From the very day I arrived in Bangladesh, I was amazed by the incredible amount of cargo transported around by the indefatigable Bangla bikers. Of course, there are the rickshaw wallahs, but the real pedal champions of the country are the human engines of much of the goods transportation throughout the country. Huge stacks of bags with potatoes, mountains of baskets, watermelons, fridges, cupboards, cows, yes, indeed: bicycles: virtually anything is transported on bikes and powered by tenacious humans.
It is true: sometimes the pace of these cargo bikes is slow, and not superior to walking speed. And yes, carts are also used for transportation of goods. I saw men pushing their overloaded bikes, effectively turning them into carts, albeit without the need to carry - only to push. But still, the sheer power with which the Bangla bikers pedal through the traffic that can be a freakish madhouse, and the skill with which they steer their heavy bikes through that chaos, is amazing even to the experienced cyclist. It made me wonder if, among the many thousands of bikers with their well-trained bodies, there could not be one future cycling champion?
Their faces often very concentrated, their eyes looking for the best way forward, sweat dripping over their backs, while their legs are doing the truly hard work, the Bangla bikers managed to gain a lot of respect in me during my stay in this country. Just remembering how just having one person on the back of your bike can already make biking more difficult, it was baffling to see how those slim but sturdy Bengali cyclists were able to keep a heavy bike with enormous bags of potatoes - and one of his friends on top of those bags! - in motion and steer it in the right direction. Truly awesome!
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