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Africa Bike Usefulness Enhancement Project Update

Monday, June 27th, 2011 by Mick Allan

africa happy camping

I think we can call it done. At the time of writing, after many months, a few tweaks and the addition of a Carry Freedom trailer the Africa Bike is capable of hauling two bales of straw, a small boy, a medium sized girl and four panniers.

All at the same time!

The Italian languishes in the garage with soft tyres. The useful bike has become my daily driver. It ain’t fast (and it ain’t pretty to anyone but me) but my efforts to make it comfy and bullet-proof reliable mean that it’s invariably the bike I pull from the heap in the morning. The aim was to prove something with it – to myself as well as everyone else – that it’s easy to use a bicycle to do transportation of the kind for which most people will turn to the car. To recap: Kona gave me an Africa Bike. I removed all the heavy OE components and then set about adapting it to make it more useful. Upgrades have included a Van Andell frame mounted front luggage rack, a Leco frame mounted front child seat, a pair of Blackburn racks and a Hebie steering spring which stops the front wheel flopping about. The use of  puncture resistant tyres in combination with Stan’s No-Tubes tubeless sealant has made the bike totally flat free. Aside from the lack of a kick-stand which I have yet to resolve (the one it came with fell off) my only reservations about the bike were centred around the lack of gears. Three just ain’t enough in the Vale of Headwinds.

And so the next phase was to be a new wheel – but what to choose? In addition to twos and threes there are  geared hubs available in four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, er… eleven, probably. From SRAM, Shimano and a resurgent Sturmey Archer. And then there’s The Daddy Of Them All, the legendary Rohloff 14. What to choose? Well it’s obvious. I went for the Fallbrook Industries NuVici CVT from Warland’s Cycles. The hub arrived in September and sat in the office awaiting the return of the World’s Greatest Wheelbuilder, Christian Schumacher. He went away home to Germany and that was the last we heard. Ho hum. Eventually I gave up waiting for him and had it built by Cycle Heaven. It’s ready to collect right now.

Meanwhile… I hear that this is up for sale:

'Skip-bike'

Oh lordy. This changes everything. Short of converting it to a long-tail I’ve reached the end of what is possible with the Africa Bike. And those three speeds weren’t so bad…

So the latest wheeze is this; Sign off the Africa Bike as finished. Sell The Italian. Buy the ‘Skip-Bike’. Yay!

I never dreamed I’d get so excited by utility…. but then I’ve also recently traded a 16v VW Corrado for a Volvo Estate with a tow bar. Here I am again selling a racer to buy a wagon. Must be an age thing.

But you don’t have to give it all up – Volvo’s got a Turbo….

‘Skip-Bike’s gonna have a Continuously Variable Transmission.

Oh yes.

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2 Responses to “Africa Bike Usefulness Enhancement Project Update”

  1. Rob Bushill says:

    Skip bikes are the dogs….too street for most, too big for others…if you own one, make sure its had its rear sprocket changed….unless you live on the flat with the wind behind you…you need bigger toofs on the back….but a skipper with CVT, nice wheels……

  2. Mick Allan says:

    I am extremely chuffed with it so far Rob – it has a brand new shimano freewheel on the back you’ll be glad to know! It’s a teeny bit over geared -two ten yr old girls and four bags of shopping nearly popped my patelas on Saturday. And the front roller brake wants sorting desparately – it’s worse than useless.

    The only thing the bike really needs is a lighter box. The original lasted perfectly well until someone over tightened a cargo strap which was holding it to a trailer. The monkey who rebuilt it decided to use ply which was double the thickness of the original box ‘for strength’.

    Other than that I’m loving it. It’s my bike of choice for riding the four miles to the office – even when there’s nothing to lug! So very cool. I cant remember being this excited by a second hand bike before!