Usage sensor for rural bicycle research

Hi GOAT community,
Dan here from D-Lab again. We are doing some research on bicycle usage in Ghana and Malawi, especially in rural communities where bicycles are often used for traveling to the farm and transporting harvest to market. Available bicycles are often not well suited for these riders, roads or loads. I would like to understand more about the riding behaviors of rural bicyclists, and am looking for some low-cost instrumentation that can track bicycle usage (e.g. distance, time, route) for a couple of months. Has anyone done something similar in this context? Even asset tracking without continuous data transmission would be fine for us. There seem to be a lot of possible options, but am hoping some folks here have some firsthand experience.

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I asked someone I know who works at the intersection of bikes and developing countries. His advice, unfortunately, was basically to scale back your expectations:

I don’t have a particular product in mind. We use GPS asset tracking for our MSF vehicles, but it’s expensive cause it comes with all this active monitoring software.

Honestly my vote would be put a SUPER old school cycling meter on it (e.g. and have the bicycle owner text/call them about distance traveled every week or whatever frequency they need.


Thanks Steve, that’s good advice! I tested several old bicycle computers and they work great. Our team is concerned about data accuracy and loss, so we have decided to go with an asset tracking service provider that has local offices and staff throughout Africa. That’s a bit more expensive but offers the reliability and accuracy, and hopefully saves us a lot of headache. Later I would like to do my own homegrown solution, either using a Paricle or similar, or hacking a bike computer.
Thanks again for the response, take care