Bamboo Bikes


The bicycle, arguably one of the world’s most brilliant inventions, has many advantages: it’s a great form of exercise, it’s economical, it’s environmentally friendly, and it feels phenomenal to fly downhill on one. Possibly one of the only disadvantages is the material used to make it.

Light bicycles are made of aluminum, one of the most resource-demanding materials in existence. Flavio Deslandes, a Brazilian industrial designer at the PUC-Rio University, has designed a bicycle made, essentially, of grass specifically, bamboo.

Deslandes is not the first to use bamboo as a material for the bicycle. Starting with English patent No.8274 on April 26, 1894, the first bamboo bicycles were shown at the London Stanley Show of 1894 and caused a sensation. A company of the same name based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and producing a ‘Bamboo’ model in 1898 may have been connected.

Bamboo has recently exploded onto the design scene, in everything from flooring to accent pieces, even a fun ceiling cover on home makeover programs. Any bamboo aficionado could reel off several reasons that this material is so versatile:

  • Bamboo is a resource of immense potential, as well as being a very strong material. It is, in fact, stronger than steel when strained in the longitudinal direction (17%, specifically).
  • According to history, it was bamboo Faber that glowed in Thomas Edison’s first electric light bulb. It was bamboo that kept the very first airplanes in Paris, constructed by Santos Dumont, together.
  • Bamboo is beneficial to the CO2 value of the atmosphere. While growing, it emits more oxygen than the equivalent amount of wood pulp.
  • Bamboo keeps more than two billion people around the world employed. It grows without fertilizer and, as we touched on earlier, can be used for almost anything, from rice dishes to building material. It’s a species of grass that is harvested every third year. It needs no replanting and comes in a range of sizes, the biggest ones growing up to 60 meters tall.

    See also our article on E-Bikes

    Deslandes admits that there is still steel in his bamboo bicycles. However, he makes sure that the steel serves the bamboo, as opposed to the other way around. He uses bamboo in its natural form in constructing the bicycle, and is quick to point out that bending, drilling, or using nails or screws to hold the pieces together will only weaken the structure. Instead, he fits the parts together precisely, using glue to secure them.

    Though he is already a master of his craft, Deslandes continues to research ways to find even more replacements for the metal parts. His wheels are 100% bamboo, the rims are made with laminated bamboo and the spokes are straight bamboo sticks. His next project is converting the pedals and pedal arms from steel and metal to all bamboo.

    Building these bicycles is art. Deslandes’ words summarize the bamboo bicycle perfectly. Each bicycle is different. Every piece of bamboo must be carefully chosen and fitted into the bike frame according to size and quality. The secret, Deslandes doesn’t hesitate in revealing, lies in treating and handling the materials in exactly the right way. Learning the right way takes a lot of time and a lot of patience. The maintenance, too, is very time-consuming, but worth it in the long run. By riding a bicycle made of material that can be stronger than steel, that emits more oxygen than its equivalent in wood pulp (thereby improving our very atmosphere), how could you go wrong?

    Before you get online to find your perfect model, you should be warned that, as might be expected, this is one expensive bike. If you do have a bike fund balance of around $2500 to $3000, then go for it. Until then, we can all continue to marvel at the infinite possibilities of eco-friendly materials. It’s almost as exhilarating as flying downhill on a bike.

    See our article on E-Bikes


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    1. My brother would love this bike. I need to show him this story. He is an avid bike rider and very environmentally conscious. This is definitely something to keep an eye on.

    2. Bamboo rarely cracks unless there are extreme temperature and humidity conditions. A bamboo bike Co. in Ghana smokes the tubes and then apply a poly finish to them to prevent climate problems.
      BBC just did an article about a company in Zambia that makes bikes for sale in the US and EU for less than 500$! This is phenomenal considering the sustainability of the resource and, ultimately, the strength of the frame.
      Another company says the cost to produce a bamboo bike is roughly 47$ from start to assembled finish.
      … I\’m thinking of becoming a bamboo farmer 😉

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