Bamboo is a marvellous material, stronger than steel, flexible, durable and very ecologically sustainable. Some varieties can grow over a metre a day! In the Philippines they even make houses of it, and it’s used as scaffolding across the whole of the Far East. The really weird thing is it’s a grass, imagine having to mow it every Sunday? The latest big idea for this wonder plant is to use it for mass transportation, most specifically bicycles.
The first bamboo bicycle factory has just opened in Ghana, in Africa, with plans to ramp production up to 20,000 units a year. The idea is to use natural bamboo (along with conventional materials for the wheels, chain and other important parts) and so slash the complexity and cost of production. Eventually they hope to sell these bikes for less than $50 each.
Bamboo bicycles have also coincidentally become something of a fashion statement in our ecologically aware Western markets. There are numerous trendy bike makers building their products with some element of bamboo in them – check out Panda Bicycles and Boo Bicycles for examples.
Of course this stuff is mostly decoration rather than functional, but if you’re really interested in the whole bamboo bicycle theme, and fancy having a go yourself, there’s plenty of places to help out. First port of call should be the Building a Bamboo Bike blog, after which you could peruse the great advice on the Sustain Lane site, which features great tips and photos for beginners.
Instructables has also featured DIY home made bamboo bicycle tutorials for over four years, and as ever the comments are an awesome resource for learning about supply sources and other hints and tips. Finally, for those who would like a bit more of a helping hand to get started, you can actually buy ready to assemble kits (with or without the bamboo itself) from the rather fantastic Bamboo Bike Studio. The kits start at $552 and come with all the instructions you’ll need to make sure you turn heads on your high street.
Meanwhile, the impressive Bamboo Bike Project initiative in Africa will no doubt grow the potential for this great alternative rural transportation at a time when it’s most needed. Which is great news for medical staff, field workers and other potential users who will benefit from cheap, robust tools to travel to remote areas. Very impressive.