Tag Archives: bike manufacturing

A bicycle made of cardboard?

My brother Doug sent me a curious article about an Israeli engineer named Izhar Gafni who has developed a bicycle made of cardboard. He says everything apart from the brakes and chain is cardboard – including the seat. The cardboard is covered with a waterproof resin and painted. He claims the machine is durable, waterproof and costs only £10 to produce. The bike is apparently stronger then carbon fibre and can carry riders weighing up to 220 kilograms. It weighs only 9 kilograms. Gafni says the ‘bike is going to be cheap and available to any child in the world, including children in Africa who walk dozens of miles to school every day.’

Don’t know how it can cost only £10 with all that polymer and paint. A good chain can cost 3 times the suggested build price. What about tires, peddles, hubs and bottom bracket. Are these also cardboard? Doesn’t look like it in the picture. And think of the carbon footprint: processing all that wood fibre into paper then recycling it into cardboard then reusing it to build a bike. Bamboo seems a more direct route.

An ingenious and  fascinating bit of innovation. Think I’ll stick with the croix de fer.

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It’s Black! Not White!

It’s Friday evening. I’m in London. This morning I visited Damian at C&N cycles. He is getting my new bike and setting it all up for me. When I ordered the Genesis croix de fer I ordered the 2012 edition. It was white. But they had stopped making it and were out of stock. So I am getting the new 2013 edition, which has just begun to come off the production line. And guess what? The 2013 edition is not white, as the croix de fer has been for a number of years, it is black. Wow! It looks great. The spec is essentially the same but they have redesigned the look. Should be perfect for a ride across the dark continent. I also finalized the spares list with Damian. So everything should be set.

I will be in Amsterdam this coming week but back in London next Thursday, when I hope to be able to touch the new bike for the first time.  We will then get it all fit properly and boxed up ready to go to Tanzania. I won’t be able to take it back with me because I will be traveling back through Ghana and South Africa. But fortunately Georgina is also in London at the moment and is going back to Tanzania on September 22. She has offered to take it back with her.  Hopefully we can make this work. If not I will have to pick it up when I am back in London in November.  Very exciting. It is all starting to feel real.

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Bikes: Just get me to Zambia

I know I have now ordered my bike for the TdA. And I am really looking forward to getting my Genesis croix de fer. And I know that one of the major selection criteria was whether or not it would get me all the way from Cairo to Cape Town. But I am feeling a little less anxious today because I have just been introduced to a bike manufacturer in Zambia that is making brilliant bamboo bikes. So now all I need to do is get to Zambia on the croix de fer. If I break down there I can pick up a bamboo Zambike for the rest of the trip. Check them out at http://www.zambikes.org/ . An impressive story. Zambikes is “a social business that manufactures, assembles and distributes high quality bicycles, bicycle ambulances and cargo bicycle trailers to the underprivileged, empowering individuals to fight the mindset of poverty and address the economic and social needs of Zambia.” Zambikes was started by Dustin McBride and Vaughn Spethmann who visited Zambia on a University lead trip in 2004 and recognised the need for high quality bicycles, not only in Zambia but throughout Africa. While participating in an Azusa Pacific University class for entrepreneurs in 2006 they developed a business plan, and in 2007 launched the business in Zambia. Since Zambikes’ launch in 2007, they have:

  • Assembled and delivered over 8,000 bicycles
  • Employed an average of over 30 Zambians
  • Custom designed and manufactured over 900 Zambulances and Zamcarts
  • Built over 300 custom Bamboo frames
  • Purchased 20 acres of land in Lusaka West and built our warehouse and community center
  • Provided education sponsorships for over 15 staff members

Gotta get one.

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More and more bikes (3)

Here is a good example of the way in which bikes are becoming symbols of exclusivity instead of inclusivity. This is from an ad on Craigs List from ‘a dude in SAN LUIS OBISPO’ trying to sell a ‘fixie’ (The language itself is a sign of exclusion. What’s a ‘fixie’? A ‘fixie’ is a fixed wheel bike. That is, it cannot coast because the back wheel is fixed. As long as the bike is moving the pedals keep going round and round. It has only one gear and no brakes. You stop by pushing back on the pedals and skidding. Most bikes when I was skid were a type of ‘fixie’ but they had a coaster brake, that is a brake in the rear hub activated by pedaling backwards.)

Anyway, here is the ad:

I tried so hard. I dated a girl from Portland. I criticized cheese. I applied the term artisanal to every inanimate object that went in or on my body. I burned and singed my forearms just to make it look like I was going to culinary school. I grew Carol Brady hair. I got itchy from the finest flannel and I cut off circulation from the waist down with jeans that made my ass look like an elevator button.

… And I rode a fixie.

No more. It’s all gotta go. The hair, the macrame, the texting overages, the Netflix and Hulu Plus. The record collection (have you ever tried to box up and move an effin stack of LPs?!) … and the bike.

This guy seems to have had no interest at all in cycling. He only seems to have been interested in the ‘exclusivity’ it lent him and what it supposedly said about him – or should I say his ‘brand’.

But he’s changing, so I guess it’s back to basics for this ‘dude’ (does he need to meet Grant Petersen?). Or is it just brand repositioning?

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More and more bikes

According to one source, “there are more than a billion bicycles in the world, twice as many as automobiles. In recent years bike production has climbed to over 100 million per year (compared to 50 million cars).”

Go to  http://www.worldometers.info/bicycles/ to see up to date data on bicycle production.

One would like to think that this means that bikes are overtaking cars and that the real answer to climate change is the bicycle. Not really.

Unfortunately the usage trend may be going the other way. China is the biggest owner of bikes with over half a billion on the road. But if you have been to China lately you will have seen that roads that used to be rivers of bicycles twenty years ago are now clogged with cars.

The Japanese, Korean and Indian car manufacturers all see China as their major growth market, to say nothing of the emergence of new Chinese manufacturers.  Some facts published in the Daily Telegraph in Aug 2011:

  • In 2009, China surpassed the US as the largest auto manufacturing and consuming country in the world.
  • In 2010 China’s automobile output and sales volume both exceeded 18 million, setting a new world record.
  • Currently, there are more than 72 million private cars on the road in China, and a total of 217 million vehicles.
  • In 1999 the country had just under 4,000 miles of motorway, now it has more than 40,000 miles.
  • A total of 11 cities, including Beijing, Shenzen, Shanghai, Chengdu and Tianjin, have more than 1 million cars.
  • Beijing itself has more than 4.6 million cars, and recently introduced restrictions on the purchase and use of vehicles in an attempt to limit pollution and congestion.
  • There are now 60 private cars for every 100 families in the country.

This is happening in Africa as well. According to one estimate, there were 36,000 cars in all of Tanzania in 2001. There are now close to 30,000 cars arriving at the port of Dar Es Salaam every month and there are now 1 million registered cars in Dar Es Salaam for a population of 4 million.

Bikes never really took off in Africa the way they did in China – in spite of their popularity is some pockets. As an Economist article from 2008 said: “Africans tend to turn their back on bikes as soon as they can afford anything with an engine.”

And if you have a car you tend to use it. The widely accepted average for car use is 12,000 to 15,000 miles a year.  How many miles did you ride on your bike last year? Too many bikes sit in the garage or shed unused from one week or month to the next.

Bikes and cars also compete for the same road space. Who do you think will win? Research done in Australia shows that 87% of car/bike accidents are caused by cars.

In the UK in 2011, 107 cyclists died as a result of accidents involving motor vehicles and over 19,000 were injured. In the US in 2010, 618 died and 52,000 were injured. And these stats come from countries that take bicycle safety seriously and provide bikes lanes.  I don’t have stats for China or Africa. I don’t think I want to see them. But a month ago, here in Dar, a friend was knocked off her bike by a water truck. She is now ok. It could have been much worse. But it is symptomatic.

So what do manufacturing numbers really tell us? In general, bicycle riding is shifting from transport and work to leisure and sport. In developing countries those who can afford it leapfrog to anything with an engine as soon as they can. In emerging nations that once depended on the bike, cars are taking over. In developed nations lots of people have good intentions about getting fit. And there must be storage sheds full of bikes somewhere. What will the Martians think.

Don’t forget to donate to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

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