Located in the small town of San Andrés Itzapa, Guatemala, just over an hour away from Guatemala City is Maya Pedal, a non-governmental organization (NGO) that has been making pedal-powered machines, or bicimáquinas (pronounced bee-see-mock-ee-nahs), since 1997.

Born out of necessity and ingenuity, Maya Pedal has sought new ways to simplify otherwise exhausting manual labor all while minimizing its carbon footprint and honoring its Mayan heritage. The NGO reconditions donated bikes from the U.S. and Canada and either sells them or utilizes different components of the donated bikes to create various types of bicimáquinas.

The name of the NGO can be broken down into two parts: ‘Maya,’ which honors the Mayan heritage which makes up more than 70 percent indigenous population in San Andrés Itzapa, and ‘pedal’ in homage to the mighty pedal-powered bike.

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Mario Juarez, Director of Maya Pedal, says that the NGO’s mission is simple: the organization seeks to provide solutions—whether it’s related to transportation and hauling or making time-consuming labor easier—for Guatemalan families, as well as families all over the world. Juarez says that the ingenuity behind the bicimáquinas arose from the need of the people in his community—some needed more efficient ways to complete tasks such as washing their clothes and preparing different types of foods and Maya Pedal stepped up to the challenge.

maya pedal
Alfonso Parutz

Among the different types of bicimáquinas that Maya Pedal has created is the corn thresher, water pumps, a mobile blender, coffee bean processors that remove the outer shell of the beans so they can be prepped for roasting, a metal sharpener and more. Maya Pedal also builds custom trailers and tricycles to help people lug heavier cargo that includes staples like firewood. In addition to the bicimáquinas, Maya Pedal sells used bikes and also provides a repair service when locals need bike tuneups.

The beauty of what Maya Pedal accomplishes is enhanced by the fact that these whimsical machines are also incredibly powerful drivers of productivity. All you need to do is hop onto one, start pedaling and wash a load of laundry. Or begin processing chicken feed. Or power a blender. All made possible with a bit of pedal power.

And Maya Pedal’s commitment to sustainability doesn’t stop there. The NGO also offers up their step-by-step instructions—complete with photos—showing how to build each bicimáquina, for free. This way, anyone can create their own machine.

The work being done at Maya Pedal has revolutionized the way people in smaller villages, sometimes without access to commercial-grade machinery, approach their day-to-day work. And the efforts of Juarez and others who dedicate their time to conceptualizing and building these bicimáquinas have been felt in corners all over the world. In fact, one of the first bicimáquinas ever made traveled all the way to Seattle, Washington where it was on display at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center from September 2018 through May 2019.

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Maya Pedal prides itself on being an environmentally friendly company that has made its community the center of its mission.

“The needs of the people push us to make good machines,” Juarez, who also takes pride in building the bicimáquinas by hand, tells Bicycling. “We still use an artisanal approach to building our machines despite the time that has passed,” adds Juarez.

maya pedal
Alfonso Parutz

Maya Pedal’s bicimáquinas help bridge the gap between completing tasks without depending on fossil fuel energy and maximizing human output. And that type of freedom from diesel and gas-powered machines offers a huge benefit because it means more accessible and independent methods of production.

“It fills me with joy to see how beloved our bicimáquinas are,” says Juarez. “When I die, I can go peacefully knowing that we’ve created and are leaving behind a powerful legacy.”

Maya Pedal always has use for bike mechanics, workshop engineers and translators among other crucial roles. If you’re interested in joining the NGO’s volunteer program—which is open to people all over the world, not just those local to San Andrés Itzapa—you can find relevant information here.

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Daisy Hernandez

Daisy writes for Runner's World, Bicycling, and Popular Mechanics. She received her MA from ESU and loves all things pop culture, dinosaurs, cooking, and reading.