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Guest Blog About the Bamboo Bicycle Club
Published: 2nd October 2012
Written by: James Marr
Tom Valentine who runs the Lee’s Solicitors Bike Claims Blog approached us to do a guest Blog about how the bamboo bicycle club started and more about the founders
Tell us a bit about Bamboo Bicycle Club, exactly what do you do, and how did it all begin?
It’s been nearly 2 years since we started building – and we made a lot of mistakes before we began to get the ride right! There is enormous enjoyment to be gained from building bikes you design yourself, specifically for your body. When we rode our first bamboo bicycle, neither of us could stop smiling, and wanting to share that experience with others is one of our key motivators. There are so many self build videos online, but there isn’t enough detail. Bamboo Bicycle Club workshops allow anyone to fulfil their bamboo bike dream without the endless research, buying any tools or sourcing material suppliers – like we had to for so long!
There has suddenly been quite a bit of press and coverage of bamboo bikes recently, but how long have they been around?
The first bamboo bicycles were built in 1896, but they were quickly sidelined in favour of steel and other metals for mass production purposes. In 1996 Craig Calfee began building bamboo bicycles using a hemp composite and since then, there has been a steady growth in builders, especially in the US. It’s still in the early stages and very much a niche frame material, however, we believe with continuing innovations it can become a viable frame material choice.
Why is Bamboo such a good material to build a bike with?
Bikes can be built without all the machinery required for steel, aluminium and carbon frames. Under instruction, people can learn the skills easily, or they may even have them already. The frames are all unique, which is perfect for those who struggle to find the right frame geometry. They feel stiff on the road, but have enough natural flexibility to absorb every bump that comes your way and dampen the ride.
Is it safe?
We have not gone through factory tests or pummelled our frames to total destruction, but we and others have heavily test-ridden our frames to simulate tough conditions and the results are fantastic. All our models are designed for city/town use and we haven’t broached the mountain-bike game (yet). Obviously there are risks associated with building your own frame, and as long as they are respected, we’ll ensure you build to a high quality and achieve success.
What is your favourite city in the world to cycle in?
For me, somewhere like Vancouver BC has great scenery and a good bike vibe, but actually, London has a great buzz and is always a thrill. As for Ian, he’s a Beijing fan and claims that no-where else compares – anywhere where there are always hundreds of cyclists around every corner is a fantastic place to ride.
What do you think of the Cycling infrastructure in the UK? What could be done to improve cycle safety and get people out on their bikes.
There is lots of really positive press at the moment, and the momentum needs to be maintained through the winter. All new roads need to fully encompass the needs of cyclists as they currently so often don’t – cycle channels as found in Amsterdam and Copenhagen are the ideal way to segregate traffic and encourage more people to get cycling. The concept of including cyclist awareness in the driving test is brilliant, but it will be a generation before we notice the full effects. Unfortunately our cities are the diamonds in the rough – the likes of London and Manchester are far safer to cycle in than small towns and suburbs. No matter how frustrated cyclists get with the aggression of some bus drivers and cabbies, at least they know we’re there.
You offer workshops in Bamboo Bike Building, is it really the case that anyone could build a bike for themselves?
Yes – 100%. We teach a maximum of 4 people here at a time so that we can help people who are less confident and make sure they are following the correct steps.
Talk us through the build process, what other materials do you use?
The first few hours are spent setting up the jig and aligning the metal parts in the correct places – we use customised stainless steel water-cut dropouts, and cromoly tubing for the head tube, seat post tube and bottom-bracket sleeve. Then we get everyone to select their bamboo from our stock and start cutting and shaping them to size. We tack them in place, and early on the Sunday morning we use hemp and epoxy to bind the joints together.
Can you remember what your first bike was?
I shared a bicycle with my twin brother which was a red with stabilizers.
Be honest…do you own any non Bamboo bikes?
I currently only own bamboo bikes – I had a steel touring frame and a hybrid that I stripped for parts to feed my bamboo habit. Ian still has a couple of non-bamboos on the road, but they are ever more seldom used.
In 5 words… convince us why we should own a Bamboo bike.
Custom, Light, Durable, Comfortable, Cool