Beautiful Little Toy Bikes from Africa

by Tom on July 29, 2009 · 15 comments

in Afribike,bike art,Timeless Posts

Seeing this little wire bike hanging from the ceiling of Aaron’s Bike Repair in West Seattle the other day reminded me that I’ve been meaning to post about my own collection of handmade toy bikes from Africa.

aaronbike500

On my last few trips to Africa (where I go a couple of times a year for work), I have become increasingly obsessive about looking for toy bicycles, which are fairly common, and usually made from wire and beads, or recycled cans.

A nice tin can tandem from the Johannesburg Sunday market.

A nice tin can tandem from the Johannesburg Sunday market.

There was a large basket full of these at Slipway market in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

There was a large basket full of these at Slipway market in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

So far I have found toy bicycles in Tanzania, South Africa and Namibia.

A beaded mountain bike from Windhoek, Namibia.

A beaded mountain bike from Windhoek, Namibia.

Cockpit view of a wire bike found in Windhoek, Namibia.

Cockpit view of a wire bike found in Windhoek, Namibia.

On my last trip, I went to Dakar, Senegal for the first time. I had long dreamed of visiting Dakar, and I spent hours wandering the city. I found freaky initiation masks, amazing drums, tasty food, and other cool stuff, but no toy bicycles. Then on the last day, in the little craft market behind my hotel, I stumbled across what is, to date, the very finest toy bike I have ever, ever seen.

This market stall in Dakar was full of finely-wrought tin and wire toys.

Ousmane Souare

The workmanship on this bike is amazing, and I sometimes catch myself just staring at it (actually I bought two just the same – a Coke one and this Red Bull one – for about $12 each. I stare at the Coke one at work and the Red Bull one at home).

redbull500

It is about 25 cm long, and finely wrought from wire in two gauges, a Red Bull can, rubber, string, and colored tape. The carved rubber “gears” and working string “chain” allow the pedals to turn the back wheel. The wheels are made of wire wrapped in inner tubing, with spokes made of wire of a different gauge. My favorite detail is the amazing little hand-crafted water bottle.

My two favorites - Red Bull from Dakar and tomato sauce from Johannesburg.

My two favorites - Red Bull from Dakar and tomato sauce from Johannesburg.

I have a Flickr set with a few more images, and I look forward to collecting more of these on future trips.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

bikedate July 30, 2009 at 7:41 am

those are wonderful. i’d stare at them too… buy extras next time you’re there – i want one!

Tim King July 31, 2009 at 11:49 am

This is amazing stuff. This puts many of the artisan jewelers I’ve seen to shame.

We should find a way to get this guy an Etsy store!

time2pedal August 5, 2009 at 1:37 pm

These are absolutely amazing!

jerry'sdaughter September 19, 2009 at 6:41 am

Wish I could find some of these here. They are great.

sara September 20, 2009 at 6:10 am

Such beautiful work. I’ve seen some wire bikes before, but I am really blown away by these and love, love, love the recycled can details.

andrea September 20, 2010 at 9:39 am

Do you know how I can buy a mini bike like that blue one by not having to travel to Africa? Do you know of any craftsmen in the US who make bikes similar to the size of this blue one? I would appreciate your help in the matter. It’s for a memorial piece I’m making for my cousin who died in a cycling accident this year. Thanks!

timothy September 21, 2010 at 2:54 am

where can i get some

Ben November 8, 2010 at 11:49 pm

I make toy bicycles as well out of cardboard and glue. Would like a sample

mike turnbull April 22, 2012 at 6:02 am

Hello… I’m in the UK and am after a ‘toy’ tandem bicycle as shown in the picture above..(or something similar.) It’s to go as a fun wedding present to two cycling enthusiasts. Can anybody please help me ? Thanks. Mike.

engagement rings Portland or January 4, 2015 at 8:59 am

It’s hard to come by well-informed people on this subject,
but you sound like you know what you’re talking about!
Thanks

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