Tour de Lab September 1st

Inspired by farmer, locals start Bikes to Rwanda

Posted by on October 17th, 2006 at 7:44 am

Bikes to Rwanda flyer

[Benefit event flyer]

Stumptown Coffee founder Duane Sorenson makes regular trips to farms around the world to source his prized beans. On a recent trip to a coffee co-op in Rwanda, he asked one of the farmers if there was anything Stumptown could do to help them out.

The answer? He just wanted a bike.

This request resonated with Sorenson and with the help of some of his bike-loving clientele back in Portland, Bikes to Rwanda was born.

The new group’s mission is to,

“Provide cargo bicycles to co-operative coffee farmers in Rwanda. The goal is to improve quality of life in these communities through a bike workshop and maintenance program that provides transportation resources for basic needs and enhances production of quality coffee.”

Not only would bikes offer reliable and cheap transportation, but according to Bikes to Rwanda they can have a huge impact on the farmer’s lives,

“Bicycles will allow the farmers to move coffee cherries from harvest through the various stages of washing and sorting, quickly allowing for a greater percentage of the harvest to be premium coffee. Premium coffee fetches a much higher market price, which in turn raises the wages of the coffee farmers. Bicycles will also help the farmers bring other crops to local markets, provide a means of transportation, and perhaps most importantly, as many Portlanders will tell you, add a little bit of fun to daily life.”

[Cargo bikes needed.]
Photo: Bikes to Rwanda

Much of the energy behind Bikes to Rwanda comes from local bike messengers, which is not surprising considering the popularity of Stumptown Coffee with the messenger set. Hazel Gross is one of the volunteers. She told me they hope to raise enough money to send 260 Worksman bicycles to the village,

Portland Bike Summit

[PUMA‘s Hazel Gross]

“Our first goal is to raise enough money to send a shipping container of bikes to Rwanda to arrive in time for harvest in the spring of 2007. We will be holding a variety of benefit shows and fundrasing events for this. There is an art sale/silent auction going on at the Division Stumptown through August October.”

Bikes to Rwanda is planning a “soft” launch on October 22nd after the Northwest Regional Barista Championships at the Wonder Ballroom in North Portland. There will be bands and a screening of the movie they made with footage of the coffee farm in Rwanda that will receive the bicycles.

For more information on this exciting new project, contact clara[dot]seasholtz[at]gmail[dot]com.

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    TS October 17, 2006 at 8:29 am

    That anything related to this VeloNews article about Project Rwanda and Tom Ritchey?

    From VeloNews:

    Among the events at the Wooden Bicycle Classic was a race on solid, hand-hewn wooden bicycles and another on single-speed race on steel bikes. The wooden bicycles have solid wooden wheels with pieces of car-tire tread nailed to them and more strips of car tires employed to provide suspension of the front end.

    “They don’t build these wooden bikes because they don’t have bikes,” says Ritchey. “They build them because they are so much stronger (for hauling heavy loads) than the steel bikes they have.”


    “You really need to see the bikes they have over there and the way they maintain them to understand that you just can’t bring them bikes like we have here,” says Ritchey. “Every bike has pieces of (steel) rebar welded to the frame to make it stiffer. The cranks are cottered steel cranks that are all twisted from the stress, and they have rebar welded to them to stiffen them up as well.

    “They are incredibly ingenious at fixing these bikes, but there is no infrastructure for repairing modern bikes. If you brought in a bike with aluminum cranks, they would try to weld them and would ruin them. If they had V-brakes, when the pads wore out, they would have no brakes.”

    So, Ritchey is designing this bike from the ground up, to the point of even making a steel, integrated-spindle/external-bearing crank.

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    Cecil October 17, 2006 at 8:37 am


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    magnum October 17, 2006 at 9:27 am

    Bikes to Rwanda is a seperate organization from Tom Rithchey’s program but the more bikes the merrier.

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    lennon October 17, 2006 at 10:10 am

    As cool as this is, it does seem a bit counter-productive to have two separate projects devoted to getting cargo bikes out to Rwandan coffee growers, unless they have extremely different timelines or models for distributing the bikes.

    My main question would be, given the assumption that transportation must be a significant portion of any trans-Atlantic project like this, why not pool resources? I.e., at least share shipping containers when sending bikes out there, even if you then go your separate ways to get them to growers.

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    J E October 17, 2006 at 12:55 pm

    Bicycling Magazine has a similar program, with Kona donating specially designed bikes. They are focusing on health care workers to aid them in getting out to their patients.
    More at

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    Ira Ryan October 17, 2006 at 10:42 pm

    one of the main objectives with our project is the idea of sustainability and repairability of the bikes in the long run. the ritchey plan, as far as i know, doesn’t focus on the long term goal of inproving the standard of living for these farmers. anyone can send bikes to a developing nation but what do they do when they break down? what about parts? what about developing a mechanical curriculum to make it sustainable? these are all key foundations in the BTR project. the idea of supporting a “local” business and having the bikes built by worksman in new york city was inportant to BTR also. the ritchey bikes are all being built in china. it seemed a bit backwards to send bikes to rwanda that were built in china. if anyone wants to know more, please come to the wonder ballroom sunday evening.

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    Hazel October 17, 2006 at 11:06 pm

    One quick correction. The art auction will be at the Division Stumptown until the end of October, not August.

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    SKiDmark October 17, 2006 at 11:44 pm

    Those Worksman bikes will last into the next millenium.

    “to the point of even making a steel, integrated-spindle/external-bearing crank.”

    We already have this and it has been around since at least the 30’s. It’s called a one-piece (steel) crank and OPC size bottom bracket. Worksman understands what the rest of the bike industry doesn’t. If something works well, there is no reason to change it, or abandon it because a newer technology has come along.

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    Tiah October 18, 2006 at 4:19 pm

    Everyone who is involved in getting this together is awesome for doing so!

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