Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Thanks Dahon!!!

(Joshua Dahon is on the right)

I wanted to thank Dahon Bicycles for all their hard work to finish these bicycles before the end of the coffee season. The 1,000 bicycles that Dahon built that are currently being ridden by farmers in these cooperatives were just a drawing last September. I remember that last September I was here in Rwanda with my father meeting with farmers talking about the design, and now 8 months later they are being ridden by those farmers. It took alot of effort from many people to have them done in time; Tom, those at Project Rwanda like John Frechette, Tim at SPREAD and Joshua Dahon at Dahon Bicycles. So, thanks all!!!!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Karaba Update with the Coffee Bike Program

I just sat down with the Karaba president and the coffee bicycle accountant to speak about how the coffee bike program has been going the past week and a half/two weeks. They have about 60 or so bicycles running at the moment.

Both described how nearly all the farmers have abided by their contracts and are bringing in the coffee on time for the early "coffee bike" washing time (3pm). With 60 bicycles they have already seen a ton increase in this early washing time in comparison to last year. And there are other coffee farmers that have ordinary bicycles bringing their coffee before 3pm in order to show that they can obey the program in order to hopefully receive a coffee bike in the future. Also with these coffee farmers using their normal bicycles they are being more faithful to the cooperative and not selling so much to other competing private coffee companies. (There are 2 competing private washing stations that have persuaded Karaba coffee farmers to sell to them because they offer cash on the spot.)

The bikes are an absolute rave. I hear every time I go to the cooperatives about how people think that they are so great, that people that bought coffee bikes and owned the ordinary/Chinese bicycles sold their ordinary/Chinese because they saw no need to keep it around. People are amazed by the simple fact of riding up hills, or carrying people and cargo on the back of the bicycles or carrying so much coffee down the hill. On average there is 120-150 kilos of coffee being transported to the washing station at Karaba on the back of coffee bicycles.

Even though the bikes are a hit, they are however not a 100% perfect. There are many cases of flat tires, loose bottom brackets and people flipping over the bars due to not being accustomed to the super powerful brakes (we are working on this in the education given at the distribution of the bicycles).

The second set of 500 is coming out of customs tomorrow, and Monday it will start all again.

The picture is of an old farmre buying the bicycle, quite a charatcher.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Finished the first 500 bikes!!!!

Wow, i just checked the last of the 500 bikes about 20 minutes ago. 13 days of building with 23-24 mechanics. The least in one day was 24, the most in one day was 62, the average was right around 50.

I gave them all their own multi-tool that they were working with for the two weeks. They will be the ones that everyone know can work on these bikes, I think these tools are in the best hands.

Thanks to Chris and Joe for all their hard work!!!

The next 500 got into customs, should be out in two week, then another 10-13 days of building will ensue. I think that we can build them all in 10 days.

I am going to enjoy an afternoon off now.


Friday, May 4, 2007

Tool List and Pictures from Maraba Distribution

Thanks for the eager and quick responses from my latest blog entry, very encouraging. Thanks for wanting to help and I look forward to what you all come up with. We have to think though how we will get these tools over to Rwanda. I will try to coordinate with those coming over here and you all can send the tools to them. And if you raise money we can approach Park Tools or through Quality Bicycle Products to buy them at wholesale or possibly have them donated.

The tool list is as follows. They all have addresses to the Park Tool website for visuals. Note: I do not need the specific ones that i am showing you, they are only examples.

1) A Muiti-tool is of the greatest importance. Because it has many tools into one. The main tools in it are a 4, 5, and 6 mm allen/hex wrenches. They also have flathead screwdrivers and philips head screwdrivers. Other important allen/hex wench sizes are 2.5, and 8 mm. It would be ideal for all farmers to have one of these, or if that is not realistic at the moment, which it kinda is, then as many as are possible.

-I know the above might sound pretty confusing to those that have no idea about bike tools, so the individual tools that i listed that comprise of a multi-tool can also be found by themselves. Allen/hex wrenches look like these, OR

-Of these individual tools i mentioned in muiti-tool, the 2.5, 5 and 6 mm allen/hex wrench are the most important by far. But the 5mm is the needed of these three. Then the 8 mm is the next most nessisary, then the screwdrivers.

2) Bottom Bracket Tools (the bearings where your cranks are, that make you spin your legs a'round and a'round. These tools are,
A) 20 tooth SISI Bottom Bracket tools, these are typically used for Shimano Bottom Brackets.
B)15mm socket wrench for crank arm bolts, also called a crank wrench.
C) Crank Pullers (a tool that pulls the crank arms off of the bottom bracket spindle).
D) Spanner, or a Bottom Bracket Lock Ring tool.

3) Chain Tool -

4) Cassette Tool/shimano style freewheel remover.

5) Pumps with for Schrader valves.

Thanks all for wanting to have information to run with on this need. I hope this helps.

The Pictures: Today was a long day, I distributed 100 bicycles at Maraba. It was chaotic!!! It was exciting. It took nearly all day. These pictures are of the farmers signing the contract before receiving the bicycle, then the other one is looking out onto the distribution. Then my camera ran out of batteries so I couldn't take any shots outside. There will be outside distribution shots shortly.

I have to say that when I rode home in the back of a large truck that we used to transport the bikes to the cooperative, I was able to see people riding their coffee bikes home. They has people on the back of them. It is really cool to see.

In two days the first 500 bicycles will be built, then throughout next week we are going to distribute. Whoo Hooo!!!

Talk to you all later.


Thursday, May 3, 2007

A need from the Coffee Bike Crew, a word from Jay Ritchey (SPREAD-USAID) and Chris Huff-Hanson & Joe Goemaat (Scallywags)

From Jay:

Dear supporters,

As many of you know through the blog, we in the Coffee Bike Program are in the middle of building our first batch of 500 coffee bicycles. The past week and a half working alongside these 23 Rwandan mechanics has been an amazing time for Chris, Joe and I. The friendships we are developing, the equal exchange of ideas and skills and their ability to amaze us by their dedication and improvement in building these bicycles will not be forgotten. They are excited about bringing these bicycles to the masses just like we are.

As we move along in the program there are challenges that we have to adjust for and address. Many of these adjustments we can handle inside Rwanda, without the help from outside. But there are aspects that need outside help to ensure the longevity of these bicycles and the program. Chris and Joe coming over here to assist building the first 500 is a perfect example. Their skills working on bicycles similar to these coffee bikes was essential in maintaining a quality level of built bicycles to sell to farmers, and their skills of these bicycles were spread over the 23 mechanics whom will be the future maintainers of the bicycles.

Currently we are confronting a new imminent issue that has to be solved with the help from outside. The issue is the reality that there are far less tools and pumps than are needed to maintain these bicycles in these cooperatives. You may ask, why are there not enough tools and pumps? And why didn’t Jay prepare for this obvious upcoming need? Well I could shoot off a list of excuses and blame them on other people, and those people could equally divert the blame onto other people, aspects or me. Let’s just say it is complicated working in a project here in Rwanda, having to coordinate with Texas A&M university and Project Rwanda in the U.S. and it all fall into place by sourcing and shipping it from China and Taiwan. It was a learning experience and the mistakes are noted and we will try to prepare of it better next time. But regardless of how it happened the fact is that we still have the need. This is where the help from outside comes in.

The tools needed to repair these bicycles are not available in this country, even Allen wrenches are difficult to find and when they are they are extremely expensive ($3 for a “L” shaped 5mm). And Rwanda is a landlocked country, without railroad and 45 days sea freight from China. It is a challenge to get anything here. In the long run I think that it would be a good idea of raise funds in the U.S. through groups that are excited and wanting to be involved in the program to sponsor a coffee bike shop in Rwanda or farmers. They would donate a certain amount for a set of tools for a bike shop or a multi-tool and pump for a farmer and then have them shipped from Asia when the shipment is large enough to justify the shipping of a ’20 or ‘40 container. But at the moment we cannot wait this long. So what I am proposing is that with the help of you in the U.S. to assemble sets of tools that you either collect yourselves or have donated from local bike shops, wholesalers (QBP) or manufacturers (Park in Minneapolis). And with these tools find someone who is coming to Rwanda in the near future to carry them, like those from Bull Run roasters, or Bikes To Rwanda, those from Saddleback, Jacob from Berkley and his father and friends.

So what do you all think? Could you help with this?

Now, thinking more long term…

In about a month and a half or two months there are 1,000 more coffee bicycles coming to Rwanda. With this shipment there are spare parts and tools accounting for 2,000 bicycles. These spare parts and tools, however, are limited and will diminish with time and it will be in the best interest of the program to keep this inventory replenished.

I am looking in Asia currently to find good quality multi-tools that would be ideal for sponsoring a farmer or a group of farmers. They will cost about $1.00, without shipping. We can find pumps for about $3.00. I think this might be a good program for the years ahead.

I am also working on a sponsorship program for spare parts where groups can sponsor a “bike shop package” that includes spare parts that will last for a year or so. After this coffee season and the use of the coffee bikes we can better understand the amounts and proportions of these spare parts that we will need for a certain number of coffee bikes.

These more long terms ideas that I just described are open for comments and suggestions, they are just ideas that I am working on, that some of you might run with and find ways of achieving them.

Please write me and give me any suggestions that you may have.



Jay Ritchey


From Chris and Joe:

Thank you QBP and Park Tool for your tool donation. Your donations have been absolutely vital to us getting these 500 bikes on the ground.

Affordable shipping is a huge challenge here. Quality Bicycle Products, are you able to offer a lower price in shipping tools and pumps to Rwanda than DHL or other airfreight companies who charge about $700/lb. Also would you be willing to ask for tool donations with the shops and connections you have?

To our friends at shops in Minneapolis, this is a great way to do what you do best and to get behind a great cause to get people on bicycles. Shaun, Gene, Hurl, Scallywags, Greasepit, we are talking to you.

-Chris & Joe

Sunday, April 29, 2007

First Distribution

Yesterday the coffee bike program had its first bike distribution in the Karaba cooperative. I brought 47 bicycles to the coop, and unfortunately due to an earlier rain in the day only half the people showed up to receive the bikes. The ones who did receive them were briefed on the contract, paid the down payment and became oriented to the bikes. The farmers surround the bikes and were told via my interpreter, Douglas and Isabella, the new aspects of the bike. The farmers jumped on and began grinding the gears up hills, slamming on the brakes and locking up the wheels. Nothing got hurt, both the farmers and the bikes.

They were very excited accepting them and riding them as they realized the difference of the bicycles that they were used to and the new ones they were riding. For me, it was a great experience and I saw that all this was actually falling into place. I, however, was so tired at that point from building the bikes the week prior and organizing the distribution to really appreciate it, or show excitement for it at the distribution. But after driving home in the latter hours of the day leaving 25 farmers with these bikes behind made me have a sense of achievement.

We are also going to keep distributing this week and hopefully get about 200 bikes.

The top picture is some farmers posing with their new bikes. The second picture is a wooden bike juxtaposed to the coffee bike, both the old and the new way of transporting goods.

Thanks for your comments and encouragement throughout this time!!!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Bike Building Picutres

I took these this morning. We are at about 100 bikes.