Bamboo Bicycles, Part 2

Team Meeting
Team Meeting

Thank you for joining us as we again look at the Congo Transport to Market Bicycle Project Update. Chuck Regier and Craig Calfee traveled to Congo in July 2015. Last week we learned of their initial observations on the work. This week we continue with the following excerpts taken from their 2015 report. These excerpts have been edited for clarity on our website.

Chuck and Craig began their work with a team meeting (see photo above) to review the project since their visit in 2013. They discussed what worked (click here to see last week’s blog), what the problems were, and how the bikes could be improved.

Damaged bike strapped to back being returned for repairs.
Damaged bike strapped to back being returned for repairs.

Main technical/hardware problems:
• Freewheels were not all functioning. Most bicycles being used in the village had the chains removed when pushing loads—freewheels it appears are not meant to be coasted continuously.
• Infinitely variable hub. Team appreciated having variable speeds, and the basic hub seems to hold up well. Work needed on a simplified more durable shifter to allow effective use of these hubs.
• Most of the brakes had worn out or were not working. We reviewed the process of how brakes should be installed. Brake pads are not expensive. There are lots of replacements in inventory so keeping brakes operational should be possible.

Although the men are examining a loose crank bearing, this photo illustrates the fat tires. Fat tires performed and held up well on the sandy Congo roads.
Inner tube-valve stems broke off-resolved by retrofitting stems of locally available tubes
Inner tube-valve stems broke off, resolved by retrofitting stems of locally available tubes











Other issues:
• Several of the frames showed signs of insect activity and three bicycles had broken chain stays. We repaired all of these frames. How the bamboo is cured and how to treat/protect existing frames both from insects and water will be reviewed.
• Some issues with headset, crank bearings and chain ring connection were observed. Assembly is different than the existing Chinese bicycles. It was confirmed that keeping the crank and headsets adjusted and replacing worn bushings is critical.
• Inventory and storage is a challenge. Small plastic bins were purchased in the market for parts storage and storage organization was discussed. Additional dividers and boxes for this purpose were made. An inventory was developed of all parts in stock, indicating how many bikes could be made with parts on hand, and which parts were short, and a list of the spare parts on hand.
• The existing bamboo bicycles had really been tested to see if the local bamboo could make a true bicycle. People wanted to see how strong they were so they were loaded with up to 700 kilos. When the people understood their bikes and took care of them, they lasted longer.
• There is a market for these bamboo bicycles. People are impressed when they see them and the bikes always draw a crowd.
• Travel can be slow because of the questions and interest from people along the way.
• Team members complained because people want to take their bikes and ride them. Therefore the bicycles must be locked up.
• In addition to the local market around Khoma and UPDAP’s area of operation (UPDAP is the project’s Congolese partner), marketing to larger organizations with interest and capacity to invest for longer term benefits in their own larger country operations should be considered. One bicycle was purchased from the cooperative and taken to Kinshasa to be used to promote the concept and see if other individuals, organizations or businesses would be interested in using and/or producing these transport bicycles.

Join us next Thursday for Part 3 of this series.
©2016 Hope4Congo

Bamboo Bicycles, Part 1

Team in front of the new workshop, Khoma, DRC
Team in front of the new workshop, Khoma, DRC

We’ve written previously about the importance of bicycles to the Congolese people. Subsistence farm families use bicycles to transport items to market. For most rural people bicycles are the best way to deal with the poor road conditions in Congo. This gives them access to services, such as health care.

At Hope4Congo we are committed to keeping you informed about what other ministries are doing in Congo. The following excerpts are taken from the 2015 report on the Congo Transport to Market Bicycle Project. These excerpts have been edited for clarity on our website.

Project Goals
The bicycle project builds on lessons learned over the past five years of work.
• Supply their Congolese partner (UPDAP) with parts for up to 50 bamboo framed bicycles
• Provide training and instruction to establish quality production processes
• Develop a business model for small scale production in Congo

Project Leaders
Chuck Regier and Craig Calfee are the primary project leaders. They are supported by Harlan Bartel, John Schellenberg, Stan Graber, and Cliff Dick.

Report on the 2015 Congo Trip – Initial Observations
Chuck and Craig traveled to Congo in July 2015 to work at maintaining project momentum and direction. They arrived in Kinshasa and flew by MAF to Nyanga.

12234865_517769575059336_8476508910792774586_nAt Nyanga airport, four bamboo bicycles awaited the men to haul their luggage and supplies the seven kilometers to Khoma, DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo). This journey gave the men an introduction to the challenges of maintaining the bikes. It provided their first glimpse of the work ahead of them.

Upon arrival at Khoma, Chuck and Craig saw the nice workshop and new drying oven built by the team at Khoma. The workshop included a small office/reception area and a locked room for inventory supplies. The small oven for drying bamboo (built in 2013) had been replaced with a larger one, which included a good roof. It was pleasing to see this progress on the project.

On the negative side, it has been difficult to keep skilled craftsmen/frame builders on the team without regular work available.12227189_517772908392336_5724312494067694177_n

Reviewing frame assembly
Reviewing frame assembly


Chuck and Craig began their work with a team meeting to review the project since their visit in 2013. They discussed what worked, what the problems were, and how the bikes could be improved.

Things that worked:
• Tires and wheels.
• Overall bicycle design pleased the team
• Ability to push larger loads more easily in the sand and rough roads
• Riding bicycles, they made better time than the standard Chinese models
• Even while carrying 50-100 lb payload they made better time
• Travel longer distances, the bikes have brought merchandise back from Angola
• Overall the frames held up well
• Seats were still in good condition

We will continue the 2015 report from the team meeting here on our blog next Thursday. Please join us.

©2016 Hope4Congo