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Posts Tagged ‘tom ritchey’

Here’s another good one from WBUR’s “Only a Game.”

Bill Littlefield interviewed author Tim Lewis, who has written a book called Land of Second Chances: The Impossible Rise of Rwanda’s Cycling Team.

Littlefield starts out by discussing Rwanda’s history before moving on to the subject of bikes.

Bill: “Tell us about the country’s wooden bikes.”

Tim Lewis: “If you go to Rwanda today, you still see the wooden bikes. You don’t see them on the main road anymore because they’ve been banned by the president because he feels … it isn’t the message that he wants a modern, progressive country like Rwanda to convey. But on any roads off the main roads you see people using these wooden bikes. They’re hacked out of eucalyptus trees.

“People there love using them. … They’re like the mule of Rwanda. People use them to carry bananas or goats on the back or live chickens. … Part of the reason they’ve been banned from the main roads is that they’re so horribly dangerous. They have two speeds. One of them is not moving at all or kind of very slowly going up these hills. And the other of which is going downhill, and they’re so out of control that anyone in their path gets knocked over.”

Bill: “In the chapter titled ‘The Dot Connector,’ you mention Project Rwanda, the brainchild of Tom Ritchey. What was Mr. Ritchey’s goal?”

Tim: “Tom Ritchey is a real pioneer of bicycle design, in particular, mountain bikes. In 2005 Tom Ritchey visited Rwanda. And one of the things that really affected Tom was how much people in Rwanda loved riding bicycles. And so Tom thought, ‘Can I design a bike that would be affordable for Rwandans to buy?’ and that could really change people’s lives there — in terms of coffee farmers being able to pick coffee in the morning and get them to a washing station to get it processed, which can make a big difference … At the same time an idea popped into his head which is, ‘You know, these guys look like amazing athletes. What about starting a bicycle team?’ ”

Eventually, Rwanda did get a team. It’s a great story. Read more and listen to the broadcast here.

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