So you wanna go on Bikes Across Borders this year? Here are a few things you need to know:
Bikes Across Borders (BXB) mission is to build solidarity partnerships by promoting autonomous transportation & cultural arts. Bikes Across Borders has organized more than fifteen bike delivery caravans since 2001, sending over 700 bicycles to Mexico, Central America, and Cúba.
We facilitate the donation of bike tools, used bicycles and parts to support community organizations & bicycle cooperatives locally and in Latin America.
Besides working to support community groups with material aid we also work to organize international delegations, trips, and caravan shipments between grassroots organizations and people in order to foster solidarity across political borders.
We utilize popular education techniques, imagery, and theater to cross language and cultural barriers in order to expose, explain and connect complex political, social, and environmental issues that affect people on all sides of the border.
Bikes Across Borders operates with the help and passion of volunteers and is entirely supported by donations from the community. BXB would like to thank The Yellow Bike Project, our volunteers, and supporters.
As a participant in Bikes Across Borders, you will need to provide a mechanically sound bicycle that you are willing to donate at the end of the trip. This bicycle can be one you already own, get donated from a friend, or build up from parts at Yellow Bike. You can start with a bare frame and work from there or take a pre-existing bike and make sure it’s in good enough shape to make the several hundred mile trip to Mexico. Bikes should be in working condition by mid-December for a test ride.
THE YELLOW BIKE PROJECT
Bikes Across Borders participants are welcome to build/work on bikes at any Yellow Bike open or volunteer shop. See their website for their schedule, which is different every month. All hours are counted as volunteer hours, which means you can use these hours to later join the Yellow Bike Collective, if you so desire. When you go to Yellow Bike, make sure to explicitly state to the shop coordinators that you are there to work on a bike for Bikes Across Borders – any used parts are freely available for BXB bikes. Bikes will need to be stored at your house or outside of Yellow Bike, where they will be secured together with a cable lock under a tarp.
NOT A MECHANIC?
If you aren’t a bike mechanic, don’t worry – other BXB participants and Yellow Bike Coordinators are available to teach you the skills you need to get your bike in working condition. We like YBPs policy of “not touching your bike.” This means that you should ask lots of questions, share the knowledge you have and be ready to Do It Yourself. We encourage folks with no touring experience to join us.
This year’s route will take us south from Austin down to Harlingen/Brownsville where we will cross into Matamoros, Mexico. From there, we will ride to our final destination in Monterrey. It is approximately 400 miles to the border and another 200 miles to Monterrey. Riders with limited time can stop at the border; we will have friends from Mexico that will join us for the remaining ride using the spare bikes.
NOTE – Please let us know where your planned stop is so we can plan accordingly.
HOW FAR WE RIDE EACH DAY
Daily rides will consist of riding anywhere from 30-45 miles over hilly terrain or longer over flat terrain. The longest ride that we can remember was around 70 miles, with a very strong tailwind and a strong consensus among the riders that day to “push.”
Set aside enough money for breakfast, lunch and snacks for at least 15 days. We take turns cooking a community dinner; you will need about $20 for food to cook when it’s your turn to make dinner. You will also need enough money to take a bus/plane back. Some riders choose to dumpster-dive on the way or hitchhike back. You will not want to carry a lot of food with you (e.g. simple / light things like trail mix, oatmeal, fruit etc.).
If you plan on riding past the border and don’t have a passport (or passport card) yet, you should start obtaining one now.
We depart the morning of January 3rd. We anticipate it to take approximately 2 weeks to make it to Monterrey, but riders should be prepared for possible delays due to mechanical issues or weather. If you’re on a strict schedule, there will be an option to stop at the Matamoros / Brownsville border (see below).
Riders should expect to be ready to begin riding by 9am daily, as many things (wonderful views, roadside snack breaks, mechanical difficulties, general daisy-smelling) can take up the limited daylight hours we have in the winter.
IF YOU ARE SHORT ON TIME
For those unable to commit to the lengthy journey to Monterrey, there’s still an option – you may ride with us to the border and donate it there. We may also have riders from Mexico who want to start here and could use your bike. This is ideal for students or people that have jobs with less flexible hours.
FOOD / DIETARY RESTRICTIONS
All riders are responsible for their own breakfast and lunch (though much sharing occurs and is encouraged). Dinners are shared by the group, with two to three people collaborating on purchasing and cooking the dinner at least once per trip. Shared meals are vegan with vegetarian options. Those of us with more selective diets should consider managing those needs apart from the group (ie. gluten free, etc.).
We decide who will cook the following evening at the nightly “check-in” meeting.
The collective has agreed that we do not want drinking during meetings. This includes meetings in preparation of the ride and nightly check-in meetings during the ride. Alcohol is permitted at other times in moderation. Please be respectful of riders who don’t drink, especially during sleeping hours.
Plan on camping every night. You should bring a sleeping bag and tent; sleeping pads and thermal barriers will also help ensure a comfortable night sleep. This is a winter ride, so plan for cold and wet nights. Other nights will be warm and dry.
Be prepared for a variety of weather conditions – we have experienced everything from 80 degrees to well below freezing, calm and still to blustery and pouring rain. A packing list is available for those of you unfamiliar with bicycle touring.
Bikes – Start building NOW. See ‘The Bike’ and ‘Yellow Bike Project’ sections above.
Panniers – BXB will host a pannier-building workshop in early December where we will build panniers from kitty litter buckets. These buckets are available at Ecology Action (though may take some tenacity to track down). Yellow Bike Project has kits available for sale if you wish to build your panniers before or after the workshop.
Practice Rides – We will have a practice camping ride to iron out any packing concerns and mechanical issues in mid-December. There may also be opportunities for some less formal / spontaneous long distance practice rides.
Most group communication is facilitated through the forum in our google group. You can request to join by going to google groups and searching ‘Bikes Across Borders Active List’. Make sure you subscribe for real-time or ‘daily digest’ updates, which will be forwarded to your email inbox.
We also post updates on our facebook page. Search for Bikes Across Borders. Our webpage is currently down.
WHAT YOU NEED TO DO RIGHT NOW
- Let us know you are coming by adding your name to the online roster. http://goo.gl/GyWa9p
- Request join the google group for ongoing discussion and updates. Go to ‘google groups’ and submit a request to join ‘Bikes Across Borders Active List’. http://goo.gl/mI5eWD
- Either find a bike to fix up or find a frame that works if you plan to build it
- Get materials to make panniers (kitty litter buckets with lids work best)
- Get a passport (or passport card)
- Start getting your gear together (clothing for all weather, lights, water bottles, etc.)
OTHER WAYS TO HELP
Bikes Across Borders operates with the help and passion of volunteers and is entirely supported by donations from the community. Here are a few things you can do to help:
- Bikes – We need bicycles and frames of various sizes to be used on the ride.
- Parts – If you have bike parts lying around, we could probably use those too. We especially need rear racks. Anything left over will be donated to Yellow Bike.
- Kiddy Trailers – We utilize kiddy trailers to haul our “mobile kitchen” and tools (we need 2).
- Kitty Litter Buckets – We use these as panniers to carry stuff. The heavy gauge plastic ones with square lids are most ideal (e.g. Tidy Cat 35 lb buckets)
- Gear – We could use extra tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, raingear for riders in need.
- Mechanical Skills – If you are handy with bikes, we could use assistance in the final launch leading up to the ride in December.
- Web design – our webpage is out of commission and needs to be started over from scratch.