Wednesday, November 9, 2011

How to get 300 bikes from Montana to Nairobi by Christmas

View of Billings, MT, from the Rims.Billings, Montana Image via Wikipedia

Slum Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya.                                                                               Nairobi, Kenya  Image via Wikipedia

Step One:  
Start in 14 months in advance. 

I first met Prisca in Nairobi about 8 months after we had started working together. I had worked with her friend and fellow Wheels of Africa member, Martin Wambua the previous year when he joined us for a month to train as a mechanic for our Cairo to Cape Town bike tour. Martin, as it turns out would would be one of the best mechanics ever to work the tour and Wheels of Africa, under Prisca's leadership would soon be the proud owner of 320 use bikes from Billings, Montana. 

Step Two:
Have a Damn Good plan and some Damn Good Help
Prisca contacted me about starting a community bike shop in Nairobi in October 2010.  It took over a month for us to put together a viable business model and plan.  Prisca and her team would put together a plan, I would critique it and they would go back to the drawing board.  The plan got better and better and eventually they created a plan that would succeed better they we could have every expected and attract the attention of everyone they showed it to.  

Mike Link, at BEN Namibia, gave us a lot of advice and was very important to the projects success. In fact, it was Mike who introduced us to Dan Austin who ran the Bikes for Humanity Chapter in Montana (now called  Wheels of Change), the organization that would ultimately collect and ship the bikes to us.  Dan had several hurdles to jump though to get the bikes ready and shipped and he generously shipped them at no cost to Wheels of Africa.  It was generosity like this that recently won Dan the Global Vision Award from Travel and Leisure Magazine.  We also got a ton of advice from Keith Oberg at Bikes for the World and hope to work with him on future bike shipments to the shop.  

And this list would not be complete without mentioning 2010 Tour d'Afrique rider Gerald Coniel who made a generous donation to the Tour d'Afrique Foundation to support this project.  Gerald's assistance gave us a huge head start in funding the start up cost for the bike shop.  

Step Three:
Sit and wait (and prepare)

As we speak the a container of 320 bikes is floating out there on the ocean enroute to Mombasa.  barring the intervention of Somali pirates it should reach port on November 29, 2011.

Prisca and her team at Wheels of Africa are busy building shop and storage space for when the bikes arrive.  They have pre-sold 100 bikes!  That's enough money to cover the next shipment of bikes free and clear of any assistance or loans from outside organizations.  Demand his high for the remaining bikes so while the focus is on building and marketing the shop they are also working on where the next shipment will come from.

We are exceptionally excited to see the shop when the 2012 Tour d'Afrique arrive in Nairobi and look forward to give Prisca and her team big pat on the back!

If you'd like to find out more about the Wheels of Africa Bike Shop Project or have questions about the Tour d'Afrique Foundation you can reach us at 

Help Us Create More Opportunities Like this One

The Tour d'Afrique Foundation is the charitable arm of Tour d'Afrique Bike Races and Tours.  The Foundations donates bikes and support projects all along the route of it's annual bike tour from Cairo to Cape Town.  Please support our efforts to promote human powered transportation and income generating projects in Africa by making a donation.

Donate to the Tour d'Afrique Foundation:

Related Links: 
The Tour d'Afrique Foundation:
Bike For the World:
BEN Namibia:
Bicycles for Humanity:
Wheels of Change:
Bikes for the World:

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