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.

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