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!!
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!
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.
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...
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!
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 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.
About a year ago, Ken challenged our friends Mike and Debbe Simmons, owners of the Bicycle Warehouse stores in San Diego, to run their own Africa Bike Drive, and they jumped right on board! All Bicycle Warehouse locations became drop off points for donated bikes, and Mike built a massive shed behind their house to store them all. Before we knew it, they had rounded up a full container of bikes, along with 300 helmets donated by Kali, new parts donated by Giant, and piles and piles of carefully organized used parts. This week, Ken visited Mike and Debbe to show them the tricks of cramming as many donated bikes as possible into a shipping container, and Container #29 is now en route from San Diego to our facility in Gaborone, Botswana.
Here's a hats off and a huge, huge THANK YOU to the entire Bicycle Warehouse crew, and to all of their awesome San Diego customers who donated bikes.
We think they kind of like the idea, because Mike and Debbe have already begun collecting bikes for their next container!
Thank you to our customers and supporters in NorCal who have donated enough used bikes to fill our 26th container to Africa. These bikes were unloaded this week in the new distribution facility in Gaborone, where they'll be catalogued, rehabbed, prepped and delivered to the Sister Shops. From there, they'll find their 2nd home out in an African community and change lives!
We've worked really hard to identify, vet, train and set up proper Sister Shops across the region, but sometimes great partnerships just land in your lap. Meet Lovemore and Enoch, two guys from Harare who heard about the availability of bikes down in Gaborone and are overcoming huge obstacles to give their community access. Once or twice a month, they spend more than 15 hours on the bus ride from Harare. They arrive at our warehouse in Gabs well before dawn and wait for Paul to show up. They then select 15 - 20 bikes each time, reimburse us right away for what we've spent on the ocean freight and duty, and then they strap the bikes to the top of another bus for the 15 hour ride home. They've got a good little business going, they're not afraid to work hard for it, and we're thrilled to have them as partners in Zimbabwe.
Adam Austin started an organization called Kit Up Africa to collect gently used bike clothing in Southern California to donate to aspiring African racers. As we've learned over the past several years, there's a surprisingly strong racing community in southern Africa, and they're always after better equipment, including more professional clothing. Adam personally delivered the first truckload to us today in Novato, and we're loading all the neatly sorted bins into our 28th shipping container to Africa. Huge thanks to Adam for this effort, especially for delivering the clothing all laundered, folded and sorted. It will make the distribution from Gaborone so much easier! Also huge thanks to our friends at all the SoCal shops and teams who are helping with the collection. We're quite confident we'll find excellent second lives for all of this gear.
On our most recent visit to Africa, we made the journey up to Shakawe in the far northwest of Botswana to check in on Trinos. We met Trinos last year, started chatting with him about bikes, offered to send a few to see if he could move them, and next thing we know, he's calling to order more, and then more, and then still more. He's the caretaker at the Shakawe house of our buddy Brett, who is probably the biggest supporter of cycling in all of Botswana, and Brett has no problem allowing Trinos to essentially operate a small bike shop out of his garage. Trinos has run with this opportunity. The community now recognizes him as "the bike guy", and when he receives new stock, he simply posts up a 8x11 white sheet of paper on the fence saying "bikes available" and the customers start showing up.
Shakawe is another of those places in Africa where there were literally NO bikes just a year ago, and now they're quite common, all thanks to the Sister Shop program and our local star Trinos.
Trinos has even started to help get product up to our Namibia shop, which is about 40 minutes north, just across the border. Our Botswana partners at Whitetree have regular truck routes up to Shakawe, but they don't cross into Namibia, so Trinos helps complete those deliveries. It's a beautiful example of independent folks cooperating to contribute to the greater good and help us spread cycling across the region.
Hi Ken and Matt,
On 23rd February, 26 bicycles from donors of Mikes Bikes and Bikes for Lesotho were donated to 3 cycling clubs to motivate needy kids that lack bicycles in their clubs or village, and 20 cycling shorts and 20 jerseys were donated on behalf of donors from Lesotho Sky.
Yesterday 10 bicycles and parts were donated to needy kids from Thamae village.
About 30 bicycles are left at Tumi's shop, these bikes are to be distributed to Qacha's Nek district for needy kids.
Please be aware that with your good contribution of your bikes that you donated to the container to Lesotho, brought the change of life to more than 600 kids that were showing tears of joy when receiving your bike.
I (TUMI) on this project of handing over bikes to needy kids, has been my great time and this has also built a great relationship with kids, together with their parents.
It's amazing about containers of bicycles have entered into a small country like Lesotho because of you American people.
I also thank the relationship that I have with Mikes Bikes Foundation because this could have not happen.
The first batch of donated bikes from the 2nd container of the "Jeff and Dave" project were delivered today. 20 kids in the small village of Koalabata, Lesotho were thrilled with the arrival of their new rides. Also delivered were fabric dolls hand-sewn by ladies in a Chicago nursing home. Jeff and Dave's Kiwanis club has sent these dolls to other countries too, along with pens and markers to decorate them. Not our typical delivery, but hey, why not?
These bikes were donated by Working Bikes in Chicago, transportation covered by Jeff and Dave's fundraising efforts, logistics and backing provided by The Mike's Bikes Foundation, on-the-ground unpacking, refurbishing and distribution by Tumi's Cycles. It takes a village to help a village!
In what may be the best example yet of used bikes getting a second life in Africa, this beautiful old Trek 930 was donated by one of our customers here in NorCal (was it you?), and later turned up at the 2013 UCI World MTB Championships in South Africa, ridden by Lesotho rider Thuso Makatise. (No joke!) For Thuso, this was a lifetime dream come true! THANK YOU to whoever donated this bike - you've changed a life in a way you probably didn't intend.