The Bamboo Bike project

The Bamboo Bike, an endeavour that aims at building bicycles in a sustainable fashion using bamboo as the primary construction material, is a joint project run by Craig Calfree of Calfree Design, a high tech bicycle design firm based in California and The Earth Institute at Columbia University.

The bicycle is the primary mode of transport in Africa and it is used for everything from personal transportation to moving medicine and the sick to hospital. Sadly, the design used in most of Africa has not changed for the last 40 years to take into account the different ways in which the bicycle is used. In fact, most bikes in use in most of Africa today are based on a colonial British design tailored to individuals travelling short distances on smooth roads.

Bamboo Bicycle Project - Bike Assembly  Bamboo Bicycle Project - The Bamboo Bike

While making bike frames based on bamboo is not a new idea, most bamboo frame designs simply use bamboo for construction material in a traditional bike frame design. Leveraging the unique properties of bamboo such as its strength and flexibility to meet the specific needs of populations local to various parts of Africa is one of the primary rationale behind the Bamboo Bike project.

The team working on the Bamboo Bike project in the US, Ghana and Kenya among other locations have a interesting blog (last updated in the summer of 2007) that chronicles the struggles of the project team while on site in Africa.

Project gear including Bamboo Bikes and clothing is available on the Bamboo Bike and Calfree Design websites.

Bamboo Bicycle Project - A Ghanian Village Elder on the Bamboo bike  Craig Calfree and the Bamboo Bicycle Project

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  25. It’s nice to see that Craig is helping out folks who most need his skills. I saw his beautiful (but very expensive) work at NAHBS in Portland a couple of weeks ago: beautiful stuff. The longtail they produced looks xtracycle / worldbike inspired… was there a collaboration between then Craig and the Worldbike folks?

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  32. It seems that the bamboo bike project needs to be looked at a little better from a production engineering perspective. The strong steel frame of cheap Chinese bikes, can be easily welded if breaks, predictable at high speeds in bends and only a relatively small cost center in the manufacturing of bikes. Everything else, i.e some 200 parts have to be bought, as bamboo chains, bearings, spokes, tyres, innertubes, saddle, bell, gears, forks, cranks, brakes, reflector, pedals, etc. do not work well. One can import a Chinese heavy duty working bike for US$70, but it is unlikely that one can negotiate a large enough order with the Chinese to provide all the other parts for, say, $50. Which means that bamboo frames + assembly has to cost less than $20 to make manufacturing viable. The prtotypes look big and clumsy and it is unlikely to have any saving in the weight of the bike. Does not sound a very sound venture.

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