A bicycle is a work horse whose contribution on the farm is impossible to quantify.
It is little wonder our forefathers called it the iron horse. The humble bicycle is one farm tool that plays a key role in boosting the productivity of the rural farmer. In many rural areas, the bicycle is the only means of transport available to the ordinary people.
It is the only wheeled vehicle that can cope with the rough conditions of most rural roads. Without their beloved bicycle, many rural farmers feel incapacitated. Passenger vehicle, ambulance, service van, cargo carrier, status symbol, sports vehicle, two wheel drive off roader, the bicycle is the ultimate multipurpose vehicle that can make a difference in a farmer’s life.
In many Asian countries, the bicycle also serves as a mill for grinding grains like maize. In Uganda, bicycles fitted with grinding tools that operate using a pulley system connected to the hind wheel, are being used to sharpen farm tools like knives, pangas and axes. Some people have even fixed trailers on their bicycles to boost their cargo-carrying capacity.
Recently a telecommunication company launched a bicycle-powered phone charger that is akin to a dynamo. When a rider pedals, the device rotates as the wheel spins and generates electrical energy, which is transmitted up a wire to a handlebar in which a phone is plugged.
The bicycle is also cheaper to maintain compared to other means of transport. According to experts, the bicycle is the most efficient self-powered means of transportation in terms of energy a person must expend to travel a given distance.
From a mechanical point of view, up to 99% of the energy delivered by the rider into the pedals is transmitted to the wheels, although the use of gearing mechanisms may reduce this by 10–15%. Someone travelling on a bicycle at low to medium speed of around 15–25km/h uses only the energy required to walk.
In terms of the ratio of cargo weight a bicycle can carry to total weight, it is also an efficient means of cargo transportation. While it is almost impossible for one to carry a 100kg sack of maize on the head, it very easy on a bicycle.