Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Buffalo Bicycle.

Entrepreneurs, farmers, healthcare workers and students in rural Africa transport heavy loads long distances over rugged terrain to meet basic needs. Compared to walking, bicycles allow people to haul more goods over longer distances in less time - provided the bicycle is strong and durable. In Africa, the disconnect between suppliers and end-users has resulted in bicycles designed to be inexpensive rather than robust; most begin to fall apart within weeks because they are not suitable for rugged terrain and bulky loads. This has dire consequences for people without access to other transportation.

World Bicycle Relief has connected rural Africans with bicycle suppliers; the result is a robust bicycle engineered specifically for rural African terrain and load requirements. The Buffalo bike is designed, tested and assembled in Africa with close attention to end-user feedback and rigorous quality control. We are committed to providing the highest quality, most durable bicycles in Africa, and we operate with constant attention to innovation and product improvement to ensure that our bicycles meet their users' needs. World Bicycle Relief's Africa-based product management team oversees a fleet of riders who test current and potential components under the most punishing field conditions; their feedback is used to improve our bicycles. Furthermore, Buffalo bicycles are compatible with locally available spare parts, ensuring that with proper maintenance they will last for years. These design innovations make World Bicycle Relief's Buffalo bicycles the best on the market: our bicycle is built for Africa.


Why Buffalo? Our bikes are built to be as tough as the fierce African buffalo, a symbol of strength and power; hence the brand name Buffalo bicycle. In Swahili-speaking countries, our bicycles are branded "Nyati," the Swahili term for "Buffalo." All Buffalo bicycles and spare parts are carefully branded to assure the end-users that they have purchased the genuine product rather than a low-quality imitation.


Buffalo bicycle components are sourced from manufacturers in Asia who produce each part to our specifications. World Bicycle Relief's Taiwan-based supplier management team ensure our bicycles are built from the highest quality parts; they review potential suppliers, evaluate product quality, and manage shipping logistics to minimize cost. The bikes arrive completely disassembled at World Bicycle Relief facilities in Africa, where teams of highly-trained local staff put them together. Many of the 60+ full-time assembly staff have been with WBR since 2008; they take great pride in their work and ensure that each bike is properly assembled.


Even the most robust bicycle needs maintenance, particularly in the harsh conditions of rural Africa. Each Buffalo bike comes with a small toolkit and a pump for basic maintenance; to ensure that bicycle owners have access to local, qualified repair service, World Bicycle Relief has developed a Field Mechanics Training Program to accompany distribution. Mechanics are trained in bicycle assembly, maintenance and repair as well as basic business, marketing and management skills. Each trained mechanic receives a bike, a set of high quality tools, a uniform, and basic marketing materials; some mechanics work with microlenders to establish businesses and purchase a stock of spare parts. World Bicycle Relief has trained over 900 local field mechanics in Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.


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