The Spoke December 22, 2009

Bamboo Bikes - wood is the new carbon fibre!

These days wood is not the sort of material you associate as a primary material source for building a bicycle. Well that might just be changing. Actually bamboo bikes have been around for longer than you think - the first was exhibited in London in 1894..... and now they are making something of a comeback. After 10 years of design work beginning in the mid 90s, Craig Calfee has been selling a variety of bikes made from this abundant natural resource.

Bamboo makes for a practical alternative to the materials usually used in bike building. Once harvested, the bamboo is smoked and heat treated to prevent it from splitting. Then the frame is covered in a polyurethane layer to help seal it. Bamboo fibres are both strong and light. It's natural characteristics also allows other materials to be used alongside it - for example where extra stiffness is required, especially in the drivetrain. Here, bamboo can be bonded to carbon fibre providing additional strength and rigidity. 

Due to the way bamboo grows, and once it resembles a frame, it apparently makes for a very comfortable ride. This is because the material acts as a natural dampener, helping to avoid vibration. Calfee maintains this reduces rider fatigue when compared to more convention materials. There are benefits to for the environment. Bamboo grows quickly and is a renewable resource. It makes a carbon friendly and fitness friendly form of transport even more effective. Hemp can also be used in conjunction with a bamboo bike for the joints - providing another ecologically sound alternative construction technique.

Bamboo bikes are not cheap - a standard version will cost around £2500 (but no more than a decent carbon fibre ride). On the plus side though it's highly unlikely your neighbour will have one! So if you are interested and want to learn more about Calfee's designs, have a look at You never know - maybe riding on wood is the way forward!

Thumbnail photo credit - and

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