The growing cycling movement in the #MountainBikeKingdom of Lesotho

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!

Teboho's Facebook post

Another container of donated bikes from San Diego!

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!!

http://www.bicyclewarehouse.com/about/africa-project-pg1393.htm

IVAR packs being put to use across Southern Africa.

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.

Growing Pains - An Update on Tumi's Bike Shop

At the time of this visit, Tumi’s shop has been open about 2 years. In that time, due in large part to Tumi’s effort, cycling has exploded in Lesotho. When we first opened his shop, it was rare to see anyone riding around on a bike.  Now they are everywhere! And with the formation of more clubs, the Lesotho Cycling Association (with Tumi as its president) has seen incredible growth.  All the while, his shop has grown into the hub of the local cycling community. This growth has not been easy and as with everything that starts small and turns into something larger, the strain of managing that growth presents serious challenges. In addition to running his business and the LCA, Tumi is a husband and father, one of the fastest cyclists in Lesotho, and has taken on several community projects that help develop cycling (the biggest of which is coordinating the distribution of almost 1000 donated bikes from our Chicago friends, Jeff and Dave).  As we dug into his business with him, it became apparent that the shop had not been getting the attention and focus required to grow a small business from scratch.  It was our opinion that everything Tumi was involved in had grown to a point that it is now impossible to manage it all successfully.  We helped him develop a plan in that allows him to focus his efforts where it’s most needed, his business. The LCA is now in a place where it can succeed without Tumi’s direct leadership and we advised him to not run for re-election and reduce his involvement to an advisor role. The next element of our plan was to institute more financial discipline so he can keep his debt manageable and maintain the vital flow of inventory to keep his business operating.  (Remember, after the initial startup funding provided by the Mike’s Bikes Foundation, we assign a cost to future bikes that covers the freight and duty of landing those bikes at his door.  Covering the transport costs of the inventory is a major step towards the ultimate goal of sustainability.)

Tumi's Bike Shop is a gathering place for local cyclists.

Tumi's Bike Shop is a gathering place for local cyclists.

 

While here, we were fortunate enough to be introduced to Peter Joel, an American who had spent many years in Australia, and now lives in Lesotho.  He’s a business consultant by trade but spends a considerable amount of time helping out where he can.  And he offered to help Tumi.  We think this turn of events was extremely serendipitous and we’re gracious for the help.  Regardless of the time we can put into advising Tumi from California, regular face to face communication and mentoring has a massive impact.  With his accounts settled, Tumi will receive one more order on credit before he’ll need to start paying upon delivery.  Peter has been tasked with helping Tumi develop systems and discipline that will ensure this happens.  Tumi’s wife, Mamonyane, handles the bookkeeping, so Peter can also advise her on proper procedures and structure as well.

Tumi and Peter hit it off and Peter's assistance will be invaluable

Tumi and Peter hit it off and Peter's assistance will be invaluable

 

One thing was clear on this trip - Tumi’s energy and passion for growing cycling in Lesotho is incredible.  He has built a foundation for the sport to thrive.  Whether it’s working with the government to build a BMX track for kids, supporting the racing scene in both mountain and road, or growing his business to be able to fuel this growth, cycling in this country is ready to explode. The Kingdom of Lesotho owes a heartfelt thanks to Tumi for everything he’s done.  But now it’s time for him to focus on only a couple things, and let others take what he has built and continue to grow them.

 

It was amazing to able to relate our own experience in growing Mike’s Bikes and what we’ve learned along the way.  Tumi seems to truly understand what we advised him to do, and we're excited to see the outcome of his renewed focus.  Add in Peter’s assistance, and the future is bright for Tumi’s Bike Shop and cycling in Lesotho.

The future of cycling in Lesotho looks bright.

The future of cycling in Lesotho looks bright.

A note from Tumi about the bike distribution.

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.

Tumi

 

Another local school gathers for bike donation event.

Today's donation in Lesotho of the now-famous Jeff and Dave bikes was to small students at a local school, along with the dolls hand sewn by ladies in Chicago.  Also, we received through Tumi last week a letter from a school in town seeking donation of bikes for some vulnerable students there to use for transport to school.  Tumi of course obliged, and invited the kids to the shop to receive their new bikes.

Today's donation was a wet one.

Today's Lesotho bike donation was to 20 needy students from Cenez High School.  These students are orphans who endure an extremely long walt to and from school each day.  We've seen the morning school rush first hand in Africa, and it's quite a sight.  Hundreds of kids, all in uniform, some of whom have been literally been walking for hours, all arriving to school at the same time.  What a perfect problem to solve with bikes!

Today's donation unfortunately happened during a torrential downpour, but the students (and Tumi) didn't seem to mind one bit.

Great voices and big smiles

Today's bike delivery was in Haramoshabe village, about 60km outside of Maseru.  On the way, Tumi noticed 3 kids walking to the local shop to buy achar (african salad) for their parents.  He surprised them with a new bike and I think it's safe to say it made their day.

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Upon reaching Haramoshabe primary school with his trailer full of donated bikes, the kids welcomed Tumi "with great voices and big smiles".

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20 bikes (and dolls) donated today to kids in Koalabata

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!

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"Where did my donated bike go?" To the UCI Worlds, of course!

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.

Thuso Makatise representing Lesotho at the 2013 UCI World MTB Championships in South Africa, with a bike donated through the Mike's Bikes Africa Bike Drive.

Thuso Makatise representing Lesotho at the 2013 UCI World MTB Championships in South Africa, with a bike donated through the Mike's Bikes Africa Bike Drive.

Jeff and Dave's 2nd container arrives in Lesotho

Our friends Jeff and Dave from Chicago have raised enough funds to cover transport and distribution of their 2nd container of bikes to Lesotho's orphans and other children in need.  These 600 bikes were donated by our customers here in NorCal, and will be distributed by Tumi to the areas around the capital city of Maseru.

The arrival of a container of used bikes in Africa is always an event, and this, our 24th shipment, was no different.  Many people turned out to help, and the local news crew even showed up.  Tumi has become known all around his country as "the bike guy", and this coverage will definitely help him further the cycling cause in Lesotho.

Stay tuned for more info as the bikes get refurbished and Tumi and helpers from the Lesotho Cycling Association ramp up the distribution.

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Lesotho National Cycling Championships

When the Lesotho Cycling Association's funding ran out for the National Road Race Championships, Mike's Bikes and Tumi's Cycles stepped up.  It was very important to the Association's goals of local rider development that this event happen.  According to Mark West, Secretary General, "This is a chance for cyclists from all per the country and all walks of like to come and pit their talent against their fellow countrymen for the title of National Champion."

This UCI-accredited event was a great success, and the winner of the 110km road race (the National Champion) works at Tumi's shop and was trained by Tumi.

The National Champion, trained by Tumi himself.

The National Champion, trained by Tumi himself.

The medalists and officials.

The medalists and officials.

A field made up mostly of bikes from our customers in NorCal.  Who knew these bikes would someday be raced in a National Championship??

A field made up mostly of bikes from our customers in NorCal.  Who knew these bikes would someday be raced in a National Championship??

The officials of the Lesotho Cycling Association, ready with the results, the medals and the jerseys.

The officials of the Lesotho Cycling Association, ready with the results, the medals and the jerseys.

A check-in from Tumi

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Just received the latest report from Tumi, along with some new pictures.  When he has proper supply of bikes, Tumi's business is absolutely cooking.  But between container arrivals, the shortage of bikes really puts a strain on the operation.  Overall, the business is healthy and continues to employ Tumi, his wife, his mother, and two mechanics.  Please help us spread the word about the Africa Bike Drive - keeping up with the demand for bikes in Africa continues to be a challenge.

This customer of Tumi's is using his bike to transport a very heavy bag of maize.

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Tumi visits regularly with his competition across town.  This shop just popped up last year, and to see that demand is so great that the community can support a second bike shop is a validation of all the hard work that's gone into developing a bike culture in Maseru.