Much More than a bicyle

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Bicycling around the Kathmandu Valley and around many other urban areas of Nepal is certainly not an easy task and yet there are people who do it out of necessity or simply because they are fed up with the public transportation system and cannot afford a motorbike.

Many of these people are either expats commuting to work by bicycle, normally people who lives in wealthy areas of the town and use the bicycle for short distances or wealthy nepali who fell in love with mountain biking and can afford to buy amazing bicycles that are out of reach for most of the people.

There is also another group using bicycles: low income, poor stricken citizens for whom the bicycle is not just a means of transportation but it is an indispensible component of their business.

They use it to sell products. Surely fruits sellers moving around town are an example.

Normally they use very old bicycles, most of them old wrecks. Potentially if equipped with stronger, faster and more durable bicycles, their business could increase manifolds: they would be able to transport more goods thanks to a much safer and agile means of transportation. They would end up possibly making more money.

Now here it comes a social business called Portal Bikes who have the ambitious mission of “to develop the world’s most innovative and adaptable bicycles that transform lives and power businesses”.

In short Portal Bikes wants to revolutionize the way people think of and make use of bicycles and, with this bold aim, they have been manufacturing in Nepal the Cargo Bike that it is defined, according to its web site, as “an amazing bicycle that carries cargo, powers machines and transforms lives that is designed, tested and built in Nepal

As you can guess from the name the cargo bike is a big bike, currently produced in two versions, one quite huge, the Long- Tail Cargo Bike and a smaller version, the Mid-Tail Cargo Bike.

Portal Bikes is a startup but it is not new to Nepal. The founders, Caleb and Emily Spear, a wonderful young couple from the United States, have been living in Nepal since the last four years and all over this time, they have worked very hard to come up with a solid product who could be sold at accessible prices.

Moreover Caleb and the team were very active in the post-earthquake relief efforts when they produced hundreds of affordable shelters for the victims.

After years of prototyping and testing, the latest versions of the Cargo Bikes are amazingly improved products. The team worked very hard to procure all the components from the country but due to too prohibitive costs, they end up importing the frame and other components from Taiwan.

As mentioned earlier, the bikes are not just amazing means of transportation but they are much more, a real livelihoods booster.

For example they can also be utilized as “power takeoff” (PTO) that, through simple paddling, generates energy, transforming the bike in a corn sheller for example.

Therefore there are multiple ways to use the Cargo Bikes as clearly explained by Dustin Alarid, Administrative Director at Portal Bikes says “We want to see our Portal Bikes being used in a variety of ways that improve people’s daily lives. That can be parents taking their children to school, delivery men making his deliveries more easily, young ladies getting her chores done more quickly, and a small business working more efficiently”.

The price is not totally prohibitive at 32.500 NRS inclusive of VAT though it can be a big amount if you are a farmer or fruit sellers working on the streets.

This is one of the reasons why Portal Bikes is keen to work with microcredit institutions or commercial banks interested to provide accessible loans for those who otherwise who would not be able to afford them.

This is a big opportunity here even for local and international accelerators to support the production and marketing of these bikes.

Few years ago I had invited Caleb to talk to ENGAGE volunteers to inspire them with his work.

Sharing the philosophy and working approach behind Portal Bikes, Caleb was so incredibly passionate about the project despite the mounting challenges of producing and marketing in Nepal “unusual” bikes with a big mission.

Fast-forward to the present, there are already some good stories of locals using their Cargo Bikes for their livelihoods: for example Bharat Koirala is using the bike to sell sanitary and other households supplies around the valley or Sankhar Lama who distributes potatoes to different shops in the Valley thanks to his Cargo Bike.

If you think well, the potential here is huge not only in the Valley but throughout the country and it could really go massive.

If you work for a financial institution, it could make perfectly sense to partner with Portal Bikes.

Caleb shares “We believe that the Portal Bike is no ordinary bicycle, it is an agent of change." We bet he is totally right and hopefully bankers, venture philanthropies or donors will realize it too.

Maybe at this point you might be curious to know more. Well then why do not you head to Jhamsikhel in Patan and go and talk to the Portal Bikes team in their recently established showroom?

Maybe initially it will be only to support your business by providing your suppliers with one Cargo Bike. Maybe later on you will end up driving your kids to school riding one of it.


For more information, you can visit or contact 9843423167/9810173253.

Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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