meanwhile, the existing operation closer to Nairobi continues to hum, as new bikes arrive to replenish their stock:
The bikes and gear from our 50th container have started to make their way out to market in the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho. In addition to our old friend Tumi, we have a new outlet in the capital city of Maseru, with Teboho's Bikeshop. Both Tumi and Teboho source the bikes through our partners Christian and Darol, the organizers of Lesotho Sky, an epic 6-day mountain bike adventure that we haven't yet had the guts to tackle. And both Tumi and Teboho then sell their bikes into their local communities at affordable prices, accomplishing our goal of getting locals on bikes in a sustainable manner.
Lesotho is an absolutely magical place, and we're thrilled and honored to be a part of the cycling movement there!
Our good friends at Bicycle Warehouse in San Diego have come through with yet another container of bikes for Africa! A while back, Ken challenged Debbe and Mike Simmons from Bicycle Warehouse to run their own San Diego bike drive to support our projects, and they jumped right on board. They shipped off their first container, and it was mission accomplished. Except they didn't stop there. They kept the bike drive going, and have rounded up another batch of 400+ bikes, which they packed into a 40 foot shipping container this week (our 51st container to Africa), and it's now en route to our partners in Lesotho, where the bikes will be distributed by Tumi's Cycles in the capital of Maseru, as well as a new one there name Teboho's Bike Shop. Cycling in Africa is flourishing thanks to our donors in SF and SD, and our incredible partners like Mike and Debbe. THANK YOU to the entire crew at Bicycle Warehouse!!
Fredrick, David and the crew in Nairobi have completed the transformation of the green can into the Bicycle Enterprise Development Center. There, Cycloville is currently training 5 local youth, 4 of them young women. They're making a special effort to get more women involved in cycling and proficient in mechanical skills. Once these folks have completed their training, they will be employed at local existing and new bike shops, or at the Development Center itself. As the Kenya program expands, this training will be a regular activity, as new shops throughout the area will require skilled owners and employees to succeed. This organic growth of local cycling culture is in perfect alignment with the goals of the MB Foundation, and we could not be more proud of the planning, initiative and dedication of our Nairobi partners!!
At the ripe old age of 72, Israel Molebatsi came in to the Gaborone shop recently to have his very old and broken down bike serviced (the one on the left), and the shop guys determined that it was simply beyond repair. This old bike was Israel's only means of transport, so he was beyond happy to receive a good quality replacement bike (the one on the right) courtesy of The Bike Shop Gabs. And we're beyond happy to see this awesome old dude still riding!
Fredrick and David and the crew have begun to transform the green shipping container into their new Bicycle Enterprise Development Center in the outskirts of Nairobi, where they will sell and service the donated bicycles, and train local youth on mechanics and basic business skills. This closely follows the BEC (Bicycle Empowerment Center) model that's been hugely successful in Namibia.
The team has also been giving a facelift to their existing storefront located in Nairobi, where they're upping their game considerably with their new tools, newly received merchandise, and a newly organized service area. Looking great, guys!!
Our awesome new partners in Kenya are calling their project the Bicycle Enterprise Development Programme. With near perfect alignment with our own goals at the Mike's Bikes Foundation, they're all about creating sustainable employment in the cycling industry in Kenya through "starting more bicycle enterprises and/or making sure the ones that are already existing are sustainable in the long run by regularly supplying the shops with resources." Through the project, they're also promoting the use of bicycles through doing regular events, training youth in mechanic skills, and improving access to cycling equipment and services around Nairobi, and eventually, all of Kenya. Mirroring our successful model in Botswana, Fredrick and his team in Nairobi are partnering with both existing and new locally-owned community bike shops to step up their game, and to maintain regular supply of used bikes and equipment. Fredrick says it best: "In short we are saying, the more bike shops we have in Kenya, the easier it becomes to access affordable equipment, accessories and services, which also makes the use of bicycle more convenient for people, therefore making more people to use the bike. This will create more employment directly and indirectly and therefore also contribute in the reduction of poverty. And also when many people take up cycling our environment becomes safe due to reduced air pollution." We really love these guys!!
In the pictures below, Fredrick's group, Cycloville Kenya, are distributing to local bike shop owners, and also directly to some local residents in the Mathare slums. Cycloville has known many of the more established shop owners before, but the shops lack adequate finance to purchase the bikes for resale. In these cases, Cycloville is providing a micro-lending structure, as well as mentoring and monitoring on best practices for running a successful shop.
The green container from Mike's Bikes is being modified into a workshop and local bike store. It will become a Bicycle Enterprise Development Center where Nairobi youth will be trained about mechanics and basic business skills to run bike shops.
We couldn't be more proud of the quick progress made by our incredible partners in Kenya!
When one of our containers lands in a new community, the local folks tend to react with a certain exuberance. Looks like Nairobi was no different.
That's world famous David Kinjah breaking the seal on our 47th container of bikes to Africa, this one our first to Kenya. Kinjah is the man who discovered and mentored two-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome as a child. Kinjah is also legendary across Kenya, so we're thrilled to have him on our team.
And as usual, the arrival of a container full of bikes attracts a lot of attention from the local community!
Very happy to report that our first ever shipment to Kenya has arrived safe and sound. This one was unusually challenging, as Kenya has extremely "unique" requirements for inbound bikes, even donated ones. Through a pretty rigorous inspection process on the US side, we managed to pre-clear those hurdles, and our partners on the ground in Nairobi shepherded the container through Kenyan customs.
After a long journey from Oakland to the port of Mombasa, and then overland up to Nairobi, the container was placed using the now-familiar "crane method" in its final location just outside of town. Fredrick and his team were ecstatic to finally see this big green can rolling into town, and they're super excited to get to work on the bikes inside.
We recently completed an unusually difficult container as our first attempt at used bike distribution in Kenya. Let's just say it was a learning experience...
As usual, our customers donate their old bikes at local Mike's Bikes stores, those bikes are brought to our HQ in Novato, where they're loaded into 40' shipping containers as they arrive. Typically, we gather up 450-550 bikes, seal up the container, and off it sails. However, as we prepared to do this for our new partners, Cycloville Kenya, we were informed at the last minute "By the way, Kenya Customs requires that you conduct a pre-inspection of the goods here in the States." Oh, well that couldn't be too hard, right? Wrong. It requires that the container be completely unpacked and offloaded so that each bike was viewable, and some bizarre and frankly ridiculous Kenya law requires that every used bike entering the country include a lock and a bell!
We very nearly bailed entirely on the Kenya project, but finally decided to power through and give it a go. So we ordered 400+ locks, 400+ bells, scheduled the inspection, unloaded the entire shipping container one morning, somehow cleared the inspection mid-day, and reloaded the entire container in the afternoon.
We're still trying to figure out how to handle the logistics of this for the next Kenya container, but now, container #48 is loading up gradually and destined for our usual partners in Botswana.
More on our new Kenya friends in a later post...
The family of Abid Gilani, long-time cyclist and outdoorsman, and victim of this week's Amtrak accident, has asked that donations be made in Abid's honor to The Mike's Bikes Foundation. As always, contributions to the Foundation are used exclusively to further the mission of spreading bicycle use across Africa. In addition to funding the shipment of donated bikes from the US to our African distribution points, funds also go to refurbishing donated bikes, sponsoring individual needy cyclists, assisting various cycling teams and clubs, and much more. Everything we do in Africa is aimed squarely at putting bicycles into the hands of everyday Africans, a cause that Abid's family feels is a great match with his passion and values.
Or by mailing a check to:
The Mike's Bikes Foundation
55 Leveroni Court
Novato, CA 94949
Please mark donations "In honor of Abid Gilani".
(All donations are tax-deductible.)
With our first donation of 24 bikes and a slew of product from our generous sponsors, we're super excited about our new partnership with Children in the Wilderness (CITW).
CITW is a non-profit organization that facilitates sustainable conservation through leadership development and education of rural children in Africa. Insight, care and commitment are required to conserve Africa's pristine wilderness and wildlife areas. To ensure that these places continue to exist - in this generation and those to come - we need the rural children of Africa to understand the importance of conservation and its relevance in their lives. Hence, the Children in the Wilderness program: and environmental and life skills education program for children, focusing on the next generation of decision-makers; inspiring them to care for their natural heritage and to become the custodians of their wilderness and wildlife in the future.
CITW's Eco-Club program forms part of the normal school curriculum and uses interactive sessions to involve children in projects that benefit both the community and the environment. This donation will enable CITW to run competitions in its Eco-Clubs, with winners each receiving a bike, a helmet and riding gear. These bikes are a huge reward for child participants who demonstrate a commitment to conservation and community service.
Huge thanks to our industry partners who made this possible: Specialized, Raleigh, Giant, Ivar, Bike and Roll, and of course our generous customers right here in NorCal!
Achieving personal mobility is awesome, but sometimes you've just got to carry stuff too.
We've gotten more than 16,000 Africans rolling on bikes so far, but moving stuff around with them on those bikes remains a challenge. Rack and basket compatibility is tough, and there's not a good supply of donated or inexpensive trailers. We've seen some amazing examples of pure African ingenuity to solve this problem - and another solution is as simple as a backpack!
Not only do our friends over at IVAR have the coolest and most comfortable backpack design on the market, they also share our soft spot for Africa and our belief that clean, green, individual transport is a no-brainer. With their donation of more than 800 backpacks to our projects, IVAR packs are making a huge difference.
Just last week, we visited the shop in Gaborone, where Sparks, our legendary mechanic, showed up for work sporting an IVAR pack. Sparks says it's the most comfortable pack he's ever worn. They're also being used in other parts of Botswana, as well as Namibia, Zimbabwe and Lesotho. Huge thanks to IVAR for their generous support, and for helping everyday Africans make their newfound two-wheeled freedom more productive and more comfortable.
Our buddy Paul was out on a mountain bike ride in the bush outside Gaborone, Botswana, and happened upon this lovely old man, Madala, on his donated Giant Revel that he received a few months ago. He's enjoying the heck out of his bike and riding it everywhere.
Big thanks to Giant Bicycles and Bicycle Warehouse in San Diego. And to Paul for grabbing the pic.
Ride on, Madala!
Our friends at Team JonMol Cycling sent us a recap of their remarkable achievements on the local, regional and international race scene in 2014.
Aside from numerous top finishes in the local races, this junior team earned a podium in the African Youth Games (hosted in Botswana this year), 1st in Team Time Trail in African Youth Games, National Champion in MTB, Duathlon champion in the Scania Race in Kgale, sprint winner in the Jwaneng race, 1st overall and 1st mixed in the Time Adventure Challenge, and took part in the Lady Khama Charity Event and the Botswana Independence Day celebrations.
It was an active year for Team JonMol, and we're all very proud of their accomplishments.
A note from team representative David Lebalelo:
As we look back, the Team had great achievements locally and internationally this year. Our juniors didn't disappoint. Being part of these events leaves a historic legacy to the team. Appreciation and Recognition are priceless. We always learn as we move forward. To sum it up, 2014 realized growth in terms of our podium finishers. This was never an easy task. People had to commit their time and resources to make this dream become reality. As we get into year 2015 we face new challenges which need full commitment and dedication. We also require support from companies - since we do not have sophisticated bikes, we rely on the bikes we're given by Mikes Bikes through the Bike Shop Gabz.
I WISH YOU THE BEST CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY 2015!
We've heard many reports of the burgeoning race scene in and around Gaborone, Botswana. More than ever before, local youth are completely falling for racing, and are in fact very, very fast. People in Botswana are embracing the bike, and they're pushing it far beyond basic transportation.
Team JonMol is still going strong as the outgrowth of our first Sister Shop in Africa, JonMol Cycles. The shop has since morphed into The Bike Shop Gabz, but the team still proudly uses the JonMol name.
Out at Mokolodi Nature Reserve just outside of town, one of our favorite riding spots in the area, two great events took place over the summer.
July saw Team JonMol snag the spot for Top Junior Team at the Time Adventure Challenge, a combo running and cycling event, and in September, Gaborone Cycling Club hosted the Pick n Pay Mokolodi Scorpion Challenge, where JonMol racers placed 2nd and 3rd.
Seeing local people this enthusiastic about racing is just so cool, and we're proud to play a part in making that happen.
The Mike's Bikes Africa Bike Drive at Equator Coffees and Teas is on! Drop off your old wheels at Proof Lab in Mill Valley and take home a bag of African Coffee on us. Bicycles are pivotal, sustainable tools for social and economic empowerment across Africa, and we're glad to have the support of the good people at Equator in this crucial mission.
Our guys up in Harare have distributed their entire last batch of bikes, and they showed up again one early morning last week for more. But this time, they brought two new additions, friends of theirs eager to set up their own small bike shop businesses. So along with Enoch and Lovemore, we now welcome Gift and Charles, who are also making the 15 hour bus journey from Harare to Gaborone to pick up their own supply of donation bikes, strap them to the bus, and log another 15 hours home to Harare. We really like working with these hard working guys, and we're thrilled to be landing so many bikes in Zimbabwe.