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Life at Zaytuna – Permaculture Ag Bicycle 1.0

by Patrick Blampied, who is currently interning with the Permaculture Research Institute

Since the main shed was moved up to the top of the property we’ve been running up and down in the ute more often.

Most Australian farmer use a petrol powered Ag bike to do these smaller trips but on a Permaculture farm where you don’t travel a lot of steep slopes because of the swales a pedal powered bicycle would be perfect, not to mention more environmentally friendly.

Geoff knows I like playing with bikes so he asked me if I would be able to design a bike to get us around the property. The design brief goes like this:

  • Secondhand where possible
  • Easy to ride the slopes
  • Rugged
  • Doesn’t have to go fast but must be able to carry tools and miscellaneous items

There were a few bikes around the property so I gathered them up and had a look. With my good design hat on I looked at why these bike were put down in the first place. The common theme was the gearing system. Most failures on a bike are easy to ignore or repair but when the gears are stuck in the wrong spot or in between its game over.

So now to design it from the available parts. I decided on the following:

  • Mountain bike frame & wheels with chunky tyres
  • Fixed low gear for climbing not speed, eliminating complex derailers and cables
  • Ideal tyre pressure 30 PSI to absorb some of the bumps
  • Baskets front and back attached with surplus bamboo
  • Single back brake

The only new parts used were the cable ties for the baskets however wire or twine would do the same job, I just happened to find the ties first.

It was all done with basic hand tools (pliers, 2 hex keys, hacksaw and screwdriver) plus a drill with a 6mm steel bit (but you could use a hand drill if needed). The front derailer was removed completely and the only challenge was fixing the back derailer which was overcome with a small piece of a coat hanger. After a few rides I decided the best spot was gear 1 on the front and gear 3 on the back but that comes down to personal preference and the property it’s to be used on.

I’m pretty happy with the result and I’m certain these bikes will stand the test of time as they are very basic and easily kept in service. If Geoff’s happy with this one I will build a fleet of 4 or 5 before the internship is over in April.

Total cost $0. Rugged Ag bike: Priceless


  1. How about designing a solar electric ATV for farm use made from recycled material? Some second hand dealers may help out.

  2. Pat,
    Just tested the bike mate. Works like a charm.
    Any chance of getting a rack made for rakes and shovels?
    What about a bike trailer?
    See you at the dinner table to disscuss! Talk soon mate.
    Nick huggins, fellow Intern PRI

  3. Good one Pat, great adaptation, nice story, keep up the good work, hope all goes well for you at the end of the internship.

  4. Rich, hadn’t seen that one, very cool! Thanks for passing on the info.

    Warren, good idea man. Could probably do something like these ones

    Nick mate.. here are the instuctions for a bamboo trailer. See you in the shed tomorrow morning to build it!

    Peter, hadn’t seen this one either. I saw something similar in italy but I’ve never seen the in aus.

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