Bikes for the World

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Africa Or Rust

Courtesy VBP
Donate or dump? As much as we'd like to make use of every single bike out there, there are just some that aren't suited to be sent overseas. And it's not always for reasons you might think. Although the bike seen above doesn't look very functional the main issue is often maintenance. Some parts are just hard to come by in Africa and some bikes impossible to work on. If the mechanics can't keep them running, they aren't much use.
Courtesy VBP

Keeping those donated bikes rolling is a high priority for everyone involved. This is why Bikes for the World tries to send as many parts and accessories with our bike shipments as possible. Not only does it often help us better pack our shipments, but they are also in high demand on the other end.

Some parts in high demand in Ghana and Sierra Leone specifically are 26" tires, chains, tubes, freewheels, and brake pads. Many of our donors call to inquire if their bike is in decent enough shape to ship. The biggest issue typically? No air in the tires. I kid you not. Frame and components perfect.

No rust-buckets please.
Occasionally we get bikes that just have too much rust to send. These bikes are stripped for parts (when possible) and the rest recycled as scrap metal here. It's one of the important volunteer jobs at King Farm.

It is very important for us at Bikes for the World to not unload 'junk' onto another country.  And sometimes that includes usable items that we often receive like tag-a-long bikes and trailers, which aren't wanted in Africa. This is why we sell some of the donations we get here, where they are still quite useful. The money then goes back into our program to help support our mission.

From the Director of Village Bicycle Project (VBP) David Peckam:

"Unwanted parts fall into two categories, scrap and waste. What happens to most rubbish is that it is burned.  Those rotten tires and plastic pieces and packing is all burned, into everyone’s air.  If you have the time, remove any broken or brittle plastic accessories. Broken and useless reflectors are BURNED."

Bikes donated to VA's Bikes for Tykes and Teens
Supporting the bikes sent is just as important as sending bikes alone. If they don't have the parts, they can't support the bikes. This is why we pull out all the 18" wheel bikes made at Wal-Mart. It's not that it's a marginal bike, but rather an odd wheel size that isn't readily available overseas. If Africa can't get tubes for the wheels, the bikes are useless.

And again, this is why it is so important that we get donations of usable parts and tires to help support these local shops working on the donated bikes. Here is another update from VBP about a shop in Sierra Leone.

Peckham goes on to mention that new parts are available from Asia in Africa, but the quality is so low our second hand parts are often more desirable. Torn seats can be mended by upholsterers in Ghana and Sierra Leone. Combination locks can be cracked over time. U locks with no key...waste.

Rusty wheels must be considered carefully. If spoke nipples are rusty, the wheel is of no use to them. If the rim is still good, the spokes can be cut. If the hub has usable parts it too can be stripped and sent. This is time consuming work for Bikes for the World. You can help by donating only good usable bikes and parts or volunteering at King Farm and helping us sort through some of our stock.

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