Ben’s Bici Cooperativa (Peru)

This guest post comes courtesy of the unfailingly intrepid and seemingly inexhaustable Cass from While out Riding. Cass has been riding for many years and started While out Riding to document his massive exploratory backcountry bike tour which began in Alaska, June 2009. His blog chronicles this trip (which concluded in 2014) and many subsequent riding adventures. His blog is filled with all manner of biking interests, insights and inspirations and is an endless source of biking delight.

This post comes from a stop he made while riding South America in 2012. I found Cass’s blog while searching for community bike projects in South America. I contacted Cass to ask if I could reprint this post as I was impressed by the detail, respect and support his writing exuded for Ben’s local grassroots bike operation and the positive impact Ben was creating in his local rural community. Cass was very happy for me to repost this story and I am thrilled to share it here. Find out more about Cass and his adventures at his blog While out Riding.

Thanks Cass! We can’t wait to see more of your work – happy riding!

I recently had the good fortune to meet Ben, a Peace Corps volunteer living in the Cordillera Blanca. I’d heard about the grassroots ‘bike co-op’ he’d set up in his caserio – a pinprick of a village by the name of Shirapucro – from another PC volunteer on the road to Cajamarca, a few weeks back.

Ben lives up in the shadow of mighty Huascaran, some thirty kilometres from Huaraz – half of which are dirt, and steep ones at that. As a member of the Peace Corps, he’s posted to Peru for two years, earning local wages during that time. In Ben’s case, his work involves promoting environmental issues. He lives in a small, adobe house with his wife, Katie, also a Peace Corps volunteer, working in healthcare.

A dedicated believer in bicycle co-ops – a space that provides communities with access to the relevant tools, and knowhow, to keep their bicycles in cheap working order (the antithesis to the exclusive, high end bike shop) – he soon went about setting up his own. The impetus came after noticing the state of disrepair typical to most bikes in the area, and the way kids hurtled down the lumpy dirt roads outside his house, often returning with scrapes and bruises on their way back up.

His idea was a simple one: to encourage the children in his village to look after their bicycles, by learning to spot subtle issues before they became glaring problems, arming them with the knowledge to make the necessary repairs, and eventually the confidence to help others too.

Yet despite its simplicity, it’s a startling project. Humble in its execution but magnificent in its vision, in the last few months he’s set up a tiered bicycle maintenance program (from novice to maestro) that now draws a steady flow of local kids, three times a week in the afternoons, to his makeshift workshop. Under a corrugated roof (protection from the high altitude sun in the dry season and powershower rains in the wet season), he teaches anyone who’s interested to learn: everything from positioning a saddle or repairing, to the finer arts of adjusting derailleurs, truing wheels and maintaining hub bearings. Bicycle safety also plays a part in his courses, with a a small test track nearby to teach bike handling skills. In doing all this, the knock on effect is that he’s encouraging people to bicycle, giving it due importance and respect within the community.

Ben hopes news of this barebones co-op will spread to neighbouring villages – already it seems to be doing just that – so that by the time his two years in Peru are up, he leaves behind a community of children and young adults who know both how to ride their bicycles safely, and maintain them for years to come. Hopefully someone will take over the mantle when he leaves.

His budget is small and resources are limited, so if anyone has anything they’d be happy to put in the post – chainbreaks and other specialist bicycle tools are sought after items (the local versions leave much to be desired) – see below for details. And please forward this link to anyone you think might be interested in helping out.

1 Bicycles Create Change: Ben's Bici Cooperativa (Peru)

2 Bicycles Create Change: Ben's Bici Cooperativa (Peru)

3 Bicycles Create Change: Ben's Bici Cooperativa (Peru)

4 Bicycles Create Change: Ben's Bici Cooperativa (Peru)

5 Bicycles Create Change: Ben's Bici Cooperativa (Peru)

6 Bicycles Create Change: Ben's Bici Cooperativa (Peru)

7 Bicycles Create Change: Ben's Bici Cooperativa (Peru

8 Bicycles Create Change Ben's Bici Cooperativa (Peru)

9 Bicycles Create Change Ben's Bici Cooperativa (Peru)

10 Bicycles Create Change Ben's Bici Cooperativa (Peru)

11 Bicycles Create Change: Ben's Bici Cooperativa (Peru)

The Need to Know Bit:

Got some spare parts/tools you’re happy to pop in the post? If you can forward this link to anyone who might be interested, that would be great too.

Update: Ben can be reached at:  bdmasters at gmail dot com

Postal address is: Ben Masters, PCV. Casilla Postal 277. Serpost. Huaraz, Ancash. Peru.

Ben visits Huaraz every couple of weeks or so to check email; it’s probably best to contact him first before posting anything. I passed the message on and he was stoked there had been interest.


Reflections on bicycles from a ‘non-rider’

How can bicycles impact the lives of Non-riders?

Reflections from a Colombian ‘non-rider’.


This guest post is by Diana Vallejo. Diana works at Griffith University as a Client Services Officer. She is originally from Colombia, but she and her husband have been in Australia for a number of years now. I met Diana through work and adore her Latino spunkiness, honesty and vibrant approach to life. I asked Diana to write a blog post about her experience with bicycles after she had described herself very resolutely as ‘NOT a bike rider at all’. I was intrigued. In what way are bicycles represented in the life of a non-rider? Are there ‘invisible’ bicycle connections that non-riders are just not as conscious of, and how far/deep do you have to go before these links are excavated and made ‘visible’. I am always keen to explore a variety of voices and experiences regarding how different people relate to bicycles –and not just bike riders. So I asked her to contribute her thoughts considering her identity ‘as a non-rider’ and challenged her to see how, if at all, bicycles had impacted her life. Following is an excerpt of what she found. – Nina.

Bicycles? I haven’t really thought about them that much…

For me, bicycles are so mundane, so common and simple.

I was not able to see what the great deal is about a mundane bicycle. Until one day I was talking to Nina about how much she loves bicycles and then I found myself very excited just talking about it from some different perspectives.  I would not necessarily have recognised my own connections to bikes (out of sight, out of mind), but during our conversation I was presented with questions like: ‘Well, even though you don’t ride a bike now, you must have some experience with bikes in the past or growing up – what is/was it and how do you feel about them now? How do you remember bikes featuring in your life? How are they being used in your home country?’ I was surprised to be excited about how much I actually had in common with bicycles, despite the fact that I am not at all a ‘cyclist’.

So, to my surprise, I was able to very quickly make three very immediate and reaffirming associations with how bicycles have been linked to me personally, or through my identity – a revelation which surprised me.

  1. My first bike.

Even though I am not crazy about bikes, I can tell you everything about my first bicycle. Funny that! Was it a present from Santa Claus…(or in my case, because of where I come from – a staunchly Catholic community) – was it a Baby Jesus present? Don’t even try to make me explain to you how new born babies bring all the Christmas presents to all those homes! But nonetheless, there was my present – and I remember it vividly.

It is unbelievable how I can still remember every detail of that first bike. I can remember it better that my first doll or my first kiss! It had a green frame and white wheels. It was so beautiful – and fast! I spent some many afternoons on it. I made many friends riding it, and that bike holds for me some of my best memories from my childhood. My first, personal and immediate connection with bicycles.

  1. One bike, one dream, more than one life changed.

But for some other people, this may only be a wish, or even a dream. The second association I can make is through my national identity. I am from Colombia and we have one of the best cyclists in the world, Nairo Quintana. He was raised in a family with economic difficulties where a bicycle was a luxury.  He lived in a small village 16 kilometres from the nearest school. His father saved $30 USD to buy him a used mountain bike. He said once “I treasured it and every time I rode it, I pictured myself racing and winning” – and he did! His best career results are winning the 2014 Giro d’Italia, 2016 Vuelta a España, and 2nd place overall in the Tour de France of 2013 and in 2015. Nairo changed his world thanks to a bicycle. His story and fame gives hope to Colombians and some any others. As an individual he is a national hero, and internationally, he is known and respected. We are proud that cyclists and non-cyclists alike know of his achievements on the humble bicycle.

Nairo Quintana
Source: BBC Onesport
  1. Rough tracks and new beginnings with bicycles for Colombia students

 Postobon partnership Bike Program

On a national level, bicycles are well known in Colombia as being an instrument of social transformation. Another beautiful way Colombians utilise bicycles is through a very well-known bicycle donation program that gets more rural poor children to go to school. This program is via a partnership with Postobon (#1 Soft drink company in Columbia) and World Bicycle Relief – called Mi Bici. I have heard the CEO of Postobon saying that “bicycles are an engine for social transformation, impacting in a positive way”.

This program gives kids bicycles designed especially for the rough Colombian terrain. In some parts of rural Colombia, kids can spend between 45 minutes and two hours travelling to and from school. Sometimes the students cannot afford buses, and the walk can be dangerous and exhausting. Bicycles can reduce most of these trips to about 20 to 30 minutes. But for many of these kids, it is more than just time that is improved by having these bicycles.

More about WBR’s Mi Bici Bike

Why do I believe this is a great program? This is a great program because it is a sustainable program and it allows the kids to have time to rest, exercise, study. This will increase their possibility for a better future. But most importantly for me, this program allows recipients to have more free time to be kids and play!

The Mi Bici Project was WBR’s first foray into Latin America. Just like WBR’s African Buffalo Bicycles, the Latin American bicycles also have a high resistance to environmental forces and tough terrain and a capacity to carry 100 kgs. Also, the seats are ergonomic, frames are reinforced, the wheels are protected, and the breaks are resistant to the weather. This makes the bikes very durable and they are easy to change.

The program also generated jobs for local small businesses and mechanics who are trained to service the bicycles. This has opened up a new employment stream in areas where bikes are distributed, where there is a need for maintenance services and repairs. All this has also been possible thanks to World Bicycle Relief (WBR). WBR were invited to be part of this program because of their experience with similar programs in Africa through their Bicycles for Educational Empowerment Programs (BEEP).

So yes there is no doubt in my mind that bicycles can change the world! Or at least they are for these kids that are receiving them!

This video introduces a girls who has received a Mi Bici Project bike.

Bicycle Murals – by Mart Aires

This post showcases one of a few street artists whose murals regularly feature bicycles. I’ve chosen Mart Aires from Argentina as he is one of the first original ‘graffiteros’ who painted whole trains in Buenos Aires, thus making his work more accessible to the public.  So he is an enduring, well-known and accomplished street artist. His work is playful, colourful, vibrant and always positive. You can see a full range of Mart’s work on his flickr site –  including one of my favourite bicycle inspired pieces of his called Una situación habitual.

Big, bright, urban bikes

I like the idea of having large-scale vibrant happy bicycles depictions being splashed about cities, which of course is why Mart is one of my favourite street artists, given that bikes feature so prominently in his work. Have a look at his Instagram for other works as well.

He often does large scale wall murals and I really appreciate his kooky style and sense of humour. While proving the internet for more information about why cycling is such a theme in his works, I came across an old short interview he did with BA Street Art back in 2011 called Me and my bike, where he is very pragmatic about his bike riding.

It is refreshing to see bicycles being central to a social commentary about movement, energy, urbanism and dynamism. I can only hope that aspiration suggestions such as Melissa Hughes (2009) vision to have street art included in secondary school curriculum due to the significance it provides for (young) people maybe taken up. In her research abstract, Hughes advocates that a deeper appreciation of the ‘social, visual and cultural aesthetics’ of local communities can be achieved. Additionally, I would like to think that doing so would also have a concurrent social critique element attached, given the impact and selection of the content, such as Mart’s bicycles, that so poetically provide a “high contrast image loaded with expression” – as the bicycle is the perfect cultural icon for an analytical mind to unpack, digest and appreciate! And so lovely to look at when presented like this!!All images by Mart Aire









All images by Mart Aires.

Bike tourism in Peru

By Mauricio Gonzalez – Guest Blogger


3 Opportunities to get on a bike to be part of the ‘real’ tourism in Peru

Bicycles mean more than a means of transport, they are also a serious sport, a hobby and now this post will talk about a how bicycles represent a unique way to know the word to conduct tourism.

Bicycles represent an inexpensive business investment and an affordable alternative for those who are looking to see the world.  That said, the use of bicycles in tourism is a worthy business opportunity.

Some people may opt for going to luxurious hotels surrounded by expensive details in a comfortable room, eating five-star food, resting and forgetting about all their problems. However, there is a different market for those who are looking for adventures, and want to be surrounded by nature and visit wonderful places off the beaten track that seem to be taken from someone with a lot of imagination’s dream.

These adventures are more affordable and exciting that we may think. For instance, if you go to Peru to see the Andes and Machu Picchu, there are tours where you can live a real life adventure and see singularly spectacular landscapes that otherwise would be impossible to view from a car. And let’s face it, riding a bicycle through these indomitable roads is just fun enough in itself and will help anyone forget any problem they might have.

Sacred rides

One such venture, called Sacred Rides, is where you can find rides according to any budget and skill level. This business is focused on people who are looking for extreme adventures, places that will get the adrenaline flowing and interacting with the beautiful and wild natural surrounds.

Source: Sacred Rides
Source: Sacred Rides
Source: Sacred Rides
Source: Sacred Rides
Source: Sacred Rides
Source: Sacred Rides
Source: Sacred Rides
Source: Sacred Rides
Source: Sacred Rides
Source: Sacred Rides
Source: Sacred Rides
Source: Sacred Rides

Cycle Peru

For those who are looking for a comfortable ride, complete with a tour guide, through ancient cities and for those who want to participate in community activities, there are options that cater for these tourists on bikes as well.  In this case, Cycle Peru would be an interesting option. Just because the trip is calmer, doesn’t mean you will miss out on any of the fun – and this outfit will provide a very authentic opportunity to get to know the true Peru.

Gravity Peru

If you are in Peru and are a real adrenaline junkie, then Gravity Peru is the business for you – they will not muck you around! If you want a serious time on a bike and maybe some more dangerous adventures, they will have have exactly what you need. See the video below.

In conclusion, maybe the best part of traveling to South America are the stunning landscapes and the experiences that you will never forget. So what better way to fully appreciate such an experience than by grabbing a bicycle – leave the car at home and get off the tour bus – you will be surprised by all the things you may be missing out on by not being a tourist on a bicycle. Have a good trip!


Mauricio Gonzalez is our Guest Blogger, unveiling some of South America’s bicycle culture for the fortnight from 20th June to 2nd July.

Ciclovía de Los Domingos – Latin America

By Mauricio Gonzalez – Guest Blogger

What do Colombia, Panama and Salvador have in common?

There is a cycling tradition being spread throughout Latin America. This tradition is known as “Ciclovía de Los Domingos” or Sunday bikeway. Every Sunday, people go out with their family and pets to enjoy doing something that otherwise is forbidden on weekdays, which is riding bicycles and doing sports in the middle of the most transited highways of the principal cities.

This ritual attracts thousands of people every Sunday, and it is becoming more and more popular. The weekly activity is finding benefits in public health, as well as in many new jobs that take advantage of the crowds to sell all kinds of beautiful products and delicious foods, making this activity even more pleasant and colourful.


Bikeway Medellin

No wonder many governments in Latin America are making big efforts regarding security and logistics to find ways to implement and encourage this tradition. As I argued in my two previous posts, the development of these cities is measured by their capability of offering facilities for humans, rather than for cars. Encouraging citizens to use bicycles is a great strategy to promote new alternatives that will make any city a great place to live.
The following pictures are from Medellin, known as “the city of the eternal spring”. As can be seen, this is a lovely place to be active, to buy homemade nutritious juices, walk around with pets and meet new people. Aside from days like this, there is little regulation for cyclists, however at these events, police and ambulances are always present so that locals and families have a safe and enjoyable time.










Source: Source:
Source: Source:

Panama City

Panama City is also a good example of progress. It seems that this activity is a little bit more regulated since people have to use helmets when they go for a ride. Similarly, to people from Medellin, Panama City locals really enjoy this activity with their families and children.

Panama City Ciclovia Source:
Panama City Ciclovia Source:


Bicycles are more and more becoming part of, and creating their own colourful Latino traditions.

Do you know any other city where the whole town is involved in a ride once a week?


Mauricio Gonzalez is our Guest Blogger, unveiling some of Latin America’s bicycle culture for the fortnight from 20th June to 2nd July.

Brazil: Bicycles create opportunities for Brazilians

By Mauricio Gonzalez – Guest Blogger


Brazil is the 5th largest country in the world, and it is also the place of massive cities such as Rio de Janeiro, which has 12,700,000 inhabitants, and Sao Paulo, with 21, 000,000 people. This expansive and sexy and country is well known for its colourful and warm culture, as well as for its social issues and unequal distribution of wealth. This post will look at some of the different perceptions that bicycles have in Brazil.

Bicycles are for the poor

According to The Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) (2014), 40% of those who use bicycles as a means of transportation in Brazil have family incomes of up to R $ 1,200. These are the Brazilians that are more affected by high taxation, which hinders access to a product that has higher quality and a more equitable value, therefore favouring migration to other means of transport, especially motor vehicles.

This taxation could be up to 72% per bicycle – which is manufactured in Brazil. That said, the price of bicycles in Brazil is a real limitation when it comes to providing transportation access to those who really need it. Regardless of the decreasing number of people living in extreme poverty in Brazil, which has at 64% in 2001 and fell from 13.6% to then 4.9% by 2013, according to data released this week by the World Bank. Granting the means of transport within such crowded cities is a must.



Today Brazil is the 3rd largest producer of bicycles in the world, after China and India. It is the 5th largest consumer of bicycles in the world, representing a share of 4.4% of the international market.

However, the per capita consumption of bicycles, fell to the 22th place, which highlights an emerging market with great growth potential. If the prohibitive tax is eliminated by 2016, the increase in sales could promote the economy, give more employments opportunities and the government could collect more money from other existing taxes.


Democratising the use of bicycles.

The City Hall of Salvador worked together with Itau Bank to provide 20 bike stations, where citizens can get a bicycle to ride for free within the city. The citizens just need to call or register their trip with an app on their mobile phones. This kind of initiatives is democratising and encouraging the use of bicycles to go to work or to go shopping. Nowadays, there are even more bike taxis on the roads, which are creating even more jobs.

To conclude, bicycles have the opportunity to make a significant difference if there is enough willingness from the Brazilian government to facilitate this means of transport that could help to break the inequality and will create more equitable opportunities for all.


Mauricio Gonzalez is our Guest Blogger, unveiling some of South America’s bicycle culture for the fortnight from 20th June to 2nd July.

Colombia: Planning cities for people

By Mauricio Gonzalez – Guest Blogger


Planning cities for people – an international perspective by Enrique Penalosa

Big crowded cities, especially those in developing countries, have to deal with mobility. This issue is a determinant when it comes to measuring living standards. That said, Enrique Penalosa, the former Mayor of Bogota City in Colombia, argues that it is impossible to imagine a city without imagining the transport system first. Therefore, this post is about the change that can be created in a city that is designed for people rather than for cars. Which kind of city do you think would be more modern?

Many people would say that a city with more facilities for technological advances and one that is more futuristic and integrative of the 21st a city is better. However, to what extent do you think that model is sustainable and what kinds of people do you think could live in a city that is more focused on the devices than on themselves?

By comparing cities like Bogota, Stambul, London, New York, Amsterdam and others around the world, a contrast is revealed regarding the importance of people of living in cities. Humans are pedestrians, not machines. Cars were created to shorten distances, but cities have to be designed so they are enjoyable spaces. A beautiful city is, therefore, one that integrates the outdoors.

Source: Youtube - Bogota

The aim of cars and any transportation system is to take people from one place to another safely. Public transport is considered by Enrique Penalosa as an expression of democracy. Building cities for citizens is a good sign that shows that the government respects all kind of citizens, including those who cannot afford a car.

When you see modernised cities, you can find wide sidewalks where people can walk and enjoy with their children.

Source: Youtube – Bogota

In undeveloped countries, between 10% and 30% of people have cars. In Bogota, for instance, only 20% of people have a car. In such countries, the lack of development is evident when you see people without cars. In these places, people with no cars are considered to be third class citizens and people with them, are considered to be first class.

Furthermore, sidewalks should not be considered as being part of the streets, but as being part of plazas and parks where people can enjoy being with each other. To this end, Penalosa argues that a city that is designed for 20% of the population, is not a democracy and sidewalks are for enjoying the space, not just for passing by.







Overall, the use of bicycles is not enough. Bicycles have to be part of the political agenda when it comes to planning proper infrastructure that facilitates the benefits non-motor vehicles and public transport. It is recommended that people stop seeing buses and bicycles as means of transport for the poor. Instead, they are important cultural tools that are evidence of development and high living standards.


Enrique Peñalosa – “Planning Cities for People: An International Perspective”.

Mauricio Gonzalez is our Guest Blogger, unveiling some of South America’s bicycle culture for the next fortnight from 20th June to 2nd July.