The other week I was just riding the bus when a Santa Cruz hippie dressed in earth-tones boarded and sat right next to me. After a few moments, I detected nuances of bicycle lube and brazing flux under the odor of human labor and raw lanolin. I recognized the guy by his smell; I looked over and, sure enough, it’s local bike builder extraordinaire Josh Muir.
I hadn’t seen Josh in a couple of years so we caught up. He teaches an industrial design class at the California College of the Arts, where his students are designing a rickshaw / cargo bike. That’s when Josh asks if I’ve heard of the book Chasing Rickshaws. It sounded fascinating, so I bought a copy.
In this 1998 book, Tony Wheeler and Richard l’Anson traveled Asia chasing rickshaws, mostly of the pedal variety. He explains rickshaw design is much more varied than the basic bike-in-front-passengers-in-back variety we might see here the USA, with sidecar rickshaws in the Philippines, front-loaded trishaws in Malaysia, and the tricycle rickshaws of Beijing.
Wheeler even notes details like the coat hanger wire derailleur used on Chinese rickshaws, with an ultra-slack chain instead of a chain tensioner. You’ll enjoy the photos and narrative in this coffee table book detailing the operators and passengers who ride these human-powered conveyances, and the bike-nerd in you will also appreciate the line-drawings and specs for each type of rickshaw encountered in this book.
“Chasing Rickshaws” is out of print but readily available for pennies from online retailers.
If you’re not familiar with Josh Muir’s work, I invite you to visit Frances Cycles. He’s already booked a spot for the 2016 NAHBS, which takes place in Sacramento.