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KS Cover no. 78 2006 November

NOV 2006 :: 078

International Bicycle Fund

The Earth has Greenpeace. Human rights has Amnesty International. Bicycles and sustainable transport have the International Bicycle Fund.

“The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart.” — Iris Murdoch, writer (1919-1999)

What is IBF?

Established in 1983 and spearheaded by David Mozer, the International Bicycle Fund (IBF) is “a non-governmental, non-profit, advocacy organization, promoting sustainable transport and international understanding”. Through its website and newsletters, IBF operates as a portal for people to get information about everything from economics to engineering through links and online articles. IBF also gives assistance in setting up and maintaining various programs related to bicycle travel. Through the site people can get connected to programs like used bicycle donations, activist groups and the wonderful ‘Street Theatre’ … not what you might think. Over the years IBF has helped educate and promote its principles to thousands of people. The IBF network is extensive with over 3, 000 people on its mailing list, not including list-serves. Grants are also offered when funding is available.

How do you get involved?

Volunteers are welcomed at IBF and you can do it from your own home! Volunteers can do support work for the head office, research and write articles for the website, and help maintain the website. For example, the main page is available in different languages to explain the basics about IBF but volunteers can add more information, through translations or original articles, in those languages.

Private donations and funds raised from IBF’s related organization, ibike, keep IBF running and able to offer grants. Check out the ‘Cycle and Recycle Calendar’ that lets you donate and give a gift that really keeps on giving!

After a day riding in the warm African sun, your belly full of delicious local fare, your head full of the day’s conversations with your fellow riders and information from the local craftsman whom you met this afternoon as your group passed through his village, you settle between clean sheets to rejuvenate your body for tomorrow’s ride through more villages, markets and breathtaking scenery you thought only existed between the pages of magazines.

But wait! Maybe it’s not Africa you’re in. Maybe you spent the day pedalling through the countryside of Korea or villages of Vietnam or Ecuador or Guyana. Your pack and camera are bursting with souvenirs and memories. Your palate has expanded to new flavours you didn’t know existed and food you will be seeking out again in your hometown. Your perception of the local people has totally changed and widened.

Is this picture just a tale made up for your reading pleasure? Certainly not. This description is typical of an ibike tour.

What is ibike?

Ibike began in 1983 as Bicycle Africa with a twofold purpose. One was to raise funds for the International Bicycle Fund and the other, by offering bicycle tours, “was to demonstrate a practical use of bicycles” and dispel myths for both participants about Africa and for Africans about transport in developed countries. As tours in other countries were added to the roster the name ‘ibike’ was adopted. Ibike also offers travel consulting services and self-guided tours.

Ibike tours operate on a unique principle called ‘E3’. E3 programs are “environmentally friendly (using primarily non-motorized transport, but reflecting all aspects of the projects including printing, selection of energy efficient lodging and local produced food and goods), economically beneficial (supporting the decentralized, indigenous economy, including locally produced food and goods) and educational/enriching (exploring the diversity and complexity of the local natural and human ecosystem.) If you draw these as a triangle, each element reinforces the others.”

What is an ibike tour all about?

When you’ve had enough of the bus tour rat race, hop on your bike and take a vacation that offers more than any whirlwind tour of 15 countries in four days ever can. Ibike programs are designed to be “accessible to ordinary active people who seek moderate adventure.” Groups are lead by experienced and knowledgeable local guides with planned excursions to experience festivals, see historical sites, meet local artisans, workers and people and of course, sample the local fare! Participants may be lucky enough to experience local housing as nightly abodes along the tour route range from local housing to tented camps to hotels and dormitories.

Tours last two weeks with a max of 12 people per group. Two different programs in the same region can be done consecutively for people interested in longer vacations. Tours operate at times with great scenery and optimal weather conditions for riding Goldilocks would have approved of, not too hot, not too cold, but just right. Through ibike’s website you can book your trip to: African destinations including Uganda, Mali, Tanzania, Tunisia and Guinea; Eastern and Southern Korea; Vietnam; North America and Ecuador and Guyana in South America. Tours were previously offered in Cuba and Nepal but due to government intervention and safety issues respectively these tours have been suspended.

Tours are aimed at people who are healthy and prepared for moderately difficult riding. Participants usually use their own bicycles, mountain bikes generally, and carry their own gear on their bikes. Distances average less than 40 miles per day (64kms) and vary due to the location conditions and points of interest. Before you depart, ibike will send you a pre-departure information pack to help you make not only preparations but to give information about the culture you will experience.

Whether an ibike tour is for you or not, you can give someone a different kind of present with an ibike gift certificate. If money is a problem, ibike offers some interesting, and easy, ideas for fundraising; details are available on the website.

Creating an ibike tour

Currently there are no ibike tours available for Japan but the possibility is ripe. David Mozer, head of ibike and the International Bike Fund, is open to creating programs in other countries. Mr. Mozer says, “If someone is interested in collaborating on starting a program they need to contact us. We will send them our criteria for programs (www.ibike.org/ibike/criteria.htm) and work with them to construct an itinerary — but we also need time in our schedule to do a lot of research on the country at our end as well. It usually takes at least a year to design a new program, and so it can be two years from the start before it gets on the schedule. It takes time to inventory the ‘diversity and complexity’ of an area, plot these on a map, select what is practical to include and connect the dots, and then figure out the safest route that has appropriate logistical support (adequate and appropriately spaced food and lodging.)”. So all of you bike enthusiasts, what are you waiting for? Who better to help set up a program than those who are intimately familiar with the area and the best places to ride?

Be an iBike volunteer

ibike is primarily a volunteer organization. People who are interested in getting involved with ibike tours can volunteer as Leaders and Assistant Leaders on the actual tours and in other capacities. Check www.ibike.org/ibike/jobs.htm for more info.

Ibike also offers assistance to bicycle advocacy organizations around the world, mainly in the form of technical expertise. Ibike is also contacted by organizations in different countries looking for volunteers who can do things like “provide bike mechanic training or advanced technical assistance, either in transportation planning or organizational development”. Before you set out on your next trip, ibike may be able to enrich your vacation by connecting you with a group in your travel area.

Text: Amanda Hare • Photos: IBF

:: Online Articles


International Bicycle Fund & Ibike
Sustainable transport


Arashiyama on wheels
Exploring Arashiyama by bicycle


A spin through ancient Japan
Cycling through history in Okayama Prefecture


One helluva of an FNQ ride
Cycling in Northern Queensland, Australia


Bike maintenance
Do-it-yourself guide to bicycle maintenance


Beat the wind
Getting into cycle racing

:: Kansai Listings


Up to date cinema listings guide so you always know what's on, where and when!

:: ART

Best exhibitions & listings


Best events & listings


Best gigs & listings


All the hot picks

:: Also in this month's mag


Asian Dining Rara, Shinsaibashi


Best festivals & listings


New releases & recommendations


OEFF + Best films & cinema listings


The bicycle law


Tatsu Sakamoto, world cyclist
55,000 kms, 51 month, 6 continents, and 1 man


Purchasing property
Advice from IFG-Asia


Autumn Hiking in Kyoto
Guide to Atago-san, Daimonji-yama, & Daigoji-yama


A pretzel in paradise
Yoga in Koh Samui, Thailand

• International Bicycle Fund and ibike: check out the many articles and links, donate if you are inclined, get tour information, and peruse photo essays of Korea and Vietnam: www.ibike.org/index.htm

• Asia and the Pacific Bicycle & Sustainable Transport Advocacy Organizations & Clubs: www.ibike.org/links/org-asia.htm

• Japan Cycling Navigator: www.japancycling.org/v2/