|Programs | FAQs | Repair in the African bush | Loading day prep
What to Collect and Send
Our goal is to send usable bikes and parts. We don’t want to send
anything that goes straight to the landfill or scrap yard.
Our experienced shipping partners are able to cram about 450 bikes into
a 40’ long and 9 ½’ high container. (loading
If VBP is paying shipping costs, we need to be able to sell enough of
the bikes to cover expenses and leave 150 bikes worthy of our programs.
So, at least half the bikes in the shipment need to be in good, almost
rideable condition. I like to include a few beat up looking, but
mechanically sound bikes that may sell with an ugly discount.
Ghana’s first choice is full size mountain bikes, and other COMPLETE
bikes. All bikes in reasonable, repairable condition are wanted, except
child’s tricycles. Ghana accepts cruisers, one-speeds, women’s frames,
adult tricycles, racers, even fragile high-end racers. Bikes don’t need
to be in rideable condition, but we want them repairable, ideally with
complementary parts in the shipment.
Ghana does not want
--Tag-alongs or trail-a-bikes, those one wheeled attachments for
--Burleys, trailers for kids.
take these to second-hand stores, or craigslist them. There’s plenty of
low-income families that’d love to have these.
Don’t send the carriers that you use to put your bikes on the car.
Don't send razor-wheeled scooters. These require smooth pavement, which
there is very very little of in Ghana. We grudgingly accept scooters
with inflatable tires. Again, don't send children's tricycles.
A critical parts need is tubes and tires. The new rubber that is
readily available in West Africa is rubbish from China. Nearly one-half
the new tubes split along seams when inflated for the first time. Tires
disintigrate within 50 miles. There could be 1000s of bikes parked in
Africa because people don't want to waste their money on crappy rubber.
Used tires and tubes from the west are in very high demand.
Parts are a serious obstacle to keeping bikes running in Ghana. We’ve
seen perfectly good bikes get stripped for parts during times of
shortages, because the parts are worth more than the whole bike. Since
frames take a lot of space in the container, its generally better to
completely strip a partial bike and scrap the frame at home. But, its
not that simple.
Wanted: Lugged frames
3-finger neck refers to size of the space btw.
the top and down tubes, as shown on this
(rather ornately) lugged frame.
Ghana’s northern neighbor, Burkina Faso, with different tariffs and
different access to parts, seeks a certain type of frame. These are
the lugged frame with small bottom bracket to fit the three piece and
cottered cranks. Their favorite is what they call the “three-finger
neck.” Other lugged frames are OK too, especially larger frames and
There was a buyer from Burkina Faso, ready when a shipment arrived in
June 2005, and he bought all these frames after they'd been stripped.
|One piece crank
There are two sizes of bottom bracket. The big one carries the one
piece crank (at right). These are in short supply because China doesn’t
send that style to Africa, not as bikes, or as spare parts.
So what this means is that often its better to send just the parts than
to send the whole bike. If its missing wheels, best to part it out and
scrap the frame.
One piece cranks are found on the ‘department store bikes’, Murray,
Huffy, Coast King, Roadmaster, and also some Schwinn.
Keep all the parts together, pedals too, if you can!
If that chain is as bad as it looks, this one should've been stripped
for parts. Send the drive train all together, maybe even the chain.
They'll spend a lot of time working chains back in to shape. This one
has a one-piece crank.
This one is also borderline. The paint is funky, but its got a
cotterless crank, so I’d
probably send it as is. This one will get the ugly discount, helping
people with less resources
afford mountain bikes.
|(Notice the pedals are installed backward, and the handlebars are
turned. All bikes should be similarly 'flattened' before shipping.
Pedals are often wired to the frame.)
|All usable parts are in demand, except racing handlebars. As a general
rule, new replacement parts from Asia are available, but their quality
is so low that often the second-hand equivalent gets a higher price.
Mountain bike parts are especially in demand, especially cranks, bottom
brackets, brake assemblies, freewheels, and derailleurs. Brake shoes
for V-brakes are in acute shortage.
We have been getting complaints about rusty wheels. If the spoke
nipples are rusty, that wheel is no good. If the rim is nice you might
send it. If the hub is still good, cut out the spokes and send that.
A nice load will have:
At least 100 mountain bikes
No more than 75 kids bikes, 20" and under.
No more than 100 24" mountain bikes.
No more than 50 lugged frames for stripping.
The rest a nice mix of adult street, road, racer, cruiser bikes and
plenty of parts.
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