Harnessing Pedal Power for Sustainable Development




This article was originally published in October 2014.


SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAWhen you’re done using your bike – you’ve outgrown it, it’s lost some of its functionality – a few options immediately come to mind. You pass it down, sell it or it ends up in a junk yard. But have you ever thought about turning an old bike into a bicimáquinas – a bike-powered machine?

In Guatemala, local non-governmental organization Asociación Maya Pedal is reconditioning old bikes and reclaiming discarded bike components to speed up common, daily tasks. Need a means to shell coffee beans faster for your small-scale farm? A vibration machine to force the bubbles out concrete to make durable roof tiles? There’s a bicimáquinas for that.

Maya Pedal began as a partnership with a Canadian organization in 1997. It has operated under local control to better promote sustainable Guatemalan development since 2001 and employs locals in its workshop, located in San Andrés Itzapa, including five people as technicians and a seven person board of directors who offer consultancy and logistics support. Maya Pedal also takes on three to four international volunteers at a time, provided that they have skills that can benefit the organization (such as engineering, cycle mechanics, translating or marketing) and can commit to at least a mid-term stay (upwards of four months). Knowledge of Spanish is also required, which allows volunteers to contribute more effectively during their stay.


Any job Anywhere


Maya Pedal corn demiller“We can provide (a) solution to any job anywhere,” wrote Maya Pedal director general Mario Enrique Juárez in an email to Innovate Development. If it was previously operated by electric, diesel or gasoline, there’s a good chance it can be moved by pedal power. One of the machines created in the Maya Pedal workshop is the Bicidesgranadora, a degraining and milling machine. It draws on locally available, hand-powered appliances used to thresh and grind corn, but adapts the parts to a sit-on, pedal-powered machine. It is the organization’s best-selling invention.

While it would not improve work efficiency for large, commercial farms, a pedal-powered machine can yield results faster than work done by hand. Threshing and milling can be done alternately be replacing a part on the machine. One person operating the machine can degrain 12 to 15 quintales per day (2645 to 3306 lbs) of corn, according to Maya Pedal. Instructions for how to make this machine, and all of Maya Pedal’s innovations, are available online.


Change and Innovation


Maya Pedal workshopOther interesting innovations machines include water pumps of various types, either portable versions or more permanent types that can draw deeper than electric pumps, and a bicycle blender, used in some instances by women to produce aloe-based shampoo, which they can use or sell. There appears to be a focus on change and innovation within the organization, and many new prototypes are on the way, including a bike-powered washing machine and electricity generator. In addition to creating machines, Maya Pedal also has a bike repair workshop where they service customers.

Innovate Development has contacted the organization to learn more about its pricing points. The website does not provide information about how much each machine costs or what the price of maintaining one is. As such, it is difficult to determine how economically accessible these machines are and also whether the organization can reasonably self-sustain or whether it is completely donor-dependent. Its work is supported by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Working Bikes Cooperative, Bikes Not Bombs and other organizations.


Lindsay Purchase

Lindsay Purchase

Lindsay Purchase is a journalist and lover of all things international living in Toronto, Canada.


  1. Excellent. An Adult male can produce about 100 Watts energy/ I designed a Pedal operated Washing Machine and Hand operated Battery charger.
    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP)

  2. My technology simple can make rpm more than any rpm at present function by anywhere by manual technology and with semi fuel based technology.

    • With manual technology small cars run the speed of racing car even can break that speed of racing car.
      Piston with spin rod technology instead of crankshaft and piston, if needs can break mach 2 with my technology. Fuel consumption less than quarter of the present consumption and can reduce global warming and pollution by 30 % is the substantial advantage.

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