The world is a blur this month for the swift competitors racing in the Tour de France, and most of them have been pedaling faster than ever since with the introduction of ever-lighter carbon bikes each year. But for biking enthusiasts who crave such top-notch speed and durability, a whole new eco- and budget-friendly option will be soon available through an innovative partnership between non-profit Zambikes and elite bike builder Craig Calfee: the bamboo bike.
The story of the bamboo bike began right in the States — Santa Cruz, to be exact — where Calfee designed a bamboo bike for a publicity project. His audiences loved the artsy-crafty look, and requests and rave reviews soon started rolling in. Thus began a small, brand new production line.
Then Calfee remembered a trip he took in Africa, when he noticed a lot of bamboo, a shortage of bikes, and even fewer jobs. Wouldn’t it be great, he thought, if developing countries could use one of the few natural resources they do have to create state-of-the-art bikes that everyone could enjoy and use? This became the inspiration for his Bamboosero project, which first took form in Ghana, where Calfee introduced the bike design to the local people and helped them set up the supply chain.
The Bambooseros were a great success — they should soon be able to operate solely on exports to the developed world — and Calfee looked to expand his projects. Enter Zambikes, the non-profit in Zambia that had long recognized the Zambians’ need for both a durable and accessible means of transportation and a form of employment.
More good news is on the way: Bamboosero bikes become available for sale in the next two to three months, so you’ll not only have a chance to pick up a super-light, sturdy bike, but you’ll also take part in expanding markets and encouraging sustainability.
Ok, so you may be asking yourself: But isn’t bamboo just wood? Wouldn’t most kinds of metals be stronger?
In fact, bamboo is similar to wood, but its structure has one major difference that makes it even tougher than carbon: unlike wood, which is strongest on the inside and weakest on the inside, making it prone to splinters, bamboo is strongest on the outside and hollow on the inside. The nodes that separate each branch into different sections also prevents fractures and breakage. In fact, bamboo is so strong that it’s been used to build boats, bridges, and scaffolding. The U.S. Navy even produced a report on replacing steel reinforcements in concrete with bamboo.
Bamboo also doesn’t rust or fatigue like metals do. Once it is coated with a waterproof sealer and maintained properly, the bamboo bike should wear just as well if not better than any other.
While bamboo isn’t quite as light as carbon, Calfee says a few athletes who have raced in the Ironman Triathlon found they rode consistently faster on their bamboo bikes in comparative studies with their carbon bikes. Most importantly, bikers most love bamboo’s flexibility that excellently dampens vibrations and absorbs shock. (Which, on long bike rides, spells less fatigue and better stamina on the trail in addition to greater comfort).
This innovation won’t break the bank, either.
Because Bambooseros use local resources without the help of sophisticated equipment, the bike frames will only cost $475 and completed bikes $750-$1500, about $2,000-$2,500 cheaper than those currently manufactured in the U.S. by Calfee’s bike company.