After moving into my little powerless shack in the bush on the outskirts of Nimbin, I soon became interested in finding alternative energies in order to use some of today’s modern comforts.

Bicycle power is diverse, promotes sustainability, fun and can inspire people’s creativity…


The bicycle or pedal powered devices are appropriate technologies that can be used to adapt to many everyday activities, without relying on electricity. These devices are often quite portable, can be used anywhere, without relying on electricity, they provide us with an abundance of healthy exercise, produce no pollution and as well provide a sense of fun and novelty to otherwise perhaps a monotonous job. Rob Hopkins talks of the importance of having a positive vision for the future- “Painting a picture of the future so enticing that people instinctively feel drawn to it”. (Hopkins, 2008).  And I want people to feel inspired to create alternative appropriate technologies to take into the future.

Pedal Power came about in the 19th Century, It is one of the earliest technologies. Apart from the use of animals- in agriculture, Pedal power was used on the farm for plows, bores and in other forms for post harvest. It was also used during this time for powering devices in other industries such as haberdashery and building. It is one of industrialisations oldest forms of energy.

What you can do with it- The pedal can be adapted to use for many different activities- in the kitchen and around the home, tool shed, workshop, farm, leisure, maintenance. Including such things as blenders, juicers, nut crackers, washing machines, drills, lawn mowers, boats, pumps and plows.
Pedal power is an old technology that can be used for modern gadgetry. Any other ideas?

Why is it Appropriate Technology?

Developing Countries
This technology is particularly appropriate for developing nations, where energy demands are increasing to catch up to the developed western world. Many of the designs use only recycled materials, readily available, where spare parts and maintenance can also be sourced at a local level. It also requires only minimum maintenance- lubrication  and cleaning of chains and bearings.

In developing nations there are a number of non government organisations which carry out research and run educational programs to encourage the use of pedal power. Maya Pedal is one successful organisation run in Guatemala, that begun in 1997. It is a Centre for pedal power research and development, that provides information resources for other NGO’s promoting Appropriate technology and sustainable agriculture.

Other projects globally include: Pedal-powered run Laptops in Afghanistan, Other organisations such as  Sadhana Forest in India have a backup pedal generator, for the monsoonal months, to showcase alternative independent technologies to an array of travellers and local Indians.

The pedal powered washing machine is a particular time saver for women in developing nations, who otherwise would do all of the washing by hand, which may take up to 8 hours a week. Liberating time from a woman’s life cleaning dirty clothes for hours, the technology enables more freedom in these circumstances.
In this context, it may be said that pedal power is the median between the East and the West or the developing and the developed  worlds. As on the eastern side this technology can significantly improve the livelihood and wellbeing, and on the west- we need slower, smaller solutions to sustain and regenerate our earth and future.

As a Transition Towns Initiative
As pedal power removes the need for reliance on electricity, it also cuts the rising pressure on finding new energy sources and as well cuts the cost to us as consumers, by converting these fossil fuels to human effort we can make a serious impact on this need.  If we increase our physical efforts, we can meet the requirements for our encroaching end of fossil fuels with ease! Without fossil fuels we will achieve 70-1 00% less then we do now with our sole reliance on ancient energy. Human effort must increase if we are to close this margin.

The technical business
Very comfortably we can generate 75 watts by travelling at a speed of  7.5 km/hour, which depending on the size of the sprocket on the bicycle may be 60-80 revolutions per minute. This generates 1/10 of horse power. If we use a little more human energy, we can generate 200 watts by travelling at 11.25km/hour that is ¼ of horse power. For a second or so for a tiny burst of energy we can reach 750 watts, which is 1 horse power- almost enough to power run appliances such as a toaster and microwave- both at 800 watts in my mum’s home.

The thigh muscles which are used when pedalling have been described as the second heart, pumping a 95% efficiency- muscle-energy ratio. With food to sustain us as our fuel, providing us with plentiful exercise, pedal power really is the way to go.

Description of Bike Blender
There are a number of designs for a bicycle blender, some of which are relative simple, others are slightly more technical, but have been designed with much thought and expertise.  A standard blender takes 450-600 watts of energy to power. Which, if needed to be converted from fossil fuels- equates to 10 people pedalling in a backyard to create the fossil fuel energy required to meet this. However, using direct human power, we are able to perform this task at a much less effort-intensive ratio.

For more information at this stage of the process- please visit the Rainbow Power Company website-