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.
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.
So far I have found toy bicycles in Tanzania, South Africa and 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.
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).
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.
I have a Flickr set with a few more images, and I look forward to collecting more of these on future trips.