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  1. #1
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Sustainable bicycle design

    I was cruising through posts last night in the Utility forum and found this thread in Framebuilders... about 2 guys who are building bamboo bikes. Normally, I spend a few minutes on BF, but last night I spent 2 hours following all the links from this thread.

    These bikes are beautiful! One of the builders lives in southern Mexico where he has access to bamboo and he created a fixie that looked like nothing I have ever seen before.

    Just wanted to share and ask if you think this frame material has a future in a post-petroleum future.

  2. #2
    Pedaled too far. Artkansas's Avatar
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    I think that they are cool. Actually Bamboo grows readily in many places as demonstrated by this pic of my bike outside the Little Rock Zoo.

    Did they have any info on how long a bamboo frame lasts under use? The idea is tempting.

    For sustainable use, I'd tend to hedge my bets on the classic steel frame, which lasts for decades and can be melted down for reuse at the end of its life.

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  3. #3
    reductio ad absurdum ericy's Avatar
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    They could have a future, but right now they are just a novelty item for yuppies.

  4. #4
    Administrator Allen's Avatar
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    I have no idea how long a bamboo frame will last. I'll do my best to find out.

    Sustainability, I'm going to have to say bamboo has an edge over my steel frames. Steel, even recycled, won't grow into ready to use pipes in the backyard unless one lives in front of a foundry. Given land, water, sun, and time bamboo will become an extremely versatile product on its own. And when you are done with it, bamboo can be turned into compost, heating fuel, or even panda and goat food.

    Both Chapaneco and I used epoxies and resins that can only be sourced through modern industry (not to say that isn't true of the tires and components of all bicycles), so bamboo's viability as a frame material in a post petroleum future depends on how apocalyptic one's view is of that future.

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  5. #5
    Administrator Allen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ericy View Post
    They could have a future, but right now they are just a novelty item for yuppies.
    Whatever.

    http://www.bamboobike.org/Home.html

  6. #6
    Humvee of bikes =Worksman Nightshade's Avatar
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    Sorry, fella's but Bamboo bike still need steel for major components.

    IMO the most sustainable bikes are made from mild steel tubing with
    steel wheels and internal hub, or single speed, much like the English
    3 speed of the recent past. Those bikes were almost unbreakable.
    My preferred bicycle brand is.......WORKSMAN CYCLES
    I dislike clipless pedals on any city bike since I feel they are unsafe.

    Originally Posted by krazygluon
    Steel: nearly a thousand years of metallurgical development
    Aluminum: barely a hundred, which one would you rather have under your butt at 30mph?

  7. #7
    reductio ad absurdum ericy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AllenG View Post
    That's fine, but they are still at the "investigating the feasibility" stage.

    The only bamboo frames that I know of that you can get today are handmade and very expensive.

  8. #8
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ericy View Post
    That's fine, but they are still at the "investigating the feasibility" stage.

    The only bamboo frames that I know of that you can get today are handmade and very expensive.
    You are correct about the "investigating the feasibility" stage. Although there have been several pictures around of bamboo cycles from the 1890s.

    I guess in our current culture, steel or aluminum tubing is so commonplace and so easy to procure, we almost take them somewhat for granted. Nice to know that there are some experimenters around who are working with different materials. In this case, very sustainable materials like bamboo.

    Of course, you do need steel bits for the bottom bracket and the head tube, etc..

    What I admire about these is that they have the look of very elegant furniture. By this I mean it's like looking at a really nice wood table when all you've ever been exposed to is press-board and veneers.
    i especially like the look of ChiapasFixed's bike because the way he has mixed the epoxy and the rope makes it look like the bamboo is lashed. Very cool!

  9. #9
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ericy View Post
    They could have a future, but right now they are just a novelty item for yuppies.
    Ericy, please have a look at Craig Calfree's journal where he describes a bamboo bike project in Africa.

  10. #10
    bragi bragi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AllenG View Post
    How much do these things weigh?
    If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

  11. #11
    hipster traffic dodger ChiapasFixed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ericy View Post
    That's fine, but they are still at the "investigating the feasibility" stage.

    The only bamboo frames that I know of that you can get today are handmade and very expensive.
    my bikes cost me under 100 dollars in materials and over 100 hours of labour to make.
    bamboo bikes will always be handmade, because each piece of bamboo is unique. this makes factory style production impossible. a bamboo bike builder is an artisan craftsman. anybody can make a bamboo bike, just like anyone can build cabinets.
    i think bamboo bikes are by far the most sustainable, longest lasting (over 100 years!) and smallest carbon footprint bikes made today. they are also very comfortable to ride, and have been used by professional athletes in triathlons and long distance races, offering a performance advantage in their vibration dampening capability, which is better even than that of carbon fiber frames.
    this is only one of thousands of high tech aplications for bamboo as a material, and i think as petroleum-based chemistry and metalurgy become more and more expensive, we will be re-learning to use this amazing plant.
    There are records of Chinese gas lamps which used bamboo pipes to carry natural gas from the source into palaces, dating from 2000 BC!!!
    IRO Mark V Pro, home made bamboo track bike, eddy merckx corsa extra, Airnimal Joey, UGADA Tikit

  12. #12
    Administrator Allen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bragi View Post
    How much do these things weigh?
    With that honking front rack and the big tires and rims mine weighs a ton-ton and half.
    Haven't had the courage to actually weigh it yet but I'm going to guess 32-34 pounds all total.

    The long tails, I don't know but I would guess they would be on par or a little less than a Big Dummy.
    Last edited by Allen; 04-13-08 at 12:32 AM.

  13. #13
    Administrator Allen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ericy View Post
    That's fine, but they are still at the "investigating the feasibility" stage.

    The only bamboo frames that I know of that you can get today are handmade and very expensive.
    Sorry, I was grumpy, hadn't eaten.

    Feasibility wise they can be made in the poorest of countries by individuals with minimal equipment.
    There is a mass production problem in that inconsistency in size of bamboo pipe and the resin and fiber bonding technique make it a difficult product to automate. There is a company in China, the Hangzhou Xinnan Rattan & Bamboo Works, which is making bamboo bikes.
    The only images I can find of their products are sadly small.



    If the images don't show it is because my server is cranky, hit refresh
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    Last edited by Allen; 04-13-08 at 12:34 AM.

  14. #14
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tightwad View Post
    Sorry, fella's but Bamboo bike still need steel for major components.

    IMO the most sustainable bikes are made from mild steel tubing with
    steel wheels and internal hub, or single speed, much like the English
    3 speed of the recent past. Those bikes were almost unbreakable.
    Agreed, however mild steel tubing requires tools and equipment to manufacture and work. Bamboo grows in the wild and can be worked with minimal hand tools.

    Another item on the steel is that it can be recycled pretty much indefinitely. Is there a place for bamboo bikes? Yes, most definitely, and I am glad to see people experimenting with them. Somewhere in my collection I have pictures of a bike made out of ash...complete with wooden rims. Will bamboo bikes become mainstream? I doubt it, but they sure beat the heck out of walking.

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    Which one would you rather have under your butt at 30mph?"
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  15. #15
    Administrator Allen's Avatar
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    Found a close-up of the Hangzhou Xinnan Rattan & Bamboo Works products.

    Catalog Entry, it went for only $150.00


  16. #16
    Hired geek surfimp's Avatar
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    No (or very, very little) steel necessary:



    Of course, they aren't so good for "riding" uphill, but they push fairly nicely!



    I've seen these things in action in Rwanda and they are effective, if not elegant.

    Steve

  17. #17
    hipster traffic dodger ChiapasFixed's Avatar
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    i like the fender on the african scooter...
    IRO Mark V Pro, home made bamboo track bike, eddy merckx corsa extra, Airnimal Joey, UGADA Tikit

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by ericy View Post
    They could have a future, but right now they are just a novelty item for yuppies.
    Yuppies?

  19. #19
    reductio ad absurdum ericy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elkhound View Post
    I meant this:

    http://www.calfeedesign.com/bamboo.htm

    A bamboo frame runs at least 2700-3200$.

    Now to be fair, the guy who is building the custom frames for yuppies is also behind the project in Ghana. The real problem with a bamboo frame is that it isn't the sort of thing that can be mass produced. It is sort of an artisan type of thing - someone with a lot of experience hand-building them one-by-one. Anything like that made in the U.S. is going to be expensive (I guess another way of looking at it is that in our world, metal is still too inexpensive). In the 3rd world, that wouldn't be the case.

  20. #20
    Senior Member barba's Avatar
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    I have no idea what the real environmental footprint or longevity of a bamboo framed bike is, but I think that they are beautiful machines. Some of the building materials that are being made from bamboo these days are incredible. I know someone that just put a bamboo floor in their house. It is really amazing. Count me in as a fan.

    I would be concerned about the chances of the stray panda eating my top tube, though.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tightwad View Post
    Sorry, fella's but Bamboo bike still need steel for major components.

    IMO the most sustainable bikes are made from mild steel tubing with
    steel wheels and internal hub, or single speed, much like the English
    3 speed of the recent past. Those bikes were almost unbreakable.
    You can fit about 200 metal bikes in a standard shipping container. If you make the frames locally out of bamboo, then that same container can hold the components that must be metal for about 2000 bikes.

    Sounds good to me.

  22. #22
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by barba View Post

    I would be concerned about the chances of the stray panda eating my top tube, though.
    One thing that strikes me is that a bamboo frame should be relatively easy to repair. First of all, the tools to put it together are much cheaper than, say, a steel or aluminum bike. Then, if you did lose a top tube, you could probably repair it yourself.

    Couldn't you just use some more of that hemp-and-bondo concoction for spot repairs?

  23. #23
    Administrator Allen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv View Post
    One thing that strikes me is that a bamboo frame should be relatively easy to repair. First of all, the tools to put it together are much cheaper than, say, a steel or aluminum bike. Then, if you did lose a top tube, you could probably repair it yourself.

    Couldn't you just use some more of that hemp-and-bondo concoction for spot repairs?
    You would have to carve the lug off and make a new one give the non-uniform nature of bamboo, but I could swap out a tube or modify the frame with no more than a work table and less than a milk crate's worth of tools and supplies.

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