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7 December 2012 No comments
World Bicycle Relief In Zambia.Videos Bicycles Stories
Cycling in rural Zambia, one is more likely to have use for a beefy, 1950s-style single speed roadster with coaster brake than a lightweight modern carbon fibre superbike. It was with this in mind that SRAM co-founder F.K. Day immersed himself some years ago in the "unlearning process" and put The Buffalo, flagship model for the charity organization World Bicycle Relief, into production. The WBR project took shape in 2004 after Day had been instrumental in distributing 25,000 bicycles to victims of the tsunami which hit Sri Lanka that year. He began to look around for other places that might benefit from having a program in place to lease a cheap and sturdy bicycle to anyone who thought they or their family would benefit from having the use of one. Weighing over three and a half stone, the bike is easy to maintain, extremely tough and incredibly simple. Enabling children to make otherwise unfeasible round trips to and from school, and helping farmers transport livestock, it's a machine that has both enriched and secured life in the region. Locating and fitting replacement parts, or having even the most rudimentary bike repairs performed is a tall order for cyclists in much of the country, so from the very start primary focus for the project was on delivering a near-to-zero maintenance, bomb-proof bicycle. That said, irrespective of a bike's sturdiness, things break and at some point certain parts tend to need replacing. To this end, Day initiated a field mechanic program parallel to the bike program itself, which provided the training and infrastructure to support a network of mechanics and parts suppliers around the country. The WBR program is a better advertisement (but not quite as well a funded one) for the bicycle than the Tour de France. It exemplifies the gifts which two human powered wheels can bestow on their rider, but for those of us in the developed world, it reflects them through a magnifying mirror. In much of Zambia bikes provided by WBR have become the difference between learning to read and write or not, getting fresh water to drink or not, and making it home alive or not. In this regard we respectfully suggest that there's no reason for waiting until Christmas to make a small donation.