Lesotho cycling scene update

We couldn't have said it better ourselves, so we're just reprinting a recent letter from our friend Mark West in Lesotho:  

Hi Ken

Thank you for your interest in Lesotho Cycling news - in particular more details about the bicycle handover in Leribe on 30 September.

Over the past 6 months, since the election of the new executive committee under President Tumi we have had two main priorities: -1. To hold more races2. To spread the sport to other regions of the country.

Priority 1. has seen us holding at least 2 races per month and is paving the way to establish a cycling league with 'trade' teams in 2013.  It has caused such a buzz about cycling in the country and is motivating more and more children and young people to get into cycling.

For priority 2., we have continued the modus operandi that we learnt from the Bike Town Africa project last year.  We found a sponsor (Powerade/ Maluti Mountain Brewery) to procure 39 single-speed bikes and we have been using these to kick-start cycling programmes in district towns.  The first donation of 10 bikes, helmets & pumps was held in Mohale's Hoek district and we have already identified great potential from these riders.

On 30 September 2012, we had the official handover of 10 bicycles, helmets and pumps to the Leribe district.  The District Administrator was involved ad well as district officers from the Ministry of Sports.  These are key people to get involved and take ownership of such projects for future sustainability.  At the moment the sports officer concentrate most of their efforts on soccer and Athletics, but we are offering them a more exciting sport to develop.

At the launch, we held a demonstration road race with our elite riders and a participatory MTB race for the new riders to try their hand at racing.

The remaining 19 bicycles were allocated to the development programmes in existing clubs.

10 bikes in each district is just a drop in the bucket to satisfy the demand and our real need is for more bicycles.  The Mikes Bikes Sister Shop, "Tumi's Bicycle Shop" is helping a lot to provide affordable bikes for people in the capital city, Maseru, but few of these bikes find their way to the rural district areas where a huge potential of undiscovered talent exists.

Another great need is a handful of better-specification bikes (road & mtb) to be able to develop the young talent that we uncover and introduce them to higher quality racing in South Africa.

Thank you once again for your interest.  You have already done so much to develop cycling as a viable sport in Lesotho and we know we can count on you to continue supporting us.

Regards

Mark West

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Two brave cyclists riding across Lesotho to raise money

A while back, we received a random email from two dudes named Jeff and Dave who had an idea to ride their bikes across Lesotho (an extremely rugged and mountainous country) to raise funds for The Mike's Bikes Foundation. We see these offers often, and they rarely pan out.  These two, however, are really doing it!!

Their goal was to raise $20,000, which is enough to completely cover the shipping and import duties of an entire 40' container of donated bikes into Lesotho.  Jeff and Dave have a specific focus on getting bikes directly to kids living in the outlying highland districts.  We travelled through the Lesotho highlands last summer and we can attest to just how rural and rugged it is out there.

We're thrilled that Jeff and Dave have chosen us to partner with, and we're so excited to see their progress, in both their fundraising and their journey.

Bikes Initiative Brochure

Their 9-day trek is planned for July 2013 and they'll soon be accepting donations.  Please Like them on Facebook, help spread the word, donate directly to their initiative here, and if nothing else, send them some words of encouragement.  Those mountains in Lesotho are no joke!

facebook.com/BikesForLesotho

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Riding with the kids in Maseru
Typical Lesotho highlands landscape

Typical Lesotho highlands landscape

Lesotho kids - they need some bikes!

Lesotho kids - they need some bikes!

dave and jeff

dave and jeff

From Inroads to Races

Our partner in Lesotho, Tumisang Taabe, has provided remarkable leadership in bringing bicycling to his community in Africa. Like us Tumi wants to advance the bike not only as a method of transportation and recreation, but most recently as a means of healthy competition too.  Since successfully establishing his Mike's Bikes Sister Shop, Tumi has become known as a bicycle expert and an organizational leader in his area. As a result of this esteem, he was elected to form a bike racing community in Lesotho. Over the past several months, Tumi has organized three local races and he has been working hard to develop his club with the goal of giving the local people a chance to be selected for teams that race on an international level.   On July 15th, Tumi himself won the National MTB Champion title in the masters category in Lesotho. He's not only a dedicated community leader, but he's also one heck of a tough competitor.   It is clear by the photos that the sport of bicycle racing is here to stay in Lesotho. We bet it won't be long until we see more cyclists from Africa competing internationally in major races all over the world. Chris Froome, eat your heart out. We're proud to be able to support Tumi and the development of cycling infrastructure in both competitive and non-competitive forms in Africa. We're sure he'll keep up the good work. [gallery]

Container #14 Arrived

We are happy to report that container #14 arrived in Maseru safe and sound. Check out Simphiwe, overjoyed with her new bicycle kindly donated by Robert B Morms.

Simphiwe

Simphiwe

Thank you, Robert, and thanks to all of our bicycle donors out there! There will be plenty more containers to fill in the future, so if you have a bicycle in need of some love and attention, roll it out to one of our locations for a new life in sunny Africa. It will be appreciated.

Bike Riding Explodes in Lesotho

lil' land

lil' land

Tumi, our man in Lesotho with a grand vision and overwhelming determination, has brought a lot of happiness to his community through his hard work and the generosity of our bike donors here in the 'States. Remember what that dry spot of land used to look like? Let's dig around and find that photo...

We've been receiving updates on how Tumi's Bicycle Shop (which opened in February) has been doing. Below are the latest batch of photos showing the residents of Lesotho riding around town. These bikes are enabling them to get to school, to health care, and to employment. Keep up the good work, Tumi! You're kicking ass!

Hello!

Hello!

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peloton

Everybody ready? Off to school we go!

everybody rides

everybody rides

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roadies

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mad tricks

Tumi's Bicycle Shop is OPEN!

We are happy to report that Tumi's Bicycle Shop is open and ready for business!  So far, the residents of his community have been very enthusiastic and supportive of this little shop, having a lot of interest in mountain and kid's bicycles for the rugged Lesotho terrain. He sold 28 bikes on his first day open!

turning into Tumi's shop

turning into Tumi's shop

the road to Tumi's Bicycle Shop

the road to Tumi's Bicycle Shop

shop is full

shop is full

POUL STILL ADVISING

POUL STILL ADVISING

trying on a jersey

trying on a jersey

Tumi is doing a great job and we are proud of him and what he's been able to do in such a short time and with limited resources. We are sure that his shop will be a huge success and can't wait to see what happens next!

Lesotho is Rolling!

We have been very fortunate to meet Tumi, an extremely motivated and enthusiastic resident of Lesotho (a small country surrounded by South Africa), who wanted to bring bicycles to his community via a Mike's Bikes Sister Shop. A lot of hard work has gone into this latest project, and here we present a series of photos that shows the progression of this amazing upstart bike store. (click the images below to expand)  

New shop!

New shop!

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Part 2

Part 2

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Tumi's Bicycle Shop

Tumi's Bicycle Shop

We're proud to have another Sister Shop open and we feel lucky to have a dedicated guy like Tumi running the show.  With his involvement, we're confident that more people in Lesotho will have a local shop they can count on for reliable and trustworthy service, making the bicycle a truly viable mode of transportation there.

(For a complete set of photos, visit our Flickr page.)

Tumi's Plan

In the past, our Sister Shop plan was pretty simple.  Once we selected an entrepreneur, we would collect enough bikes to fill a container and ship it.  Then we time our trip to Africa to hopefully coincide with the container arrival (not an easy task).  While there, we would organize the container delivery, unload the container, work on the bikes, build the shop and train the shop owner.  This was all crammed into a week or so, which was obviously a huge logistical challenge and in retrospect, not the best way to do it. But with our families back home, not to mention our jobs at Mike’s Bikes, we just couldn’t afford more time away. This is why we’re so excited to be partnered with Bicycle Recycle, who will be providing distribution support. With them providing a huge amount of logistical assistance, we can focus our time and energy on developing our entrepreneurs in best business practices and mechanical expertise. Also, our old way of opening these shops, what we affectionately call Sister Shop 1.0, presented huge challenges to the local entrepreneurs. Trying to figure out how to handle a container full of 500 bikes is a daunting task for a brand new business owner, as is the psychological and accounting leap required to transition from the first load of “free” bikes to the more sustainable model of buying bikes to cover their shipping and duty cost.  

So for the Lesotho shop, we sat down with Tumi and created an opening budget, which included a certain amount of bikes from Bicycle Recycle. This time, we’ll give Tumi the money to set up his store and to buy his opening inventory.  This has two main benefits, the first being he can order an appropriate amount of bikes based on his space, and it gets him in the habit from Day 1 of paying a cost for the bikes.  The idea that the business needs to conserve enough of its sales revenue to purchase more inventory is a concept that some of our guys have struggled with. We hope our new method will make that idea easier to conceptualize and follow.

 

It’s important to note that our friends at Bicycle Recycle are not making any money off of this model and, in fact, they have donated a considerable amount of their own time and money to set up a specific delivery network to all of our shops. The money they receive for the bikes helps cover the cost of shipping the container, unloading and storing the bikes, and delivering them to the shops. They believe in the project as much as we do and are committed to helping our guys succeed.  Again, more info about our relationship with them to come…

 

As for Tumi’s actual store, we decided that two 20’ containers in an L shaped configuration would work best.  On the fenced-in property, there is a large bushy tree that will provide great shade for the shop.  The tree will be right at the corner of the “L” and Tumi will also install a triangular canopy between the two containers for additional shade.  He can source the containers locally and that is included in our budget.  Another change from Sister Shop 1.0 to 2.0 is the idea of an Opening Budget.  In the past, we arrive with a bunch of cash to buy materials, hire workers (remember the Joiner from last year, we’re still not sure if he ever finished…), etc.  Our Sister Shop owners often had no idea how much was spent getting their store open and never had to deal with working within a budget.  Tumi will be given his budget and it’s up to him to find the best deals, weigh all his options, and make his own purchase decisions, providing valuable experience with deciding how to best spend each dollar (or Rand or Maluti).  We also included in the budget funds for modifying the container with a door, window, and all the interior furnishings required for a functioning bike store.  The plan is for Tumi to have his shop completed before we go back next year to complete his training and get him fully up and running.  We are confident this will happen on time based on the results of his first task.  Before we left him, he had a list of items to complete before we’d give him any money – register his business with the government, receive clearance from the local Chief, open his bank account, etc.  By the time we arrived in Joburg, we received this email from him:

 

Sent: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 2:07 PM

Subject: given fast service because i'm the star of the country

 

Hi Ken and Matt?

you can't believe that i have opened an account and registered the business so they ask me to collect the license next week, at least i reduced my work before the next race.

 

And to think we had our fingers crossed that he would get this much done within the first month…

 

The rest of Tumi’s budget includes a basic laptop and 3G stick, a small office area, a starting marketing budget, work bench, proper tools, electricity to the container, installing lights and outlets, bike storage racks, shelving, an opening order of bikes, parts, and accessories, and a big sign to advertise on his busy road.  We plan to visit Tumi at some point next year to finish up his training, work with him in the shop, and look for areas where he can improve and grow.  In the meantime, we’ll be in constant contact with him as the shop is completed, the containers are placed, etc.  One requirement we have of all Sister Shops is regular communication and reporting on the health of the business.  These guys have no business or accounting experience, so this is an area where we leverage our experience to help guide them to success.  With our help, Tumi will develop his monthly operating budget, assign himself a salary, and start to make decisions on how many staff to hire, where to advertise, etc.

 

We’re really excited about this new model, and we’re confident that it will give Tumi a much better chance at success and provide a blueprint for future Sister Shops.

Tumi's Opportunity

A proper MTB bike is the best way to get around Maseru

A proper MTB bike is the best way to get around Maseru

After spending a couple days with Tumi in Maseru, we got a good sense of the opportunity in front of him.  Having the chance to meet with a prospective Sister Shop owner and see their situation first hand is a luxury we’ve never experienced.  We got a chance to see the market potential, get a sense for how interested people are in bikes and what they’re able to spend, check out the existing bike and parts supply and see the location Tumi has proposed.

We spent two and a half days touring the city by bike and based on the reaction of people as we rode past, Tumi should do quite well.  People were very curious and excited to see our peloton cruise by.  Often rolling through with a pack of 10-15 people, we were quite a sight.  Every school we passed produced cheers of “bicycle, bicycle” as the kids ran to side of the road to watch.  Often the teacher would recognize Tumi from the work he’s done with the local kids and give us a big smile and wave.  When we were in more crowded parts of the city, Tumi seemed to know everyone and would tell them “these are the guys I was telling you about, I’ll have bikes to sell soon!”  Tumi’s success with racing over the years has made him a bit of a local celebrity.  He has a couple newspaper articles about him on the wall of his small workshop.  We found out towards the end of our trip that he represented Lesotho in the Commonwealth Games for cycling! So with the amount of interest in bikes for transportation and recreation, combined with a city perfectly suited for getting around by bike, we feel the sky’s the limit for Tumi.

Tumi showed us his "Wall of Fame"

Tumi showed us his "Wall of Fame"

Riding thru town, Tumi knew everyone

Riding thru town, Tumi knew everyone

In order to make our Sister Shops sustainable, they have to be able to buy bikes and sell them with enough markup to stay in business and grow.  That means their customers have to be able to afford to spend a certain amount on a bike.  After the initial inventory donation, we require the shops to cover the cost of shipping the donated bikes from California as a step toward true sustainability.  The total shipping cost and import duties for the container, divided by the number of bikes inside, usually comes to around $40 each (why it’s so important for us to pack as many as possible into the container).  So with an assigned cost of $40, Tumi will need to sell his bikes for $50 to $100, depending on the condition, quality, and features.  After a bit of market research, we determined this would be possible.  As we’ve seen in other markets where we have Sister Shops, there is availability of what are derisively referred to as “China bikes”.  These are usually relatively expensive and always of extremely poor quality.  And they are sold in what’s referred to here as “China shops” that also sell a myriad of other non-bike things.  There is zero support from a service or spare parts standpoint, which is a necessity for bikes this junky, so most people just choose to walk.  Maseru is no different, there is one of these stores in town and based on the condition of the 6 or so bikes lined up outside, we guessed they had been sitting there for quite a while.  The plastic front wheel of one kids bike appeared to have been stepped on by a passer-by and it was broken completely into two pieces, but still out available for sale!  These bikes were priced at $80 - $120, prices that a good chunk of the population could afford, but would consider a waste, knowing that these bikes won’t work and won’t last.  The local people are hungry for real bikes, are able to afford Tumi’s bikes, and are just waiting for them to actually appear here.

Cheap, barely functional "China" bikes

Cheap, barely functional "China" bikes

Still for sale!

Still for sale!

In order to complete our picture of Tumi’s chance of success, we had to see where he planned on putting his shop.  Maseru is a much less developed city than Gaborone or Bulawayo.  There is retail space to rent but there is also a solid “roadside” economy where people sell wares by the side of the road either in a little stand or on foot.  As we know all know too well back home, spending too much money on rent means certain failure.  So Tumi has decided to do a containerized store on the property of his godfather, Mr. Sello.  Mr. Sello owns a security company just outside of downtown, but directly on the main road into town.  His office is a small building set back from the road a bit and he has offered to let Tumi put his container in his “front yard”, rent free!  This is huge.  And while a containerized shop is a step down from a proper retail space, not having to cover a large monthly rent expense increases Tumi’s chance of success dramatically.  If things go well, he can always move into a more typical retail space.  Add in the fact that Tumi’s bikes will be safely stored on the property of a security company, and you can see why we feel this is a perfect place to start.

Tumi and his godfather, Mr. Sello

Tumi and his godfather, Mr. Sello

The the future home of Tumi's shop

The the future home of Tumi's shop

So with a captive market starved of proper supply, a customer base that afford to pay a reasonable amount for a good bike, and a good enough location with no rent, we feel the situation is ripe for Tumi’s success.  Couple this with Tumi’s boundless energy, passion for bikes and his “celebrity”, it was time to set a plan to get him open!

Maseru by mountain bike

Tumi's kids

Tumi's kids

Singletrackin' thru town

Singletrackin' thru town

Maseru’s main roads are paved and jammed with traffic. But off the main roads, the neighborhoods are all connected by an amazing network of dirt roads, trails and paths.  Often, the best way around town involves some really great mountain biking.  Rob was generous enough to bring me and Ken a couple of his personal bikes to use while we’re here, and shortly after landing, we got to it.  Tumi met us at our hotel with about 10 of his kids, ranging in age from about 8 to 16.  We headed out thru a bustling downtown and within minutes we were on singletrack!  There’s something absolutely incredible about riding fun, technical singletrack through a neighborhood.  We dropped down some steep terrain to the lake and cruised around it to get to Tumi’s house

City singletrackin'

City singletrackin'

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He must have the best lot in town!  Perched atop a rocky cliff overlooking the lake, he has started building a house for himself, his wife, and two children.  As is typical in Africa, he buys building materials as he has the cash, stores those materials on his plot, and when he collects enough to erect a wall or a roof, he does.  We asked him how he scored such a prime spot, and he responded that most local people are terrified of being so close to the cliff.  We explained that in California, people pay a lot of money to be so close to the water and his wife responded that “yes, for some reason, white people love to be near the water.”  Sounds like a great post for stuffwhitepeoplelike.com!

Matt, Ken, and Tumi at Tumi's house

Matt, Ken, and Tumi at Tumi's house

After seeing his home, we rode over to the site of his new shop.  It will be located on the property of Mr. Sello, his equivalent to a godfather.  Mr. Sello owns a security company and has offered to let Tumi locate his shop on the grounds in front of his office.  As luck would have it, this is a prime location on the main paved road connecting many neighborhoods with the center of town, and gets a ton of drive-by traffic.  We spent some time with Mr. Sello and he gushed about how proud he was of Tumi and how great the cycling club is. There seems to be a feeling in the town that anything that gets kids engaged with a healthy activity and keeps them from getting into trouble is a wonderful thing.  Sound familiar?  Some things are truly universal…   After planning the layout and some other details of the shop, we headed over to see Tumi’s mother.  She wasn’t home, but her house was truly impressive.  It was small like all the others on her road, but she had finished the front with a nice stucco pattern and painted it purple, had a beautifully manicured garden with blooming roses, and a trellis over the entrance to her front yard.  She obviously takes great pride in her home and places a high value on hard work.  We hope her sense of presentation and her strong work ethic will help Tumi make his shop as attractive as possible and wildly successful.

Tumi's mother's house and garden

Tumi's mother's house and garden

Maseru from the seat of a mountain bike

City singletrackin'

City singletrackin'

Maseru’s main roads are paved and jammed with traffic. But off the main roads, the neighborhoods are all connected by an amazing network of dirt roads, trails and paths.  Often, the best way around town involves some really great mountain biking.  Rob was generous enough to bring me and Ken a couple of his personal bikes to use while we’re here, and shortly after landing, we got to it.  Tumi met us at our hotel with about 10 of his kids, ranging in age from about 8 to 16.  We headed out thru a bustling downtown and within minutes we were on singletrack!  There’s something absolutely incredible about riding fun, technical singletrack through a neighborhood.  We dropped down some steep terrain to the lake and cruised around it to get to Tumi’s house.

Descending down to the lake

Descending down to the lake

He must have the best lot in town!  Perched atop a rocky cliff overlooking the lake, he has started building a house for himself, his wife, and two children.  As is typical in Africa, he buys building materials as he has the cash, stores those materials on his plot and when he collects enough to erect a wall or a roof, he does.  We asked him how he scored such a prime spot, and he responded that most local people are terrified of being so close to the cliff.  We explained that in California, people pay a lot of money to be so close to the water and his wife responded that “yes, for some reason, white people love to be near the water.”  Sounds like a great post for stuffwhitepeoplelike.com!

[More pics to come, my internet connection crapped out during the upload]

After seeing his home, we rode over to the site of his new shop.  It will be located on the property of Mr. Sello, his equivalent to a godfather.  Mr. Sello owns a security company and has offered to let Tumi locate his shop on the grounds in front of his office.  As luck would have it, this is a prime location on the main paved road connecting many neighborhoods with the center of town, and gets a ton of drive-by traffic.  We spent some time with Mr. Sello and he gushed about how proud he was of Tumi and how great the cycling club is. There seems to be a feeling in the town that anything that gets kids engaged with a healthy activity and keeps them from getting into trouble is a wonderful thing.  Sound familiar?  Some things are truly universal…

After planning the layout and some other details of the shop, we headed over to see Tumi’s mother.  She wasn’t home, but her house was truly impressive.  It was small like all the others on her road, but she had finished the front with a nice stucco pattern and painted it purple (the same purple that Tumi used), had a beautifully manicured garden with blooming roses, and a trellis over the entrance to her front yard.  She obviously takes great pride in her home, and places a high value on hard work.  We hope her sense of presentation and her strong work ethic will help Tumi make his shop as attractive as possible and wildly successful.

World, meet Tumi

Tumi is 29 yrs old and grew up in Maseru, Lesotho. He was raised solely by his mother, who has owned a craft stand at the border for many years. We haven’t met her yet, but from our conversations, it’s obvious that she is largely responsible for his entrepreneurial spirit and his understanding of basic business principles.

Tumi

Tumi

When Tumi was 15 yrs old, he started riding bikes.  A friend of his from Joburg brought him a BMX bicycle - and in Tumi’s words – “it changed my life.”  His mother would send him to other villages to get supplies and run errands and Tumi would rarely be seen without his bike. He immediately understood the impact this machine would have on his daily life, from transport to health and fitness. In 2002, a neighbor who had seen Tumi riding everywhere and everyday recommended he enter a competition, a road race from Maseru up into the mountains.  This neighbor even loaned him a mountain bike to train – this bike had been purchased 150km away in Bloemfontein, SA – even today, the closest place to get bikes or parts.  Could you imagine needing a passport to get new brake pads??

Tumi trained every day for the 86 km race, riding the course several times on this heavy full suspension mountain bike.  For the race, Tumi “converted” his BMX bike to a road bike, adding a cassette and r. derailleur, shifters, and skinny tires (we’re still not sure how this is possible but as you’ll see later, Tumi is extremely resourceful).  He finished well among the international pack of professional cyclists and hard core roadies with expensive road bikes. This was the point where he fell in love with cycling as a sport. He spent the next several years finding any information he could on bikes and cycling, and training to develop his skills as a racer and a mechanic.  During this time, he was working at a TV factory and after being forced to work overtime and with no time to train, Tumi quit.  It was time for him to pursue his dream and open his own bicycle repair shop.  There were some cheap and very poor quality “China bikes” here that needed repair but no one in the town, maybe even in the country, had the skills, the tools or the parts.

That was 2008 and shortly after opening his repair shop, armed with the knowledge of what the sport of cycling did for him, he started Tumi’s Bicycle Club.  His goal was to give other kids in his city the same opportunity that he got from his neighbor back in 2002.  One of the many amazing things about Tumi is his boundless generosity.  He truly believes in his community and has worked hard to uplift it.  His wasn’t the first cycling club in Maseru, but his was the first to focus on kids and on the local population while the others catered to adults and ex-pats.  He has since started 3 other sister clubs in the villages outside of Maseru, with over 60 members all together, almost all of them kids.

Tumi's Club

Tumi's Club

Tumi’s vision is to be the guy that can supply local riders and the kids in his clubs with quality affordable bikes, parts, and mechanical service.  He feels strongly that if he had an adequate supply he could get more people to use bikes for transport and for sport.  He is recognized all over town as the bike guy, and he is often stopped while training his kids and asked about where to get a good bike – soon, he will have a good answer.

What's the Purpose of our 2011 Trip?

We have two goals on this trip to southern Africa. First is to go to Lesotho, pronounced “Lesutu”, and meet with Tumisang (Tumi) Taabe, our next Sister Shop entrepreneur and THE bike guy in Maseru, the capital city. Lesotho is a small, mountainous country completely surrounded by S. Africa. The second part of this trip is to meet with our new partners, Rob and Andrew Carle, and improve and develop our bike distribution system for the existing Sister Shops.

Lesotho

Lesotho

Rob is our guide and will be taking us to Maseru for a couple days, then up to Johannesburg for the weekend and finally up to Gabs to see Bones and the plan for distribution, which will be based there.

The distribution plan is the next evolution of our Sister Shop program. Having successfully opened three shops over the last several years, we’ve passed the hurdle of how to get a shop up and running. The issue now is a lack of supply of parts and replacement bikes. Our original plan was to set up a supply chain of parts from existing regional distributors, but we underestimated the difficulty of both small quantity shipping and remote payments for goods within southern Africa. Milton in Zimbabwe can’t just pick up the phone and order more tubes and brake pads. And now that their shops are set up, they can’t handle an entire container of 500 bikes. They don’t have the space to securely store that many bikes, and they don’t have the funds available to make a meaningful contribution toward the shipping and duty expenses, which is a key part of our long term goal of sustainability.

The place where Milton stored his first container load isn't available anymore

The place where Milton stored his first container load isn't available anymore

Once the original parts we sent are gone, replacements are hard to come by

Once the original parts we sent are gone, replacements are hard to come by

It has become clear to us that a central distribution point that allows each shop to “order” in manageable amounts is what is needed. That is where Rob and Andrew come in, and they have been totally integral to setting this up. They own and operate a trucking company with warehouses in Joburg and Gaborone. Part of their business is to bring goods into S. Africa and distribute them all over southern Africa from both warehouses and to the same countries where we have Sister Shops. They both also happen to be serious MTB fanatics and they share a strong belief in our cause. Rob lives in Gaborone and has been invaluable in assisting Bones and Jerry with business practices at JonMol, and he has helped formulate this plan for central distribution of donated bikes, which we believe to be the first of its kind.

In addition, over the last couple years, Rob and Andrew have become frustrated with the severe lack of supply of high-end bikes, components, and accessories in Botswana and even South Africa. So they decided to start their own bicycle distribution company, Bicycle Recycle Botswana, as an ancillary business to their main trucking and distribution operation, and they’re starting to serve the shops they frequent in Joburg and other parts of S. Africa. The magic of our relationship is that they are willing to treat our Sister Shops as their customers, but not mark up any of the goods passed through to them. Further, the profit that Bicycle Recycle makes on their high-end goods helps to pay for the overhead they spend supporting the Sister Shop sales and assistance. More details to come soon on how this new model works and why it’s awesome!

Ride to Rhodes

This past weekend, August 14-15, the Lesotho Cycling Association held national championships outside of Maseru. Eleven of Lesotho's bicycle clubs participated. The riders were divided into three classes - Elite, Veterans, and Juniors - and gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded within these classes. Winners won jerseys, medals, and cash for bike parts.

On Saturday, the teams faced off on a rugged mountain bike course. On Sunday, the teams swapped out their tires and hit the road.

This year Tumi's Bicycle Club did quite well, outranking all other teams with 9 medals won. In the mountain bike race, Tumi and two others in the club won gold in their categories, as well as two bronze winners. In the road race, one of the members of the juniors team won gold, and several others won silver and bronze.

Congratulations Tumi and the Tumi's Bicycle Club Riders! Your hard work is paying off.

BMX Arrives in Lesotho

On July 31, Tumi's Bicycle Club BMX Track opened to the public in Khubetsoana, Lesotho. It is the first BMX track in Lesotho, and it has already proved to be popular with kids in the surrounding neighborhoods. Parents like it too, because it gives their kids a safe, off-road place to ride their bikes.

More information about the track and launch party can be found in the Lesotho Times.

Report from Tumi in Lesotho

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Mike's Bikes just got some great photos from our partner in Lesotho, Tumisang Taabe.

Recently Tumi brought a bunch of bikes to a local school sports day for the kids to play with.

While waiting for their turn to compete in track and field events, children from nine local schools got to play with the bikes. The children were very excited to have be able to ride bikes, so the teachers have decided to allow them to start school cycling clubs.

Because of the uniquely affordable structure that Mr. Taabe is implementing through his cycling club, children from all of these schools will be able to join a cycling team.

In addition to helping the schools form cycling teams, Mr. Taabe has formed a bicycle club that holds regular clinics to teach its members how to clean and repair bicycles. These little boys had so much fun fixing their flat!

Cycling in Lesotho is really taking off! Members of the local team placed for the

Tour De Lesotho

, as did our partner, Tumi. Congratulations to the whole team!