A BAMBOO BICYCLE
Is it really bamboo or just a paint job? How does the frame stay together? These are some of the questions that keep coming when you ride a self-made bamboo framed bike. Certainly heads are turned by the unusual appearance, but why would you want a bicycle made of wood?
I was sceptical too when invited to join a planned 1000 mile ride around Italy – and the first task was to make the bike! Doubt soon turned to intrigue and then enthusiasm after a visit to the Bamboo Bicycle Club HQ in the shadow of the Olympic Park in East London. We spent two fascinating days building our bike frames – starting by selecting suitable lengths of bamboo, then learning how to fit and join them so that the resulting frame becomes strong. The feelings of achievement and pride of ownership when I rode my new bike home were special indeed! But would the frame stay together?
Many of Surrey’s roads are rough and full of potholes – so an ideal testing ground. Gingerly at first but with growing confidence I discovered a ride that was unexpectedly comfortable and reassuring. The frame felt tight and solid with no discernable flex even with full power uphill and the way the bike rode over lumps and bumps was a revelation. It just seemed to absorb the vibration and make the ride feel softer than other bikes with steel or even titanium frames. It became quite a talking point the first time I took it on a club ride – disbelief, amazement, envy from some, “why would you want to” from others. The answer is easy – it just feels great.
My bamboo frame weighs just 2Kg but I have added to that by designing a “gravel bike” set up with chunky wheels supporting 32mm gator skins with the intention of taking it off road. Recent stress testing on some pretty rough and hilly dirt tracks in the Pyrenees was a success – the bike remains intact and unscathed despite the rocky terrain. After that the 1000 miles around Italy should be a doddle! And there will probably be plenty of Italians asking if it’s really bamboo.
Thanks to James for the ideas, instruction, and inspiration!