Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Bicimaquinas (Bike Machines)

...And we're back. 

Though I left Guatemala more than 3 weeks ago, I want to offer you one last post about Maya Pedal.  In particular, my experience with the machines.  
This picture kinda nails my experience with the machines at Maya Pedal (though its actually Nick in the picture).  Because I was a new volunteer at MayaPedal, I spent my time working on the basic bits for the machines, or in this case, preparing the concrete foundation for a bicibomba.  

But actually, gathering the materials to mix the cement may have been the most entertaining part of the process.  Walking first to a small hardware store just a block or so from MayaPedal, we were told there was no cement mix in stock.  En route to hardware store number 2 it became clear that we were leaving the neighborhood. Fortunately, HW Store number 2 had the cement.  Unfortunately, we had to carry it back to the shop.  Straining under the load Victor, Nick and I shared the bag for a good minute and a half.  That was plenty of time for for us each to realize we weren't carrying a 50 kilo bag of concrete back up the hill to MayaPedal.  

A white pick up was passing just as we had this collective revelation.  We kinda hailed the truck (or more precisely the group in the truck offered us a ride when they saw our unfortunate situation), and we hitched a ride back to the shop.  The mixing you saw above soon ensued.  
We built these two frames to hold our cement soup.  The bicycle is held in place by marco number one (featuring Victor) while marco number two sits atop the well opening and draws the water up through the plastic PVC pipe seen in the background (featuring the fabulous wool stuff maker, Don).  
After preparing the bicibomba, we took a trip into the highlands around San Andres Itzapa, twisting and turning along the sides of major ridges in the countryside on our way to a small farm.  

We unpacked, carried the two very heavy, very much solid concrete slabs to the well dug and prepared for installation.    

Here, Victor checks the depth of the well.  

Unfortunately, though, on this day, no bicycle water pump was installed in the Guatemalan countryside.   The well was too dirty, which we found after sending our host into the depths in an effort to clean it out. 

But if we had installed the well, it would have looked something like this: 
The water pumps are a great idea, and they save heaps of time and effort on the part of Guatemalan farmers.  The tough part is they're quite labor intensive to build...which means they're pricey to own.  The rope seen in the front of the pump, for example, has nudos--or knots--that should all be tied by hand.  Not to mention the welding of the frames, the construction of the bases and installation. 

On a simpler note, one of the coolest machines around the shop was the bicimolino, or corn grinder. 
This is receptacle for the unknowing corn, the place where said corn is ground to a hull while the useful corn drains off into a basket.  The bicimolinos and the biciliquadora, seen below, are among the less expensive and more popular bicimaqunas
Things became particularly exciting when the bicilavadora rolled into production in my third week at MayaPedal.  Now we're talking: an incentive to wash clothes!  For me, washing clothes is among the least fun things in the world.  You've got to wait for the clothes to finish in the wash, then transfer them to the line or dryer, then fold them when after they're dry and finally put them away.  Blaahhhh.  I can't be bothered to do all that.  

But I am keen to use a bicilavadroa to wash my clothes!  Below you'll see the red metal barrel with a smaller blue plastic barrel on the inside.  The blue barrel, driven by the bike, contains your clothes, and within it turns the red barrel.  Pretty keen design!  
While these machines are a fair representation of MayaPedal's production, the workshop is always near bursting with innovation.  The small, electric powered welder is almost always fusing metal while the angle grinder is constantly grinding parts into ingenious and useful shapes. 

I'll be giving a Pecha Kucha presentation on bike machines at this year's Velo City Global Conference, which I'll certainly post to this blog after it's completion.  But in the meantime, have a stroll over to to have a read or look at some blueprints for bicimaqunias.  


  1. Hey they got the picadora working and the washing machine!hows life in copenhagen? IM about to head off to xela for the next 4 months! hasta luego maya pedal!

  2. Copenhagen is super sweet man. I'll send you a email with los detalles. Xela, eh? Did you find a nice bike org. teaching folks in Xela? I'm keen to hear about your plans!

  3. I'm super envious of your experiences, Anthony. I can't wait to see you when you return to Memphis.

  4. that's ingeneous! waaa is that really a washing machine?

    - Ready Mixed Concrete Cebu