With your host, Category5
(This is the Highly edited version…with my more challenging, foul mouthed, punk rock prepper personality scrubbed out of it. I have done this one time and one time only. This is to make the information more easily shareable to the masses. Dont get used to it.)
What we will be talking about is the South American Bike Truck, simply referred to down here as “The Trike”
I had retired from posting on assorted boards. I wanted to disappear into obscurity like a Grey Man. To never talk to anyone on the internet again. I was done. I had run my race. No more trying to help people.
Within the first day of being here in South America, I noticed the unique bike truck. As a cargo bike aficionado how could I not. It seemed interesting but ridiculous. How could this heavy steel contraption ever be pedalable… and yet, there was just something about it that got in my craw.
Then, as time went by and I explored further out of the safe zone I started seeing them everywhere… and started to realize that this pedalable contraption was doing a lot of the heavy work in this megacity of 10 million souls. There are thousands of them. Maybe tens of thousands.
I realized, I did not have the right to my privacy. My Conscience and Honour would not allow it. I had to come back online and share this seemingly awkward contraption with the world. At least to the so-called “developed world”. I was going to need my own blog. Every post I have made so far, was a very intentional train of thought leading to this post and beyond.
What can I say. I am a long game player.
I was snapping some shots to do with traffic congestion when my instincts caught something in the corner of my eye. I kept snapping. It was only afterwards that I realised a Morality Play was happening and I was simply documenting the gods at play.
I noticed a, very small, elderly man pushing a bike truck loaded with recyclables towards me.
This hard working, older gentalman, recycler is my latest Hero and the star of this cosmic play.
Along came a grey demon driver to block my shot of him mounting the bike truck to roll away. Then I realised this 20 plus thousand dollar truck purchased on credit, indebted to insurance companies, bank companies, oil companies, infrastructure repair companies and tax retrieval companies, was the kings jester fool in this celestial theater play. I realised he was carrying about the same weight as old bike truck guy. On closer inspection, The Divine Irony was that the jester was also carrying a bicycle in the back of the truck. Totally Shambolic.
But the show wasnt over. The next thing that caught my peripheral vision was the motorcycle version creeping up from behind very slowly.
You can tell the weight he is carrying by the flat tires that aren’t stopping him from Gettin er dun…. This gentleman is younger, heavier and reliant on an engine. Hum.Off they ride into the sunset. Drop curtain.
Now I’m going to divide this into 2 articles. The first will be the pedal version. The second will be on the motorized version and then a curious amalgamation of the two.
Unlike many tools available for Permaculture, Transition or Preparedness for a world of quickly declining EROEI or Energy Return on Energy Investment, leading to oil supply shocks, resource supply shortages and more importantly, the economic contraction if not full collapse of the economy…
…You won’t be able to just go out and buy yourself one of these. I am going to provide enough photos and descriptions so that, hopefully, these can be reversed engineered back home and around the world. I would like to see a bike building company take on this challenge but more so, I can see some enterprising welder being able to put these together. You would need a welding unit, tube steel, a pipe bender and a light trailer axle from some local company like Princess Auto. (no affiliation) I’ll leave someone else to figure out how to find and mount the wheels.
At first, I thought, maybe, people could make a much lighter version using higher tec bike building materials. Like this smaller version used by an agriculture professor.
High tec, light weight, smaller, less rugged, versions of this do already exist but they are very rare.
On further study of this vehicle, though, I realized I was misunderstanding the whole concept. This wasn’t really a bicycle at all . This was a cart. A carriage. It simply had a heavy steel bike attached to it to stabilize, control it and ride it down hills.
I’ve seen things that “Look” like it before. So have you. Most have seen ice cream carts that can be pedalled. In China they have trikes that “Look” similar but the bike is on the front. It wouldn’t be able to carry nearly as much weight and has a much wider turning radius. In Mexico the government brought in and distributed a bicycle cab that “looks” similar. It takes a standard bike, removes the front forks and attaches it to a cart. It looks alittle more like this modified local version with its hinge placement and lack of shocks.Very quickly, people stopped using them as taxis and started using them for cargo. I saw one of these in Mexico being pushed down the highway loaded with deadfall branches for firewood piled high above the pushers head. But this design can’t be controlled at any speed. You certainly couldn’t attached a motorcycle to it. Hitting a pot hole or rock would yank it out of your hands and you would crash.
The South American bike truck is a completely different animal altogether. It is not the same as other trikes. It hauls much more and is stable at speed. It’s all about the balance points and the hinge points. That was the “Ah Hah” moment for me. This is why, I posted the article on the Chinese wheel barrow when I did http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2011/12/the-chinese-wheelbarrow.html . If you understand its balance point you can understand how much weight can actually be loaded without straining the operator. Then I added the article on the Vietnam war bicycle on how much cargo can be pushed in a mass logistical operation http://www.historynet.com/pedal-power-bicycles-in-wartime-vietnam.htm . Before that I told the story of me crossing the Rocky Mountains with a grossly overloaded bike where I pushed the bike up mountains then road it down the other side. All that writing was a lead up to this moment, including the other stories of embracing low energy input, poverty based prepping. A severe downshifting of energy, cost expenditures and expectations. I was also pointing out that even in a collapse, resources needed to be brought in and places needed to be gotten to. Trade and transport continues by other means. Yup. This is all about managing logistics… and yes I am that crafty.
The first mistake I can see people making about the Bike Trucks is that this is just a step up from mentality ill, homeless drug addicts pushing shopping carts of recyclables. That would be a big mistake. This is the means of many small businesses. The amount of recycling done in this city is epic. Every garbage bag will be gone through by several people a night. The best quality of recyclables will be taken first. Latecomers will take what’s left. Daytime recyclers will go so far as to have speakers, calling out that they are there and ready to haul away cardboard, old mattresses that they strip for the steel springs, old appliances that go to electric repair businesses,
old furniture that goes to craftsmen working 3 men in a 10 x 20 foot garage stripping them down to their frames and rebuilding. But don’t be thinking this is all about salvage. At some future time we will do a post on the magnificent efficiency of inefficiency that I see down here. But this is the means of many micro businesses. I have seen modest homes where a driveway was made specifically for a bike truck, or I see them locked up in the courtyards.
Tradesmen use them in lieu of a truck, reducing all vehicle related costs. Financing, insurance, gas and repairs. Tile layers, construction workers moving tools, lawn care workers… and furniture movers are a sight to behold
I’ve seen furniture movers, moving in 2 man teams, one pushing from the back, one pulling and steering form the front, right in the middle of downtown traffic jams, pretty much moving at the same speed as the clogged cars. Anyone that wants to go faster simply has to go around. More of that later. Each bike truck owner gets to negotiate their rate with the person that needs something moved.
Farmers use these, as well as local transport moving produce from trucking distribution points to local retailers and street level sellers. This guy was hauling about a half a ton.
Sometimes they do direct sales by rolling through the streets with an annoying blow horn announcing what they have for sale directly to the housekeepers tending children that can’t go out. It’s chaotic but there is an, end of the gas and finance age, efficiency to it.
This gets to another Big Issue. Oh, not the local markets or distribution points within easy walking distance but competition with the markets themselves. These are mobile small stores for those that can’t afford store fronts or the bureaucratic costs of rent, taxes, licensing.
So I can see future millennials and beyond, taking up these bike trucks as mobile retail space in a, sort of, anarchist marketeering. Let’s face it, nowadays, with all the employment laws, licenses, retail space costs, warehouse space costs, bank financing costs, and taxes taxes taxes, any start up small business doesn’t have a chance. You have to already be a millionaire to start a small business. For those of us that aren’t millionaires, that keeps us out of the markets with no other choice then but to be a wage slave to someone that is. The answer then is guerilla marketing. Mobile retail.
If you cut down your retail overheard costs, you can charge much less for your product, labour, and skills capital. You can bring your market to the people instead of bringing people to the market.
As this swirling, progression into the water slide of our cultural collapse, picks up, fasten your seat belt, crash speed, I can see the millennials Adapting this as a minor solution to their miserable lot in life. There is that word again. Adaptation.
The younger generation need to start an “Adapter Movement” in lue of unlikely “Solutions”. Not Survivalism. Not Prepping. Not even the hopeful but highly unlikely to happen Transition Town. They will need Quik and Dirty, Low Cost “Adaptations”.
C5 Rule of Survival- If all else fails…Lowere your expectations and standards.
This is a photo of a photo from the Yuyanapao, Sort of a Truth and Reconciliation museum about the time of violence, where Maoists terrorists and right wing death squads wrecked the country
You will notice the bike truck in the photo from the 80s is much shinier and new. Most of the ones I see are ancient and keep being rebuilt…. Which really shows their resilience and value and….
Which presents us with some great photos for those that would like to reverse engineer one.
This is a short, light version. Notice the light axel and wheels.This is the next step up heavier axel and wheels. Notice the size comparison to the heavy loader beside it.Last, the decent workers version.
These get rebuilt, reconditioned, and rusted parts rewelded on over and over again. The paint is to stop rust. Remember my C5 rule? “all of civilization is held together by a thin veneer of paint” and “if you love it, put a ring on it. A ring of paint… or oil or wax or animal grease if that’s all you got”.
Also before I forget, the balance point is just a bit forward. That way if the rider hits a bump, the load will want to straighten itself out instead of whipping out of the rider’s hands.
Now, the brake unit. Notice how recyclable rubber tire can be used as replacement pad.
I’m giving you all you need so an entrepreneur, a bike builder or some unemployed but mechanically inclined redneck can start pumping these out in his garage.
I’ve done my part. I’ve done the proverbial heavy lifting. My honour and conscience is now clear.
The rest is up to YOU!
Share this every place that the info can be dispersed. Any place it might help someone “ADAPT”.
If you don’t, this post just goes into the dumpster that is the internet, into my archives, never to be seen again exept by accident. Consider it “Paying it forward” or “Giving love to Jesus” or the conscienscious prepprer’s motto “Save as many as you can”.
In a “Fight Club” like manner, This is a Homework Assignment. Repost this at least three times. I have a VERY small readership and I like it that way….But this ain’t about me.
One last thing. Don’t be presenting this as a “solution”. I don’t believe there are solutions to the world’s predicament at this stage in the game. We are far past that point already. Only Adaptations or death. We are ALL going to ride this crazy roller coaster ride to the end station.
And remember what I said about “The Adapters”.