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  1. #1
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    The Maintenance-free Nearler Iternal Bike

    Hello,

    Recently I went on a study abroad trip to South Africa. My college paid for my trip. I want to return to some of the rural villages someday. When I return I'd like to take a bicycle with me and I'd like to give it to a village as a gift. So what kind of bicycle should I give? I want it to be nearly maintenance free and last for generations.

    They have paved roads between the villages and dirt roads within the villages themselves. They only have basic tools like: hammers, saws, flathead and phillips screwdrivers, etc. A set of allen wrenches may be too exotic. I know I could leave behind a set of tools, but I'd like the bicycle to be nearly maintenance free and require only basic tools to maintain.

    Here are the things I think require maintenance on a common bicycle:
    Flat tires
    Chain maintenance
    Brake pads
    Brake and gear cables
    /edit: Addition- Spoke maintenance

    Here are some ways I think the above maintenance issues can be addressed:
    Solid tires. I know they are not popular with many bicycle riders, but it would eliminate flat tires.
    Researching: No Mor Flats solid tires and Kenda small block 8 with thornproof tubes

    /edit: Addition- Fully Enclosed Chain Case. This would prevent dirt from getting at the chain, chainwheel, and operating side of the rear hub.

    Coaster Brake (thanks Butterthebean): This type of brake would eliminate all brake pads and brake cables.
    Researching: Sachs Torpedo Multi Speed Coaster Brake Hub

    Single gear. If the bicycle only has one gear it would eliminate the need for a gear shifter and gear cable.

    /edit: Addition- Mag wheels. Another unpopular part. It adds weight, but it also eliminates the spokes and any need for maintaining them.

    Can you think of any other ways to make this bicycle maintenance free? Can you think of other things that I am missing? Remember these people don't need the lightest, fastest and flashiest bicycle. They need something that will work every time, for a long time.

    I plan to travel to other countries around the world. Maybe I'll give a bicycle as a gift at every destination.

    Thanks
    Last edited by enter_narne; 04-10-08 at 07:24 PM.

  2. #2
    1 bike 2 many. Butterthebean's Avatar
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    The type of brake your thinking of is called a coaster brake, and it is definitely the way to go. I'm thinking single speed cruiser type bikes...they have fat tires which will roll well off road as well as use far less air pressure. The thicker steel tubed frames will last forever. No cables or derailluers to deal with, and no brake pads. A shaft drive bike doesn't sound very cost effective, but a chain driven bike can last a while with some kind of regular lubing routine. It doesn't have to be anything fancy. I thought I read somewhere in the mechanics forum where someone used coconut oil as a chain lube while touring overseas...when nothing else was available.

    In my limited experience, people in poorer parts of the world have a knack for making things last much longer than we do, even without access to proper spares and tools. While working in Azerbaijan in the mid 90's, we worked with a group who had an old cargo truck that had a hand crank starter on the front to manually start the engine. I don't know how old it was, but they managed to keep it running without a NAPA or Pep Boys on every corner. In fact, if they wanted a spare part, their only option was to go find it at the junk yard.

    BTW...I really like your plan of taking a bicycle and leaving it as a gift. We took cheap blue jeans from Walmart because they just couldn't get them.

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the info Butterthebean. I updated the post. I wish there was some way to make the chain more durable or maintenance free. Oh well.

  4. #4
    POWERCRANK addict markhr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by enter_narne View Post
    ...I want to return to some of the rural villages someday. When I return I'd like to take a bicycle with me and I'd like to give it to a village as a gift. So what kind of bicycle should I give?...

    [rant]
    Dude, with all due respect having been born and raised nearby, save the missionary crap handouts. They're by far the worst thing to ever happen to third world countries and only increases locals' dependence on hand outs.

    Either
    setup a scholarship fund to pay for two childrens' (one boy, one girl) education every year until they're through junior school/senior school/college/whatever you can raise money for
    or
    help get some of the villagers qualified as educators in agriculture/irrigation so they can bring the knowledge to the area.

    That is, find out what they actually want at that village and put them in a position to help themselves.

    Do not give out random, poorly thought out hand outs just because it gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling - find out what the village actually wants, think about the impact and then get them to do the work to give them ownership, pride and sustainability.

    DUH!
    [/rant]
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by markhr View Post
    [rant]
    Dude, with all due respect having been born and raised nearby, save the missionary crap handouts. They're by far the worst thing to ever happen to third world countries and only increases locals' dependence on hand outs.

    Either
    setup a scholarship fund to pay for two childrens' (one boy, one girl) education every year until they're through junior school/senior school/college/whatever you can raise money for
    or
    help get some of the villagers qualified as educators in agriculture/irrigation so they can bring the knowledge to the area.

    That is, find out what they actually want at that village and put them in a position to help themselves.

    Do not give out random, poorly thought out hand outs just because it gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling - find out what the village actually wants, think about the impact and then get them to do the work to give them ownership, pride and sustainability.

    DUH!
    [/rant]
    You're not the first person I've encountered with these types of feelings. And to address specifically what you said let me say this. I am part of a group that is doing EXACTLY what you suggest in your rant. We are helping to educate an entire village and helping to not only put some kids through college, but actually building a school in their village. Not only are we educating these people, but we are helping them to become self sufficient, by teaching them ways to grow food and harvest water.

    So picture this... your rant just bouncing off of me and some South African child riding a bicycle off into the sunset. Oh and me with a warm and fuzzy feeling.

    Try not assuming you know every intention of some poster you've never encountered. It helps you not look so... well, stupid. DUH!
    Last edited by enter_narne; 04-10-08 at 11:41 AM.

  6. #6
    POWERCRANK addict markhr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by enter_narne View Post
    You're not the first person I've encountered with these types of feelings. And to address specifically what you said let me say this. I am part of a group that is doing EXACTLY what you suggest in your rant. We are helping to educate an entire village and helping to not only put some kids through college, but actually building a school in their village. Not only are we educating these people, but we are helping them to become self sufficient, by teaching them ways to grow food and harvest water.

    So picture this... your rant just bouncing off of me and some South African child riding a bicycle off into the sunset. Oh and me with a warm and fuzzy feeling.

    Try not assuming you know every intention of some poster you've never encountered. I helps you not look so... well, stupid.
    You've just proved my point - you're not helping the villagers help themselves. You come in deposit the crap you feel will benefit them and then leave. Have you asked them what they need NOW?

    Are you training them to be teachers and putting them in a position so they can help themselves once you've lft to deposit your crap elsewhere? It sounds as though you're training them to do what you tell them and not to either think for or educate themselves.

    The people left looking stupid are the villagers left behind with badly thought out hand outs once you've left. Who will provide the teachers and training in the future?

    Anyway, I'd better go as you before I let this get any more personal.

    Stupid idiot missionaries make Africans (me) mad.
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by markhr View Post
    You've just proved my point - you're not helping the villagers help themselves. You come in deposit the crap you feel will benefit them and then leave. Have you asked them what they need NOW?

    Are you training them to be teachers and putting them in a position so they can help themselves once you've lft to deposit your crap elsewhere? It sounds as though you're training them to do what you tell them and not to either think for or educate themselves.

    The people left looking stupid are the villagers left behind with badly thought out hand outs once you've left. Who will provide the teachers and training in the future?

    Anyway, I'd better go as you before I let this get any more personal.

    Stupid idiot missionaries make Africans (me) mad.
    I am not a missionary. It sounds like you have issues that I have no way of changing. Nor do I wish to attempt to change them. We only came to this village because their elders requested assistance. How do you know we are NOT educating some people to be educators? We have suggested that some of their people become educators, but it is up to the individuals to take up that form of education. We cannot force them to become educators. How exactly does it sound like we are telling them what to think? You have some serious issues and seem to be focusing them on me. All I wanted to do was find out what kind of bike requires very little maintenance. I will ignore any other comments you make even if they are constructive and related to the original post. Which, by the way, is bicycles. Hence the name of the forum. BikeForums.

  8. #8
    POWERCRANK addict markhr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by enter_narne View Post
    I am not a missionary. It sounds like you have issues that I have no way of changing. Nor do I wish to attempt to change them. We only came to this village because their elders requested assistance. How do you know we are NOT educating some people to be educators? We have suggested that some of their people become educators, but it is up to the individuals to take up that form of education. We cannot force them to become educators. How exactly does it sound like we are telling them what to think? You have some serious issues and seem to be focusing them on me. All I wanted to do was find out what kind of bike requires very little maintenance. I will ignore any other comments you make even if they are constructive and related to the original post. Which, by the way, is bicycles. Hence the name of the forum. BikeForums.
    shameless POWERCRANK plug
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    Condor Cycles - quite possibly the best bike shop in London
    Don't run red lights, wear a helmet, use hand signals, get some cycle lights(front and rear) and, FFS, don't run red lights!

  9. #9
    tsl
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    Bicycling Magazine has done this already. You may want to build on their experience.

    Go to http://www.bicycling.com/ and enter "africa bike" in the search box.

    Interesting. You can buy the Africa Bike ready to go.

    Huh, They're even going to South Africa in 2008. http://basecampcomm.typepad.com/kona...iketown-a.html
    My two favorite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything.
    The perfect day: Riding a bike to the library.—Peter Golkin


    Lucky for me, I work at a library and bike to work.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by enter_narne View Post
    Drive shaft transmission. Again, I know they are not popular, but it would eliminate the chain and thus eliminate any chain maintenance or chain problems.

    Kick brake. /edit: Coaster Brake (thanks Butterthebean) This type of brake would eliminate all brake pads and brake cables.
    Shaft drive uses uncommon parts. I have no idea what the failure rate of the bevel gears is but I'm thinking that replacing them would be difficult to impossible.

    Coaster brakes aren't maintenance free. If you ride on one extensively the brakeing surfaces will wear and have to be replaced. That means taking the hub apart and finding replaement parts.

    Part of the beauty of chain drives and rim brakes is that their parts are visible so it's easy to see how they work and, when they do fail, how to fix them. For a low maintenance bike I'd want to use sturdy but easy to find parts.

  11. #11
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
    Coaster brakes aren't maintenance free. If you ride on one extensively the brakeing surfaces will wear and have to be replaced. That means taking the hub apart and finding replaement parts.
    I beg to differ. Unless the coaster brake is being constantly used for repeated stops while descending steep hills the brakes should last a life time with zero maintenance. In my 55 years of using coaster brakes only the Sturmey Archer 3 speed TCW ever has required any fixing, and it wasn't the braking surfaces causing the problem.

  12. #12
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    In doing research for a simple multi speed internal gear (in another thread) I found the Sachs Torpedo.


    It's a multi speed internal gear coaster brake hub. Here's a review: http://www.doocey.net/moultonbuzz/?p=39

    This hub would eliminate the gear selectors, gear cables, derailleurs, cassette, extra chain, brake levers, brake pads, and brake cables.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
    I beg to differ. Unless the coaster brake is being constantly used for repeated stops while descending steep hills the brakes should last a life time with zero maintenance. In my 55 years of using coaster brakes only the Sturmey Archer 3 speed TCW ever has required any fixing, and it wasn't the braking surfaces causing the problem.
    Have to admit my memory might be a little rusty. I do remember taking those things apart as a kid and mixing and matching parts to get them to stop again. We might have given them a little better test than the average adult does with their bike. Might just be that things have improved in the last half century.

  14. #14
    Pat
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    Quote Originally Posted by enter_narne View Post
    Thanks for the info Butterthebean. I updated the post. I wish there was some way to make the chain more durable or maintenance free. Oh well.
    There is a nearly maintenance free bicycle already. It is the ordinary. It has solid tires, no chains, no gears, no brakes, almost nothing to go wrong. Just do not fall off.

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    Okay Pat, that really did make me lol.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Kimmitt's Avatar
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    Rather than try to do without the chain, why not just include $20 in extra chain and a chain tool with some directions on how to use it? Chains take a long time to fail anyway.

    If the village has a blacksmith, he or she will have enough base knowledge to kluge something together anyway, especially with some reasonable raw materials.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pat View Post
    There is a nearly maintenance free bicycle already. It is the ordinary. It has solid tires, no chains, no gears, no brakes, almost nothing to go wrong. Just do not fall off.
    You've got me thinking about antique bikes with this comment.
    What about a modern day hobby horse made with today's parts? No chain, no gears, no pedals, plus it wouldn't be so difficult to mount and dismount as a penny farthing.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by enter_narne View Post
    In doing research for a simple multi speed internal gear (in another thread) I found the Sachs Torpedo.


    It's a multi speed internal gear coaster brake hub. Here's a review: http://www.doocey.net/moultonbuzz/?p=39

    This hub would eliminate the gear selectors, gear cables, derailleurs, cassette, extra chain, brake levers, brake pads, and brake cables.
    Anyone know if mag wheels can be fitted to use hubs designed for spokes?

  19. #19
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    Would a fully enclosed chain case reduce the amount of maintenance required on the chain? I assume a chain case keeps a lot of dirt from getting to the chain, chainwheel and operating side of the rear hub. That would increase the life of the bike.

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    The type of bike the OP wants to build may cost over $800 USD! Print out a manual on how to fix a flat tire in 15 minutes. Leave behind inner tubes and patch kits. The bike will cost a fraction of the original price.

  21. #21
    Senior Member alhedges's Avatar
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    I think the worse thing you could do is to try and buy a bike here to take to S.A. If you want to give a bike to these people, find a durable bike actually sold in S.A. and give them that one - that way you can be assured that there will be parts for it, and you are more likely to find someone who knows how to work on the bike, if necessary.

    Note: South Africa is not like most of the rest of (subsaharan) africa - it has a functioning government and a functioning commerce system, good roads, etc. While there is a lot of poverty, I don't think that there are many places more than 50 miles away from a decent sized city - perhaps a few places in Northern Cape province.

  22. #22
    Super Moderator Allen's Avatar
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    Worksman Bikes
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    They are tanks.

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    Senior Member Thor29's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by enter_narne View Post
    Anyone know if mag wheels can be fitted to use hubs designed for spokes?
    The short answer is - NO. And "mag" wheels are not inexpensive, although I suppose you could attempt to design a cheap version but it could only be cheap if manufactured in mass quantities. If you somehow managed to make an inexpensive bike that had mag wheels and solid tires, the bike would self-destruct or rattle your teeth out because the wheels would not absorb much of the road shock. The best way to do this would be to import cheap single speed Chinese bikes and the necessary parts to keep them going (tubes, tires, chains, etc). No matter how you design and build the bike, any mechanical device needs an infrastructure to keep it going.

  24. #24
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by enter_narne View Post
    In doing research for a simple multi speed internal gear (in another thread) I found the Sachs Torpedo.


    It's a multi speed internal gear coaster brake hub. Here's a review: http://www.doocey.net/moultonbuzz/?p=39

    This hub would eliminate the gear selectors, gear cables, derailleurs, cassette, extra chain, brake levers, brake pads, and brake cables.
    You are right, a two speed hub IS a "multi speed internal gear hub."

    My point - a Sachs Torpedo hub does not necessarily indicate only two speed hubs. In fact the two speed Sachs hubs are relatively rare just like Bendix two speed back pedal shift hubs. The 3 speed Sachs Torpedo coaster hub is far more popular in Europe, especially Germany, more versatile and the shifting mechanism is so simple that most six -year olds can figure them out.

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