What made you decide to run an educational program teaching students to build a bamboo bikes?
Our school offers a French Immersion program to students in Regina, Saskatchewan. There are very few courses offered in the Practical and Applied Arts for immersion students due to the difficulty of finding teachers to offer these courses. I had been looking for a way to incorporate a woodworking project into a construction course in French that would allow students to practice measuring, cutting and joinery. I also wanted a project that incorporated aspects of construction and addressed the question of sustainability.
Did your students enjoy building the bicycle from scratch and would you recommend to other schools?
The students loved the bamboo bike project. The ability to completely customize the design was a huge draw for many students. The enjoyed the precision cutting and mitering of tubes to match with the aluminum tubing. They enjoyed practicing fine woodworking techniques using hand tools as well. In a world where most construction is done by powertools, using hand tools is a skill that students don’t necessarily have and they like the opportunity to learn these skills.
What did you find most difficult about teaching students?
At times it can be difficult showing students how to be patient and careful in the formation of their fishmouth and mitre joints. Taking time to check and double check a joint is tricky for some students. Another challenge in teaching a course like this is that not everyone is on the same page each day. Some groups will work well together and their project will be at a more developed stage than other groups. This is why frequent check-ins and short demonstrations at the beginning of each work period are important.
What was the easiest part of the build?
The easiest part of the build each term is getting the jigs set up. The manuels are so great in that they very clearly lay out the jig set up. The reusable jigs are easy to use and can be adjusted if needed. We have found success with an old set of pine workbenches that we prilled drilled for all of our varying jig sizes. This way the students can decide between large medium and small frame sizes. Once the jigs are set up, the students are able to start cutting and mittering bamboo tubes to fit their frame size.
How do your students or yourself describe the ride of your finished bike?
The most exciting day for the students is the test day. Once the frames are complete and finished with paint or clear lacquer, It’s time to fit the frame with parts. We take old bikes as donations from the community and reuse the parts from those old frames. It’s a great way to decrease our carbon footprint and to make sure that those parts get recycled. Once the students have fitted their parts on the frames, we set up a test circuit with a little obstacle course or a race track. The students get to test their bikes and fix any mechanical issues they might have. The students love the ride quality of the bikes and many of them say they are quick yet also resilient on bumps and ruts. The students always feel enormous pride when they have built something on their own and
What would you improve about the build experience?
To improve the experience, It would be nice to have some materials in other languages. Our class is taught in French so I have had to do quite a bit of translation into French in order to make use of the manuels and videos. It would also be great to have some lessons developed explaining things like gear ratios, braking systems etc as the students who are building the bikes have very little experience with fixing or maintaining bicycles. Lastly, the epoxy and hemp fibre is a messy and time-consuming process.