Last year, Patrick Noah, 40, cycled over 1 000 kilometres from Mzuzu City to Ngabu in Chikwawa District on probably the tallest and longest bicycle in Malawi.
The self-taught bicycle repairer, based in the populous Chiputula Township, made the trip to Jombo Village much to the surprise and admiration of many people on the way.
“Repairing bicycles has been the main activity that brings food on my table. After gaining some experience, I decided to make a unique bicycle,” he says.
Noah used some secondary-school science and self-taught welding skills to fashion the wonder bicycle, measuring three metres high and three metres long. The extended measurements—complete with a two-metre chain—make it different from ordinary bicycles.
“I felt that if someone invented the normal bicycle, I would build on that knowledge to make something people could easily identify me with,” he explains.
Many thought he was getting mad. Even his wife did not understand what he was assembling after taking nearly three months and spending K60 000 on the project, he says.
With the saddle at three metres high, Noah sees the tops of most vehicles in his way.
In Mzuzu, some bewildered traffic police officers took him to Mzuzu Police Station for interrogation.
He says: “They wanted to know how I control the bicycle in heavy traffic, but I have enough experience to cycle without inconveniencing other road users.
“Doubting my experience, they took me to some traffic lights to see how I balance the bicycle when the lights turned red. They were amazed how I balance it. They let me go after I demonstrated my balancing skills,”
On July 17 2018, Noah embarked on a journey from Mzuzu to Chikwawa to see his kinsfolk—a vote of confidence in his handicraft.
“Firstly, this is not an ordinary bicycle but one I made with my own hands. I have a lot of trust in it; it can cover any distance,” he says.
He made the trip in five days, spending nights at Nkhotakota Boma, Balaka Town, Namadzi Trading Centre in Zomba and Milale Trading Centre in Blantyre.
His wife travelled by bus from Mzuzu to Ngabu on July 22.
“She was sceptical that I would make it on a bike, but I was confident that I would make it to my destination,” he says. “Throughout the journey, onlookers were excited to see a person riding such an unusual bicycle.”
A few days later, Noah returned to his base in Chiputula Township, Mzuzu, using the same bicycle and route in a rare trek and “physical exercise”.
“I enjoyed my journey in its entirety,” he says.
Meanwhile, Noah’s unique bicycle now generates income for his family of four.
The man has sealed an advertising deal with Bakhresa Grain Milling, which markets its Azam soap on the eye-catching bicycle.
“Bakhresa officials in Mzuzu expressed interest to advertise on my bicycle. We made a deal and I can proudly tell the nation that the company gave me a reasonable amount for it,” he brags.
Periodically, the company gives Noah soap and branded T-shirts as part of the deal.
According to Bakhresa sales representative Moses Magawa, they branded Noah’s bicycle after noting that it was sparking huge interest wherever it went.
“It’s an eye-catching bicycle,” he says.
In this way, the bicycle has become a money spinner. However, Noah is not worried about the security of his money-spinning machine.
“I keep it anywhere; nobody can steal it. It is the only one of its kind in the whole country. Besides, few people can dare ride this bicycle. It is not for the faint-hearted. It requires special skills,” says Noah, beaming a smile.