Motorised bike could be future of rural transport

Johannesburg - Travel distances for members of rural communities in South Africa are so large that walking is rarely an option.

Sometimes not even using a bicycle will guarantee getting to your destination on time. Nkosana Madi's invention, however, drastically speeds up the time to get from point A to point B.

It came about almost by accident. The innovator’s idea was born when he returned to his home in KwaThema, a mere 18 kilometres from Springs in Gauteng. His father asked him why one should invest money in a vehicle if one could save by travelling by bicycle. 

The problem Nkosana faced, however, was that his bicycle was broken and his only option was to repair it himself.

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Nkosana is an avid motorcyclist and once bitten by the bug, he says, "it was hard to get off those two wheels".

Combining his passion for motorcycles and the necessity for travel, Nkosana developed an inexpensive hybrid motorised bicycle. 

“After working on my broken bicycle, I started thinking that maybe I should modify it more and include a motor,” he said.

“The concept is very simple. I sourced a motor from a local dealer, chopped and welded it to a bicycle at home and managed to create a mode of transport that works for me and can work for those in my community,” Nkosana explained. 

He had a vision to create a large number of these hybrid bicycles to help people who live in KwaThema, but work in Springs. While producing more such hybrid motorised bicycles, Nkosana tailor-made them to the needs of those who wanted them. Eventually he was approached by the Grassroots Innovation Programme of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

READ: The real impact of innovation is in the lived experience of people

Through the Department of Science and Technology and the CSIR's Technology Localisation Implementation Unit (TLIU), Nkosana’s vision has now changed. 

He has the goal to mass produce these motorised bicycles to help his community members travel to work. 

Nkosana has been incubated into the Grassroots Innovation Programme with the aim of commercialising his innovation and - with the support of the TLIU - turning it into a business.  

“I no longer see the value in creating profit from the concept, but rather to push volume on a large enough scale that all those in rural communities around South Africa can have a better mode of transport,” he said. 

Nkosana’s goal now is to have a fully-fledged workshop that can mass produce at least 100 bicycles per month at a cost price of R6 000, and with a knock-on effect to create jobs.

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