Bamboo bicycles are not new

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Bamboo bicycles are certainly not new, despite of some claims. The first bicycles made from bamboo were made in the last decades of the 19th century. Why are we then trying to make out that they are that new when, in fact, they have been around for ages?

The answer here, probably, could be that they try to paint bamboo in those green colors and thus must create those impressions as to bamboo bicycles and such.

The bamboo frame bikes from the late 19th century look basically the same as those “modern” ones and, as far as I can see, the latter are but direct copies of the former.

Those bikes were the predecessors of the carbon fiber bikes of today and were built in order to have a bicycle that would be much lighter than the heavy steel-framed ones of the day. Bamboo simply was a material that was strong and light and that came in tubes.

Those builders of bamboo bikes were not on about sustainability but about weight though today's claim of sustainability as to bamboo frames for bicycles might be OK in some respect .

However, to make the bamboo bicycle out as something so green and modern is not the truth.

On the other hand, as said, as the bamboo, in the case of bicycle frames, is used as it comes, as tubular stalks, claims, as already indicated, as to sustainability might be fine. The problem will be, however, the cost and the question as to whether it is green to have the material shipped miles and miles in order to make a bike or, the other scenario, to ship the bike from say China or Vietnam to Europe or the USA.

It all is a question of economics of scale and of environmental footprint and all that.

So, as far as I am concerned, the jury is still out on this.

There are bicycles that I do have a problem with as to environmental footprint and that is those made from carbon fiber and such materials which not only make them expensive bike or the buyer and user but also to the Planet.

So, therefore, if bamboo could be a replacement for those in order to make lightweight cycles then that would be great and can be but applauded. If, however, bamboo cycles are only made to make a point about bamboo then, maybe, we have to rethink our approach.

Bamboo frame bicycles will, in no way, be as strong and long lasting, of that I am certain, through the rigors of use, than those make of a steel frame. Steel in the making of cycles is also way superior to aluminum, though aluminum frames are, obviously, lighter.

Being someone who tinkers with bicycles, as I believe that the bike is the transportation vehicle for the masses of the future, I prefer frames made of steel tubing to those over aluminum any day, and that for more than one reason.

© 2011