This has been a tough week for Bike Noob. Tough, because the weather has gone to pieces, and we’ve had irritating light rain and chilly temperatures for the last several days. I’ve gotten in no riding at all this week. So, since I have no riding to write about, I thought I’d take a look at an interesting development in the biking world.
I keep getting emails from entrepreneurs who are starting up small companies that make bamboo bikes. That’s right, those tall stalks of segmented wood tubes are used to make bikes — and not just in Southeast Asia, not by any means.
At first blush, it sounds crazy. But bamboo is different from other woods. It’s light, but strong. The cellulose fibers that make the outer layer of the wood are stiff and strong. Because it’s hollow, bamboo is light. The segments in the stalk provide built-in vibration damping.
According to the testing firm Instron, one disadvantage of bamboo is the uniqueness of its different species. Each has different properties. Its height, age, and water content can all affect its ability to perform as a bike frame. It also has to be treated to avoid insects and fungus.
The bamboo is heat treated to prevent cracking, and coated to keep out moisture. It’s joined to other parts of the frame by carbons fiber jointing, or by wrapping in epoxy.
Bamboo bikes are labor intensive to build, and therefore, the bikes can be pricey.
One company, Greenstar Bikes of Minneapolis, claims to be the “affordable” bamboo bike, with a price of $450.
Or, you could buy a do-it-yourself kit from the Bamboo Bicycle Club of London for about $445 US.
Bamboo bikes strike me as the ultimate niche cycle. A number of other companies around the world make them, but they’re still not something you see every day — or ever.