Bikes for Africa
Have you ever cleared out the shed and ended up with a load of stuff too good to throw away but too old to use on your current bike? Planned obsolescence is a sad fact of our modern world and although I like a new bike as much as the next man, there comes a point when you need to fix stuff rather than bin it. Well seeing as it's that 'charitable time of year' how about pulling out some old stuff (or better still some money) and getting it over to Merlin Matthews at Re~Cycle.
The story behind Re~Cycle
While Merlin Matthews was studying managemnt at the London School of Economics (LSE), he became Dr Bike (a Student Union Society), fixing bikes in exchange for beers on Friday evenings. Nice work if you can get it.
Jo Dufort approached him for some advice about starting up a bike factory in Haiti, as she had seen the need for cheap, pollution free transport for the masses. Merlin decided it was such a good idea, he would like to help.
He later realised that there are lots of bikes being thrown away which could be fixed. He was going to set up this project on his own and envisaged getting a "process" established in the UK, then spending most of his time in Haiti running the workshop. Even nicer work if you can get it!
Over time, he realised that he would be of more use to the Haitians and people in other countries if he spent most of the time in the UK, fund-raising, sorting out the bikes and shipping them. The really big break came when Re~Cycle found out about that a US charity called the ITDP had been doing the same work in Haiti for 10 years. As they were a nonprofit organization, merlin decided to work with them and learn from their extensive experience. Re~Cycle now focuses on Africa, as the US organisations can 'service' Latin America.
To learn more about Re~Cycle check out their website here
Kona's 'AfricaBike' Plan
The Kona Bicycle Company has always designed bikes for specific riders' needs. Kona bicycles have been piloted to World Championship titles, National Championships titles and World Cup victories. But, in partnering with USA Bicycling Magazines BikeTown Africa project and BristolMyers Squibb, Kona has embarked upon the design of what could be the most important bicycle the company has ever developed.
Kona's Design Group has assembled a bike that will address the challenges southern Africa presents, including rough, unpaved roads, diverse terrain, long distances, thorns, and general lack of service personnel and facilities.
The AfricaBike will be a 26 wheeled, singlespeed, stepthrough frame design, with a Shimano coaster brake, chain guard, comfort saddle and basket. As well, Kona is working with Kenda to develop a special edition, punctureresistant tire that will withstand the rough terrain the bicycles will travel over.
The Kona AfricaBike will address the unique needs and demanding conditions that health care workers will face in treating HIV and AIDS patients in two Botswana cities, Bobonong and the capital city of Gaborone. More than 200 of the speciallydesigned will be delivered in late March 2006. The research, design, development and delivery of the Kona AfricaBikes will be documented at www.konabiketown.com