Monday, August 19, 2013

Philanthropic Cycle Chic: Part I

The Bombay Express: A 20" bike for women or men .

The Maharani: A 22" loop frame "named in honour of the lady consort of a regal Maharjah."

Semester Bicycle's CityBike. They also make a Commuter. Each is available in 52, 56, or 60 centimeter frames.


I had hoped to get a gander at the Feed USA folding bike for Target, but my tiny local store didn't have one. I thought it might disprove my fears about the quality of the bike. After searching for reviews of Target's previous specialty bikes, I didn't find much. One blogger with bike knowledge gave the Missoni x Target bike a disparaging in-store review, but no one seems to have ridden one and loved (or loathed) it enough to blog about it or drop a review anywhere. Considering this, I'm sure you see why I didn't have high hopes for the latest Target bike. And that sucks because cash from each bike goes to charity. I started wondering if there were other bikes for sale that helped good causes. I'm happy to say that there are and they seem to be legitimate road machines.

The Indian Bicycle Shop This London-based business partners with The Mann Deshi Foundation to support the education of underprivileged girls in rural Maharashtra, India. More than half of girls leave school (which is free) before age ten, in part, because transportation is expensive. For every ten bicycles purchased, one bicycle is donated to a girl in need of reliable transportation. The bicycles are made by a family-owned Indian company--KW Bicycles-- that makes most of its parts in-house and bought much of its tooling machinery from the former bicycle-manufacturing capital of Nottingham, England. It's no happy accident that KW's steel roadsters have the looks of an English classic. There are four different frames--three of them have top tubes which gives ample opportunities to male feminists to support this project.

Semester Bicycles On their Kickstarter page is a diagram of their innovative "hextubes," but it's the result that blows me away. Their bamboo bike is so slick--not at all homemade-looking like their previous bikes. I think this is a huge leap forward for bamboo bikes even if the frame isn't solely bamboo. In a group picture, a Semester team member is holding a bike with sky blue stays and chainguard and a brown saddle--the color story is lovely. These bamboo bikes could be quite pretty! Even if you're not in the market for a new bike, I urge you to check out their campaign and consider backing their venture. This new small business will help support the revitalization of the economy in Alabama's rural, forgotten Black Belt. The Black Belt was named so for the area's rich topsoil, but also took its meaning from the large number of slaves used to drive the plantation economy in its 17 counties. The black population created a prouder legacy for the area by making it the crucible of the Civil Rights movement. I think that a community that committed itself so passionately to a struggle against enormous odds and violent hatred is a great candidate for an economic rebirth one small  green business at a time. They have proven their patience and fortitude.

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Maira Gall