What made you decide to build a bamboo bike?
I like bikes and riding them but most of all I love the potential that bikes have for being beautiful design objects. The simplicity and efficiency of a bike as a means of transport, makes it a very powerful medium to generate emotion, and I guess that’s why I’ve always been so sensible to beautiful bikes. I also love building stuff in wood and composite materials, and I was finishing the manufacturing of a small sailing dinghy when I first saw an article about bamboo bikes on the internet, back in 2012. I immediately thought “That’s brilliant! Those bikes are such beautiful objects… my next building project will be a bamboo bike!” Everything’s sooo right about choosing bamboo tubes for the building of a bike frame… it is light and strong, ecological, it looks awesome, and all articles were saying they ride very well, with great comfort… I needed no more! Well, I actually still needed to find the right metallic interfaces, bamboo tubes etc. For a while I thought about buying fresh bamboo, striping metallic parts from old frames… but I changed my mind when I read about the importance of the type of bamboo you choose, the way you treat it and so on. It therefore seemed smarter to buy all the pieces from people that already had the experience on this aspect and focus on the manufacturing only. Several kits were available at that time, but most of them were sort of kickstarter projects and I thought I would wait a bit until I find a more reliable and proved solution. I finally found the Bamboobicycleclub’s website, and I remember thinking “ok those guys seem legit and serious, the kit looks very complete… it may be time to actually go for it!”
Did you enjoy building the bicycle from scratch and would you recommend the experience? I really loved the experience!
Having already designed and built my boat from scratch, I knew the feeling and wanted to experience it again. Building stuff for yourself instead of buying finished products is so rewarding and fun that I would definitely recommend the experience to anyone! Moreover I think the kit is accessible to beginners thanks to its crystal clear instructions, illustrated with beautiful sketches.
What did you find most difficult about your bike build?
Three aspects: – The design of the frame: I chose to design my own frame geometry, to add a bit of challenge, to learn on bikes and eventually to end-up with a design that exactly suits me. I don’t regret it but I had a hard time finding info and processing how all parameters influence each other’s. Looking at the plans in the kit, the proposed geometry would have certainly suited me just as well with way less stress! – Thinking about the interfaces with all future parts (fork, pedals…), the room for tires… Being new to bike design, I didn’t realize there were so many different standards! I had naively bought a nice second-hand carbon fork from a friend, only to realize that it was absolutely impossible to mount inside the head-tube I ordered in the kit! James and Dan gave me great advices and supplied me with another head-tube that I could adapt to my fork with some converters. There were several other specific design issues, as having to trim my right chain stay in order to avoid a clash with the crank arm. Easy to do but I really had second thoughts when about to make a huge hole into that chain stay. – Finishing! Being a perfectionist and being motivated by creating a beautiful object I spent maaany hours sanding and coating my joints to obtain smooth and evenly proportionate ones! As already experienced in previous manufacturing projects, finishing took me almost twice as much time as the big work (cutting/assembling/wrapping the tubes). Totally worth it!
What was the easiest part of the build?
The manufacturing itself was easy, although mitering the tubes requires caution (but you have spare tubes in the kit so no panic). I often work with epoxy resin and flax/glass/carbon fiber so doing the joints was not too complicated. Bamboo was new to me and I found it was a very pleasant material to work with. And as I said, the kit and the instructions are really well done!
How would you describe the ride of your finished bike?
I love it of course, but I am certainly not objective! Additionally I just finished it and only rode it for about 10hours so far. I find it comfortable, but again I lack comparison points, so I should probably try out a full carbon bike to see the difference. What I can say is that it’s light! The bare frame without fork weights about 1.4kg and the whole finished bike is at 7.7kg so I am really pleased with that result, especially since it’s mounted as a single speed!
What would you improve about the build experience or your finished bike?
The build experience was perfect and I don’t think it needs much improvements. Regarding my finished bike, I would improve: – The paint job. There are a lot of small defects and although my friends don’t see them, that’s all I personally see. – The handlebar. So far it is a straight piece of bamboo that was left after the build. I like it but I would like to upgrade it into a bullhorn handlebar. I’ll see what I can do. – The cables. The rear brake cable passes into the top tube. I love it and it’s enough for my single speed but I was too lazy and didn’t create any other passages for eventual other cables. So if I want to convert the frame into a classic road bike with several gears, I’ll need to make new holes and use some sort of rope+magnet solution to pass guiding ropes etc…