Bikes for the World

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Where The Rubber Meets The Road

Container unload in Ghana
Donated tubes and tires are nearly as important to our shipments as the bikes themselves. All donated parts, tubes, and tires included in our containers add value to what we are sending overseas.

These tires, although used, still have miles and miles of use left on them. They will be used to replace tires on bikes that are no longer good either in the same shipment or on bikes already in use overseas. Rural mechanics value our donated tires to stock their shops and keep bikes in safe working order.

Loading tires in Virginia
Back at home, we get thousands of tubes and tires annually from individual donors, bike shops, and our corporate partnership with Capital Bikeshare (DC) and Citi Bike (NY).

Tires made for the American market are generally of good quality and durable. Many of our African partners prefer even our used tires to what they can get new imported from China. According to sources overseas, those new tubes often pop on inflation and tires wear out within 25 miles.

In the last few years, Bikes for the World has made an effort to get the word out to cyclists and bike clubs to donate used tubes and tires to us instead of adding them to our waste stream.

Bikes heading to Kenya, Africa
Tires are also very valuable to us when packing a container. To the right you can see Director Keith Oberg inside a shipping container destined for an African partner, where we send tons of used tires.

Tires are placed between columns of bikes before we place a sheet of OSB on top. The tires not only even out the board to make the next row of bikes more stable, but they also help protect brake levers and shifters on the lower row of bikes.

In Costa Rica, however, we face a major roadblock- used tires are prohibited by law from entry.  Costa Rican Customs will confiscate any used tires found in an incoming container.

Container received in Costa Rica
As you can see in this photograph, when tires are not used between the rows of bikes the OSB bends under the weight of the bikes in the container. This is why, at Bikes for the World, we take special care when prepping bikes for shipping to try to turn the handlebars in a way that will help protect components by shifting them underneath the handlebar rather than sticking up above.

This container was shipped to Costa Rica last December and contained very few spare tires. Because of the prohibition of tires in the country, we can only ship new tires in our containers. We save all new tires for Costa Rica for this purpose, but only have about a half dozen to include in every shipment.

Our next shipment to Costa Rica, being loaded this week, will contain 42 new tires donated by Kenda Tires, a Taiwanese company with its American headquarters in Reynoldsburg, OH.

Kenda has graciously supplied these new tires in commonly-used sizes (20", 24", and 26") for our partner FINCA Costa Rica. These tires will be put to good use in the local market where quality tires are difficult to come by at prices most rural Costa Ricans can afford.

The inclusion of this donation from Kenda will increase the value of this shipment to Costa Rica and prolong the life of bikes already on the ground locally. Kenda has offered to donate any surplus or discontinued product on a periodic basis to augment the contents of our shipments. The 20" and 24" tires are especially in-demand as they are not as abundantly donated to BfW.

Monday, January 26, 2015

BfW's 100,000th Donated Bike Has a New Home

Gerardo Jesús

Gerardo lives at home with his mother, two brothers and one sister in Tempate, a rural community located in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. He graduated with excellent grades from the elementary school in Tempate. Because of this, his teacher helped him obtain a scholarship at a private bilingual high school. This high school is called Educarte and is located in another community called Tamarindo.

The scholarship is assisting his family financially to allow Gerardo to attend this private school. This new school is almost 21 miles from his home in Tempate. Every day, to get to school, Gerardo first has to go to Cartagena, which is 7km, or 4.3 miles, from his home. Then in Cartagena he takes a bus to Tamarindo which is 17 miles from Cartagena.

Thanks to Gerardo's bicycle, he can ride the first four miles from home to take the bus and make it safely to his high school. Without a bike, Gerardo would either need to walk to the bus stop or pay someone to drive him there.

Harvey Ollis with the 100k bike
This 'special' bike delivered to Guanacaste in December from Bikes for the World is helping Gerardo attend this great school, and saves him valuable time he can now use to study. It is also helping his family avoid the high cost of paying for transportation to deliver Gerardo to catch the bus he needs to arrive to school on time.

This red Specialized was Bikes for the World's 100,000th donated bike and was loaded and shipped on November 15, 2014 as part of America Recycles Day festivities. The 100k bike was donated to Gerardo in Costa Rica because he has proven to be a person who works hard to achieve his goals and has been able to provide for his family and ensure their well being.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

New Bikes vs. Used

Modesto Pinto

Modesto is one of Bikes for the World's oldest beneficiaries. Meaning, he's owned one of our donated bikes since the beginning. Modesto purchased this Trek from Goodwill Panama, our partner in Panama, ten years ago and it's still in great shape, a testament to the value of a quality used bicycle.

Modesto lives in Valle de Antón  where he owns and operates the town's bicycle repair shop. Anton Valley is about two hours from Panama City, making Modesto's bike shop invaluable to the residents outside the city. In addition to bike repair, Modesto repairs flat automobile tires for the local police and residents. He also salvages damaged truck tires, turning them into planters by cutting them in half and then selling them to local gardeners.

Modesto supports his family with income from this diverse repair shop. He is especially proud to have supported his daughter through nursing school. Modesto's shop is successful enough that he also has an assistant, Ismael Rodriguez.

Ismael Rodriguez (Rápido)

Modesto's assistant Ismael, also known as Rápido, bought a brand new Rali two years ago. Rali is popular bicycle brand out of China that is relatively inexpensive...initially. Rápido has already, in two years time, replaced everything on the bike, except the seat.

Fortunately Rápido works in a repair shop and has the skills to do the maintenance work himself. He has replaced the brakes, handlebar, crank, shifters, seat post, even the wheels. The only original parts truly are the frame and the seat.

Modesto's Trek has served him well since 2005. With simple tune ups and basic care, he has kept it running for the last decade with minimal cost. In contrast, Rápido bought a cheaply made Rali that began breaking down immediately.  In order to make a bike more affordable, lesser quality parts are often placed on the bike initially. While this brings down the cost of a bike, it also diminishes the quality, ensuring the bike will not survive long without constant care and repairs, in the end costing more.