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Watch: The indestructible 24kg bicycle that’s changing Africa

Joseph Delves
2 Jun 2017

World Bicycle Relief set to donate 350,000th Buffalo bike in the next few days

It’s two hundred years since the bicycle was invented, but looking at the Buffalo Bicycle it doesn't seem like it can have been that long. Its steel frame and ultra simple single-speed gearing have a distinctly low tech appearance.

However, that doesn’t mean that a huge amount of thought hasn’t gone into its design and manufacture.

Created to be as low maintenance as possible, the Buffalo Bicycle is intended to serve rural communities across Africa.

With the bike being made cheaply available to different projects across the continent, it needs to carefully balance low unit-cost and long term durability.

‘The Buffalo Bicycle is deliberately compatible with locally available spare parts, requiring only basic tools for maintenance and repair.

'World Bicycle Relief operates a field mechanic training programme to help keep the bicycles rolling, using a universal training manual that instructs with pictures and diagrams rather than words,’ explained a spokesperson for the bike’s maker.

‘The specially designed frame, carrier and stand provide the stability needed to support big loads and passengers over long distances in remote areas.

'The short dipping top tube offers a preferred upright riding position for both men and women and allows easier mounting, especially when under load.

'The carrier’s rigidity coupled with the frame make load carrying much more stable. The centre stand simplifies loading for heavy or bulky cargo.’

By the end of last year 48,259 of the bikes were in service across Africa. With a rack ready to carry 100kg+ loads they’re helping businesses and individuals in a host of different ways.

Priscah received a Buffalo bike while in the 6th grade at Chikanda Basic School in Mumbwa District, Central Zambia. Before getting the bicycle, she had to wake up at 5:00am to walk the 8km to school.

‘I used to be tired, doze off and lacked concentration in class,’ she explained.

With the aid of the bike Priscah was able to get an additional hour of sleep each morning. After school, she used the bike to get home in time to study and accomplish her chores.

Priscah wants to continue studying and become a doctor. After she graduated from school the bicycle passed to her brother, who carries two younger siblings on the back, allowing them to reach school quickly too.

Priscah’s parents, who own a small farm, also use the bike to carry produce to sell at market. The extra income they’ve earned has allowed them to pay the children's school fees and develop their business.

This year World Bicycle Relief has made a big push to up the number of Buffalo bikes in service.

A bike month campaign this May saw them get within a hundred units of their 350,000 bicycle target.

For more information on the project and the bicycle, along with the chance to donate the final bike, head over to worldbicyclerelief.org

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