From Benin, Niger, a Thoughtful Gift

From a thoughtful friend, who just spent this past semester abroad with Boston University’s Niger program (which, unfortunately, has since been shut down).

Needless to say, the aerospokes, aerobars and 1:1 gear ratio will make this the most aerodynamic hill-climbing machine around. Or, it’ll be perfect for racing those blazing fast camels I’m riding with.

Edit: I asked Melody to describe what biking culture in Niger was like coming from Boston. Here’s what she had to say:

Biking in Niamey.

People do bike, but autos are definitely king in Niamey. There is no ‘bike culture’ in Niamey, the way we do it in the US. The bicycle is just a tool for those who lack motorized vehicle, and I would compare their utility to that of a donkey cart: convenient and cheap. Like everything else in the Nigerien market, the bikes you find are cheap chinese imports. Many of them have already been used and, despite their shitty quality, you still would pay anywhere from $60-120 for one. Often times, the brake pads are worn down to nothing, and you’d have to rely on your feet to stop the wheel from spinning.

Bikes can be bought anywhere at the market. There are pockets of informal bike shops scattered in Niamey. The ‘shops’ are more like shacks, which are more like lean-to’s on the side of the road. Some of these shops focused on bike repair/reselling, otheres (the fancier ones) were in charge of assembly of imported bikes. Often, the new-bike shops sold an eclectic assortment of imported goods (plastic tricycles, pots/kitchenware, maybe some tools, etc)

What suprised me was that you could find bike ‘shops’ out in the bush. On our way back from a trip to Benin, we stopped by a Fulani village along the Niger/Benin border. The first thing I noticed was the abnormally large number of bike ‘shops’. They all sold the same model of imported cruiser bike. There were at least 10 of these throughout the village. My enthusiasm [for biking] was lost on the puzzled shop owners. I tried sparking up a conversation with one of the dudes, but he just looked at me the same way you’d look at someone who’s excited to watch you do your statistics homework.

In another very ‘bush’ market, I found several stands selling/repairing bikes. They were all working on the same model of blue bikes. According to my teacher, these bikes were imported from Burkina Faso. Apparently, Burkina is THE West African country where biking has caught on. I would add Burkina on your list of places to go. Just google: ‘Burkina Faso bicycle’, and you’d find several hits about cycling events in Burkina.

Indeed, a quick photo search for bicycles in Niamey shows that you don’t need a fancy Surly Pugsly to ride through a foot of water.

(though you can probably say goodbye to all your BB/hub bearing grease)

And in Burkina Faso, bikes look to be doing quite well without bike lanes:

Or paved roads:
At least the road rash is less severe on the dirt road than on pavement.

And as Melody also remarked on the Niamey scenery as a whole, “Everything is Brown.”

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