When most people think of bicycle frames, they have in mind metal or iron bars. Not so, this time round it is the innovative timber technology that exists in Rwanda especially upcountry.
Wooden bicycles are fairly common in Rwanda and they are used pretty much daily for transportation of people and goods, but with the available resources, it is clear that the popularity of the wooden bicycles is gaining momentum upcountry, especially in the Musanze district of Northern province.
People all over the world have designed and built their own wooden bicycles, some for the imaginative value and others for practical use as a mode of alternative transportation.
My recent visit upcountry really exposed me to open minded and hard working people. People with their local technology and resources; have created locally two-wheeled wooden bicycles effortlessly to deal with the transport problems they face.
A bicycle is a symbol of progress for Rwanda’s working class, but only a small number of people can afford the modern bicycle. This has pushed the local people to improvise an alternative, hence coming up with the ideas of a wooden bicycle.
The wooden bicycle plans include patterns and simple instructions for making your own wooden bicycle. Basically made of wood, nothing shot of that.
Most of the wooden bicycles are built for utilitarian purposes like hauling several hundred of kilograms of goods and other items like wood poles and personal belongings to be carried to the market stations or home.
This means of transport is especially used by the farmers and has turned out to be a wonderful non-profit set up to help spread the technology and use of simple load-bearing bicycles.
Makuza Aggrey, got the idea three years ago and being a wood worker, he decided to build a wooden bicycle, you can build a useful wooden bicycle without welding, he said.
“Their designs are inspired by natural shapes and I endeavor to build bicycles with clean shape and quality construction, which are fashioned with wood and compressed with a high-resistance bond for a practical transportation solution”, he further added.
On the road, these bicycles are stable and secure, they do not require a lot of experience to ride, added Makuza
“It is really bad that such technology is left at the village level, the whole country could benefit from technology, in case such people are recognized and invested in, they have the idea but lack funds to go global”, Paul Gahigana, a resident commented.
Ngirinshuti Willy, a resident of Kinihira district and one of the owners of wooden bicycles, said “regardless of their being easy to make, these bicycles are associated with low-cost mobility, compared to the modern today bicycles.”
He added that, these bicycles are the perfect tool for their transport because of its lower maintenance technology and it allows people to manage their own transport communications without excessively involving large investments.
With the scarcity of other transport means within the ares, the wooden bicycles does stand in as a dependable transportation device since many people consider building and modifying them daily.
Hope for a better world shines through the smiles of those people who came up with such technology which has eased the transport problem, people could be suffering from nowadays.
Although the wooden bicycle is centuries old, what was once in fashion always comes back. I personally cannot wait till they come back in fashion. I think wooden bikes should become popular again.
However the wooden bicycles are prototypes and have not been tested by the government for safety therefore riding them would be at the owners risk.