Maiden Voyage on the Project Rwanda Coffee Bike

I had a rare opportunity, in fact, a maiden voyage opportunity, to ride one of the only known Project Rwanda Coffee bikes in existence in the United States, while at Aliso and Wood Canyons Regional park today.

Weighing in at just under 47 pounds, this is not your ideal cross country racing bike, nor even a casual cruising bike. Rather, it’s a solid work horse manned by human power.

The bike was designed by Tom Ritchey, a legend in the mountain biking world, specifically for use by farmers in Rwanda to carry over a hundred pounds of coffee cherries each load. Sometimes, the bikes are equipped with pegs on the rear axle so that a person can sit on the back and stabilize the bags of coffee during transport.

Pedaling this bike for the first time, I could only imagine how hard it must be for the average farmer in Rwanda, about my height or shorter, to push not only the weight of this bike, but also their own, plus an extra hundred-plus pounds of cargo up the grade roads in their country. That’s well over 300 pounds! Accordingly, the bike rides like a Cadillac; the solid chromoly frame, elongated for the rack area on the back, absorbed most of the small bumps while the comfy padded seat enhanced the overall comfort. Pedaling up any steep incline, however, given this setup, is nearly impossible as I discovered on the Coyote Trail.

Before taking this bike for a ride, I wanted to make sure to protect it as best as possible, so I took the bike over to Josh at Irvine Bicycles to make sure the chain length was right and to add a layer of frame protection below the chain: a used roadie tire attached with zip ties. It worked!

Downhill on the bike (without the hundred-plus pounds of cargo of course) wasn’t too bad. The longer frame felt more stable, albeit with limited ground clearance.

Not knowing what I was getting myself into, and thankfully, I wasn’t alone on this maiden voyage. A few friends who are all planning to ride the upcoming 50 Mile Ride Five for Project Rwanda joined me as well.

One of the other 50 Mile Ride volunteers, Gregg Howard, bumped into us for this photo opportunity.

To date, Project Rwanda through the volunteer efforts of thousands of people world wide, and locally though the efforts of Doug Grant’s Annual 50 Mile Ride, the organization has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and delivered over 2,000 bikes to the country of Rwanda. This is a micro-economic development program which has touched the lives of thousands of people though charitable donations and by people like yourself who are just out to enjoy a day of riding with a few hundred other like-minded individuals.

You can help, and have fun at the same time! Find out more at: