From Burning Man to Namibia: Loop Cycles makes bikes that don't suck

Loop Bikes sells bicycles for Burning Man, which are then shipped to Africa for a second life at no cost

​Melbourne-based Kiwi Tommy Ashby has dreamt up a loopily awesome scheme: purpose-made bikes for the legendary Burning Man festival that are then sent to Africa where they enjoy a second, useful life. 

loop bikes burning man africa

He and a group of friends attended Burning Man in Nevada for the first time last year, a place where they say a bike is a must to get around. But at the end of the event those bikes were left discarded in heaping piles - and they did the same, having bought the cheapest bikes they could find State-side then ditching them to jump on a plane back home. (That, of course, totally clashes with Burning Man's 'leave no trace' ethos.)

In the process of cooking up a better solution, they connected with Pat Montani, founder of Bicycles for Humanity – the largest distributor of used bikes for aid in Africa. And Loop Cycles was born.  

Loop's unisex bikes are heavy duty, designed to last the distance with the end user in mind with solid steel and rubber. But they're fun as well as practical (think glow in the dark paint!). 

Buyers order online, pick up their bike in Reno and then drop it back after Burning Man. A container of bikes will then be shipped to the Bicycles For Humanity team in Namibia, where they'll be freely distributed locally, helping people get to work, school and more. The container itself will also be turned into a "shop-in-a-box" filled with tools, spare parts and training material on bicycle maintenance.

Ashby, a bike designer at Lekker (which along with Bicycles for Humanity is subsidising the Loop bikes), says so far Loop has been directly targeting groups going to Burning Man as well as related blogs and websites to drive sales. 

He hopes people will grasp the concept and its multi-user lifespan as a whole. They see Burning Man attendees as patrons or stewards of the bikes, before they move to their final home. As the Loop site sums it up: "With a chain-store bike you create problems, with our system you solve them."

Ashby says they need to sell 450 bikes (a container load's worth) but they'd be stoked to hit 1,000 in this first year.

"One container is enough to make the project work and be interesting, but two containers will really make a big difference and make it very interesting!"

He'll be back at Burning Man this year and is heading over a few weeks early in order to organise things on the Loop bikes front.

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