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SHARE THE ROAD: Two-wheel drive bicycle for sandy Sahara

A strange bicycle helped one man cross some sandy sections
Bert Groenenberg is an avid cyclist who enjoys riding his bike for freedom and fitness. Groenenberg appreciated the bicycle-themed sculpture in downtown Rossland on a road trip. (Photo submitted)

This column is imaginary correspondence between Byron the Bicyclist and Maddie the Motorist

Dear Byron the Bicyclist;

Having travelled around the world, what is the most unusual bicycle you have seen?

Maddie the Motorist

Dear Maddie;

By far the most unusual was a two-wheel drive bicycle. A science teacher from France I will call Michael had modified a regular bicycle so that he could hand-pedal to power his front wheel.

I met him in 1985 while living in Botswana.

The reason for the two-wheel drive design was to cycle from France through the sandy Sahara Desert, then around the world. From Cape Town, South Africa, Michael planned to fly and cross Australia, then the United States. He hoped to make it back to France to continue teaching after a year off.

READ MORE: SHARE THE ROAD: How much is too much to use?

I asked Michael what the worst time on his trip was. It was in the Sahara. But pedaling through the sandy desert was not the issue. His two-wheel drive bicycle worked just fine.

The problem was Michael had run out of drinking water. Expecting that he might not be found in time, he had left a note for whoever might find him. But a passing motorist on the desert track came by, stopped, and rescued him.

Later in Zaire, a thorny plant caused multiple tire punctures. Michael solved it by putting a tire within the tire and water instead of air.

When I met him, he was behind schedule. He became further behind schedule as he waited a month to get his South African entry visa. The last time I saw him, he was headed to the South African border, still without a visa.

I never saw or heard from him again. If Michael made it, he certainly would have had the journey of a lifetime.

Byron the not-that-adventurous Bicyclist.

Bert Groenenberg has been bicycling since he was eight years of age. In Botswana, he had a motorcycle.