A standard bicycle adapted for carrying cargo in Nicaragua.

Time and time again we’ve seen within the rural communities of the developing world how bicycles provide a highly effective and affordable means to accessing markets, clinics and schools.

Founded a decade ago, Worldbike  is an organisation that has taken this notion and developed it one step further, designing and distributing low-cost cargo machines, built with large loads, local materials – and most importantly – a realistic budget in mind.

If the design looks familiar, it might be that you’ve seen its alter ego, the pickup-like Xtracycle. A nifty addition to a standard bicycle, the Xtracycle bolts onto the chainstays of the frame, increasingly the wheelbase and effectively transforms it into a herculean cargo machine.

Tailored to more affluent markets, the Xtracycle adaptor is in fact an offshoot of the original project, one that traces its roots to founder Ross Evans’ time in Nicaragua in 1995. There, as a Stanford engineering student, he developed the idea for a simple, sustainable and locally made load hauler, using existing parts to hand.

 

A fleet of Big Boda load carrying bikes in Kenya; the cargo-adaptor is welded locally, and finished using leaves of the papyrus plant.

 

: Worldbike founder Ross Evans in South Africa, 1998.

The need is certainly there. In so many parts of the world a bicycle is pressed into services far beyond its original design – often carrying passengers and heavy loads over rough terrain. The benefits of a cargo extension that’s rugged, reliable and uses readily available spares abound. For a farmer, it can reduce costs and boost productivity. Within the medical field, it can bring services to people and people to services – which in turn has been shown to improve maternal health and reduce infant mortality. A bicycle – particularly one that’s built for challenging terrain and load hauling – can reach places too distant to walk to efficiently, opening up education and work opportunities in the process.

 

The Big Boda load carrying bike at work in Kisumu, Kenya.

 

Entrepreneurial opportunities.

 

Schoolchildren transport is a good business.

Over the years, the organisation has worked in small-scale development programs in Cuba, Mexico, Rwanda, Senegal and Thailand, honing its designs, and streamlining the distribution of low-cost bicycles that increase economic opportunities, improve health and help with education.

 

Photo credits: Worldbike and Ed Lucero.