Rambling about third world bikes
Saw Tarik Saleh's talk/slideshow on Chinese work bikes. Super neat stuff. Definitely shows the bicycle in w completely different light that we are used to. Bikes are so often associated with racing and recreation, but in many parts of the world, they are an everyday tool. Transportation, cargo/delivery vehicle, as a vedor cart - just about anything you can think of.
The bike pictured above is a coal delivery bike. Those are coal pucks, which I guess is a common source of heating and cooking fuel in China. Tarik said some of these heavy load trikes have 2 gears - pedal forward for high gear and pedal *backwards* for low gear. He had a photo of the drivetrain. Opposing freewheels and a big loop of chain to an idler wheel.
And the bikes. They are all super clunky 40 pound piles of heavy steel and stamped sheet. The head and seat tube angles look like they are both about 60 degrees. The brakes don't work. The chainguard eventually rattles apart. The cranks bend and the head tube ovalizes. But they are everywhere.
What I would like is to figure out a way to take this pure workbike aesthetic, and execute it with modern dependable parts. These bikes are being replaced in China by a younger generation buying what we consider Wal Mart bikes. I wish there were a way to make a bike with as much soul, class, and dignity as one of these Chinese bikes, but make it as commonplace and accessible as this generation of Wal Mart bikes. Maybe I should check out Wal Mart and see what can be done. I bet there is something cool... I hope...