Have you ever met one of those people? You know, a person that you just can’t seem to stop thinking “how is it possible that you are THAT?” THAT – interesting, strong, caring, hardworking, beautiful, amazing…..the list goes on and on! I met Erin Machan over a margarita in Las Vegas during Interbike this past year. I was instantly drawn to her. We both had to cut our first meeting short in order to get back into the trade show for more appointments, funny enough we had an appointment with each other just 30 minutes later at the ZOIC booth where Erin works as the Community Marketing Manager.
Erin is not only great at her job at Zoic, but she has co-founded the non-profit called Project Bike Love. She magically bends time to not only have a full-time job, be an awesome athlete, but also co-run Project Bike Love with her amazing co-founder, Belen Ramirez (a physician and aid worker with Doctors Without Borders.) These two power women work to deliver bikes to women in need.
“We want every woman who needs or wants a bike to have a bike. Not only will we bring bikes to this community but we will have the bikes purchased or made in Paraguay. We want the entire local economy to benefit. The best part.. we are going to deliver them and so could you as a Project Bike Love ambassador!” -Erin Machan, PBL
CJ- When did you get started planning for this years shipment? How do the two of you co-founders split up the work?
EM- We started right after our delivery last year. We had a good idea after the first delivery what we needed to do so we jumped right into it. Well, Belen jumped right into the logistics of delivery and I jumped into fundraising, marketing and event planning. That’s basically how we split everything. Belen is the logistics queen. She makes miracles, plans shipment, bike purchasing, over seas partnerships, and the list goes on and on. I handle our marketing, events, PR and fundraising.
CJ- When are you leaving, how long will you stay in Paraguay this time?
EM- Belen leaves in a week! I go dec 15 and only for a week this time. Luckily we have a lot of help in Paraguay now so we can use those resources to help us with deliveries and we don’t have to go and spend as much time and money on the deliveries. We do our best to spend as little money as possible outside of the actual bikes and delivery.
CJ- How many bikes do you plan on distributing? Where do the bikes come from?
EM- We plan to distribute 40-50 this December and then another 40-50 in March of next year. We get the bikes from a local distributer Chacomer. Last year we went with a single speed cruiser bike that we put baskets on and they ran out so we had to use a geared bike, it was a nicer bike but we want a really simple bike so the women aren’t having to deal with gear issues. This year we had some issues getting the bikes we really wanted again so we are going to have to go with the geared bike. Ideally we’d like to get to a point where we get the bikes we wanted distributed just for our deliveries, but that’s probably not going to happen in a couple of weeks.
CJ- What is still needed? (assuming its $$$- how much?)
EM- We need about another $3k for the delivery next month. Luckily we fundraise up until the day we leave. By March we’ll need another $5k to make that delivery happen. (You can donate $ or purchase PBL gear to help here)
CJ- How many applications did you receive and how do the ladies apply?
EM- We received over 100 applications. We partner with some NGO’s in Paraguay that help with picking beneficiaries. They do it many different ways some earn points, some send in letters. They run the communities in a way that is very cultural to them, so to avoid interfering we let them handle that locally. It works out best that way so we don’t accidentally interfere with the community rules.
CJ- What is the most difficult part of PBL?
EM- This question makes me laugh… it’s so hard to answer. It really is the most rewarding thing I have ever been a part of however the challenges are huge. When you are up to big things you have big problems so I embrace them. I’d say the biggest difficulties are fundraising and time. It’s hard to run a full-time company with part-time availability and everyone is volunteer. My partner and I don’t have any issue giving all our extra time to the mission but it’s been challenging to get others to really give it the same dedication so she and I do 90% of the work.
CJ- How hard is it knowing that some of us here in the US have 2-3 bikes in the garage (sometimes more) with an average value of $3000-5000 (sometimes more) that only get ridden a few times a week for FUN?
EM- That’s the EXACT motivation that started PBL. When I got that I could transform another human’s life with the amount of money I spend on bike stuff in a week, I realized I was going to start giving back that minute and in a big way. I want others to get it to. We live in our own worlds and don’t really think about how little most of the people in this world have. A $100 bike gives these women HOURS back to their days. A bike transforms their lives, their communities, their families, their income, it’s seriously amazing to get connected to that reality and I just wish more people got that.
CJ- What is the best story from last years bikes deliveries?
EM- There are so many!!! It was surreal and I kept having to pinch myself, like “is this really me, traveling in a 3rd world country in buses and boats to deliver bikes” The best story is when we had to take an 8 hour bus ride through muddy dirt roads, to an hour boat ride, to then be picked up in the Chaco by a priest who then took us to stay with the nuns while we prepared for the delivery. These nuns made us food, kissed our faces, they even drank some beers with the girls. They were adorable and amazing. I even had a nun grab my face in her hands and say “god sent you to us”. I seriously couldn’t believe how this little dream of mine could turn into this sort of love and gratitude.
CJ- How many tears are shed between reading the applications, delivering the bikes and coming back to the US knowing the lives you’ve changed?
EM- Enough to cure the California drought! I cried and cried. I remember we were staying with the nuns and they had wifi, out in the middle of nowhere and I had an article sent to me that Liv had stated Project Bike Love as one of the best girls & bikes charities to donate to for #GivingTuesday. I was crying so hard and snotting and Belen was filming me! This mission still moves me daily. There’s an amazing transformation that happened when I realized all I wanted was to leave the world a little better than I found it before I die.
CJ- How do you see Project Bike Love changing in future years?
EM- Growing, but never losing the vision of the hands on approach. We want to give more bikes to more beneficiaries in more places around the world with big partners but keeping our personal approach. The bike is the tool that they use in their lives but it’s our deliveries that really empowers them and transforms their lives. To have us come in and share letters and stories from all the people in the US that care about these women and their lives is moving to these women in a way I can’t even explain. It’s magic.
To learn more about Project Bike Love be sure to check out this video, and donate whatever you can to make a difference.
With over 25 years of experience as a physical therapist Coach Tricia, DPT is over the revolving door of injuries and illnesses that could be prevented with the appropriate techniques. Through her work, she realizes that bodies do not come with an instruction manual and it is not common for clients to see why one of their parts is not functioning well. Tricia also owns Killercoach Academy and is inspired to lead the revolution of health engineering by teaching people how to prevent injury and illness NOW! Tricia is well-armed and inspired to keep athletes pushing their boundaries without unnecessary setbacks.
What is a sustainable mountain biking body and how do you get one? Follow along with our Doctor of Physical Therapy co-founder and Coach Tricia