There’s a joke amongst cyclists that the ideal number of bikes to own is n+1. It’s funny because it’s true. But part of the attraction is owning a bike that’s uniquely yours. I’ve built, rebuilt, and modified plenty of bikes, but I’ve never tackled a frame. I wasn’t ready to weld.
For several years, the California College of the Arts has offered a bike-building summer course, which I almost took once. It’s expensive, and you enter knowing that your best efforts and intentions will yield something uniquely yours, but that it will fall short in quality compared to one you could buy from Taiwan. (At least, if you’re me you know this.)
Meanwhile, we’re seeing bikes built from wood and bamboo. Oakland, California-based Stalk Bicycles builds bamboo bikes there. A now-closed studio here in San Francisco offered build-your-own bamboo bicycle classes.
All this is a roundabout way to get to Bamboobee, which is now selling kits. They’ll ship a bunch of bamboo, some fasteners, and a set of instructions. The kit is clever in its setup, with the packaging acting as a sort of template for laying out the frame. The man behind Bamboobee, Sunny Chuah, began selling bamboo bikes in 2013, after riding nearly 4,000 miles across central Asia on one he built (mad props!). In 2014 he released the kit (and ran a successful Kickstarter) because he thought (and we concur) that people would be interested in building their own.
Then again, why not find your own bamboo? Cut it to size, fashion joints from fiber and epoxy, and cobble together instructions from various YouTube videos. The basics are: Cut your stalks to size, and notch the ends so they’ll fit snugly against the other tubes; wrap the joints in a fibrous material, and layer with epoxy; and then, of course, you have to fit the components, including bottom bracket and headset.
It’s not quite a full set of instructions, but an old video of Michael Mann on BU Today is a good place to start. (Mann kept a much more detailed blog as he built it.) Alternatively, you can machine joints that will accept the stalks rather than creating them with epoxy, or use an old steel frame for its joints. You can even set up a jig, and Instructables has several more guides.
Has anyone out there in makerland built bikes (or other structural projects) with bamboo? What was your experience like?
Photos courtesy of Bamboobee