Tag Archives: wooden bikes

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.

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

ChipIn: Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania

Wooden Bikes


I think I may have found the most technologically appropriate bike for the Tour d’Afrique. It’s made of wood and weighs about forty pounds. But you don’t have to worry about punctures or broken spokes.

I saw a couple of these on display when I went to the National Museum in Dar a couple of days ago, fantastic pieces of sculpture – and they work (this guy is actually in Rwanda and not one of the ones I saw, but you get the idea). The two bikes at the museum that I did see had seen good use. One was made of sawn lumber, was painted canary blue, had the pedals off an old Chinese Phoenix and a real chain. The other was made of four-inch diameter branches chosen because they had approximately the right shapes for frame and handlebars, a wooden crank and pedals, and a chain made of rope – amazing piece of bush engineering. These things are used in the bush and ridden on mud and sand as well as tarmac. They are solid and heavy and often used instead of a wheelbarrow or pull cart to carry heavy loads.

I can’t imagine riding one for more than a couple of miles though. The saddle was just a lump of wood, no padding at all. And it was small. It would tear you apart.  I don’t even want to think about the possibility of splinters. The only brake was a piece of wood that you could press against the back wheel, also wood, with the heel of your right foot.  I imagine that at 60kmh going down hill there is a very real chance of ignition. I have broken a few wheels but I have never had one burst into flames underneath me.

I googled wooden bikes and got 24,600,000 hits. So somebody must be doing it.  Unless it’s code for some fetish I’m not aware of.