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Like the lion, elephant, leopard and rhino, the Cape buffalo is one of Africa’s elite “Big 5” safari animals. Not a quietly grazing pastoral bovine, the Cape buffalo is a large, powerful, fierce, mobile and intimidating beast. Just watch the viral YouTube video “Battle at Kruger” to see how a herd impressively dominates the wild kingdom’s deadliest gang fight. With such stature, it makes sense that World Bicycle Relief named its rugged cargo bike company Buffalo Bicycles Ltd.
Opening image: World Bicycle Relief was founded by F.K. Day, co-founder of SRAM Corporation. Image: Courtesy, WBR.
Honoring the 200th anniversary of the invention of the bicycle, World Bicycle Relief (WBR) has deemed 2017 the “Year of the Bicycle.” It’s also the charity’s 12th anniversary. Founded in 2005 in response to the devastation of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, WBR helped provide 24,000 bikes to displaced survivors. In 2006, the organization donated a further 23,000 bikes to health workers fighting AIDS in Africa. WBR’s mission is to use the bicycle to ensure that distance is no longer a limiting factor to independence and financial wellbeing. To that end, it has now distributed more than 350,000 Buffalo Bicycles to developing regions.
This is not simply a one-way production channel that builds bikes in a factory on one continent to be handed off to riders in another. Rather, WBR creates programs to deliver locally assembled bikes to students, healthcare workers and entrepreneurs. Its outreach has touched people in Africa, South America and Southeast Asia. Buffalo Bicycles, a for-profit subsidiary of WBR, understands that the power of the bike goes well beyond the end-user who rides it. There is an ecosystem as well that creates added benefit to local economies. After all, bikes must be both built and maintained by people in the communities they serve. In this way, the Buffalo becomes a locally empowering cornerstone of social, economic and physical mobility.
Buffalo Bicycles are built to be the strongest in Africa. This bike is designed and tested in regional facilities. Traveling the continent’s rural areas is rugged work. Made of heavy-gauge steel with reinforced spokes, the Buffalo can carry over 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of cargo, making it a true twowheeled beast of burden. And WBR trains field mechanics to maintain the bikes with locally available parts.
The Buffalo is a reminder that the bicycle is a tool for social change, a fact that many of us who ride mostly for leisure might casually overlook. It engenders mobility, which begets opportunity—students get to and from school more quickly, farmers bring goods to market faster and health workers can visit more patients. To give a $147 Buffalo Bicycle, visit the donate page at worldbicyclerelief.org
From issue 70. Buy it here.