The First Pile of Bikes Has Been Transferred to Mountain Gear

As with every project we’ve tried, we learned a few things on our first transfer of bikes. Our first transfer was last Monday.

For context: we are partnering with Village Bike Project to ship the surplus bikes in Spokane to Ghana. In a nutshell: this means we gather 500 bikes, stuff them in a container, and ship them to Ghana, Africa. At the moment, we work out of a donated garage on the south hill. When we get more than 40 bikes in there, it’s nearly impossible to do anything but squeeze through the stacks. Enter Paul. Paul owns Mountain Gear and has a big warehouse in Spokane Valley. He’s donating space for us to stack bikes.

Anyway, we learned that it takes a fair bit of coordination to move a stack of bikes. Dan Treecraft is helping us by donating his time and truck. Then we’ve got a few folks we need to get to our space and help load up. Then we need to make sure Paul and his folks at Mountain Gear are ready for us. Aside from the coordination, the actual transfer took 2.5 hours: from pick up to end of delivery. Because Mountain Gear is a business we try to get in there during business hours so we can minimize our disruption to folks there. In the end, we moved 30 bikes.

So, there is a fair bit of overhead here.

Some ideas to streamline this:

  • Paul’s idea is the best: we would find a shipping container, drop it at the Mountain Gear warehouse site and then pack as we go. Paul has lots of space,but it’s sort of dynamic,we may need to move stuff around periodically. We want to minimize how much we move bikes around. Paul also suggested stacking bikes on pallets, strapping them down, and then we can move them around in bulk much easier. I like this idea, but studying how the VBP folks pack the containers, we’ll have to unstack the pallets and restack them when it comes time to load. So: the “find a shipping container” idea is perfect. This would also make it easier for us to load during non-business hours. It’s hard to get volunteers during weekday biz hours.

So: if you have a container or have any ideas on someone who may donate/loan one to P2P, please contact us. It may not even be a donate thing. Normally at ship time the VBP folks have to go buy a container — so it maybe more of a loan deal.

  • Do bigger runs. The actual loading time is pretty short when you have 3 or 4 people. So the process would scale easily if we had another truck and we could do runs of 60 bikes. My guess is that this would add about 40 minutes and we’d be moving twice the number of bikes. Of course there’s the issue of stacking 60 bikes in our garage, but there are a couple creative things we could do to squeeze more in.
  • Do smaller runs. In this model, we’d just have a trailer at the garage that holds about 15 bikes. Then we round-robin. Once the trailer fills, we have one volunteer make the run when they can make it and during the warehouse business hours. It takes that one person longer, but it’s less of an impact on the organization.

Got any ideas? We’re all ears.

Regardless: this is an exciting project. People really respond to it and we’re getting a nice boost in donated bikes. We’ll get these details figured out. We’re still targeting next Summer as our goal for shipping the container.

4 comments

  1. I was curious about the price of shipping containers so I started googling. It looks like a 40 footer can be had for somewhere in the neighborhood of $1600 on eBay. No idea what the transportation costs, etc. would be, but it seems like shipping containers are surprisingly affordable in general, especially if we could find a local source and kept transportation costs to a minimum.

  2. It seems like David P. would have tried this already if it was cost-effective. If we own our own container, we’d either have to pay return shipping to get the thing back or try to find someone in Ghana to buy it from us.

    There are businesses in Spokane that sell containers, so we could potentially try to get a deal. But $1600 would also buy a lot of beer and pizza for volunteers to load the truck. Twenty people and a good plan will get the thing loaded in an afternoon, so I don’t think we should fret too much about that.

  3. I can probably help out with your ‘Do bigger runs’ option. Would a full size truck and a 26 ft enclosed trailer help with transferring bikes? We have longer trailers, but access on the South Hill can be tight. Just let me know time and place, if my schedule permits, hopefully I could be there to help. Send me a message if you think I can be of service.
    cjsr4dave@gmail.com
    -Dave

  4. David: we will be in contact with you. It may be a while, as I think we’re going the “scale down” approach for bike hauling and getting a small trailer. But a few times in the last year we’ve had events pop up where we need the kind of room/help that you are offerring. Thanks a bunch.

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