Hudson River Park bike path to Columbia University on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. He has been
plagued by something that all people who ride
bamboo bikes have come to endure — a constant
barrage of questions about that bike.
“I ride with headphones even though I don’t
listen to music while I’m riding, so I can ignore
people when they try to talk to me about my bike.
If I talked to everybody who asked me about my
bike, I’d never get to work,” Odlin explains.
Ditto for Murray and Aguinaldo. Aguinaldo uses
his bike for his business, the Mess Kollective, a
bike messenger collective that has no office and is
run entirely on iPhones.
Murray is soon relocating to the Bay Area, where
he’ll be setting up a San Francisco-based Bamboo
Bike Studio, with weekend workshops already
scheduled into the new year. The three founders
also “think globally,” with a portion of all class fees
going toward efforts to seed the first bamboo bike
factory in Ghana.
This past summer the Bamboo Bike Studio started selling kits for DIYers who want to build a bike
frame at home. The kits include a jig, some tools,
epoxy, carbon, and a limited number of metal parts,
such as the special dropouts for the rear wheels.
They cost less than $500 — bamboo costs extra,
although the studio plans to crowdsource a harvest
map for those who want to find local bamboo.
There are at least three detailed how-tos for
making a bamboo bicycle on
safety of DIY bamboo bikes has been questioned by
Calfee Design’s Craig Calfee (
high-end bike maker in La Selva Beach, Calif., and a
pioneer in using bamboo for bicycles.
Calfee, who developed the technique of wrapping epoxy-soaked fiber around bamboo junctions
in 1995, told me that building a bamboo bike using
“the wrong techniques” could result in serious
injury. But he says he assumes the bikes made
by Odlin, Murray, and Aguinaldo in Brooklyn are
“I’m more concerned with the average DIYer,”
says Calfee. “It’s possible to build a bamboo bike
that rides just fine soon after it’s completed. But
after the bamboo ages or the resin shrinks, the
bamboo can separate from the wrappings, causing
very unexpected results.”
Bamboo bicycles may seem like the ultimate
mode of environment-friendly transportation, but
if you buy one as opposed to making one yourself,
they can cost a whole lot of green.
Calfee Design’s bamboo bike frames, which
have joints made from epoxy-soaked hemp, sell for
$2,695 and $3,195; but he also started a company
called Bamboosero, which imports bamboo bike
frames made in Africa and sells them starting at
around $700. Models include mountain, cargo,
city, and road bikes.
In Portland, Ore., Renovo Hardwood Bicycles
renovobikes.com) sells laminated bamboo bike
frames starting at $1,495–$2,650, plus extra
for full builds.
There are two bamboo bike makers in Fort
Collins, Colo. Panda Bicycles (
makes bikes with bamboo “tubing” connected
using a proprietary steel-joint design. The company
offers three models ranging from $1,600–$2, 150
for frame only, and $2, 100–$3,250 for full builds.
Boo Bicycles (
boobicycles.com), also in Fort
Collins, was started in 2009 by Nick Frey, a
23-year-old pro cyclist and mechanical engineer.
His bamboo bikes, which boast carbon fiber joints,
are handcrafted by James Wolf, an American
furniture maker who lives in Vietnam. Boo sells five
models, with frames ranging from $2,625–$2,985,
Organic Bikes (
organicbikes.com), which is
owned by the Wisconsin retailer Wheel and Sprocket,
sells a bamboo bicycle called the Dylan for as little as
$1,000. It’s made from compressed bamboo dowels
connected by recycled aluminum lugs.
A Danish bike maker, Biomega (
also uses aluminum lugs on its bamboo bike,
which was developed by award-winning industrial
designer Ross Lovegrove with the expertise of
Brazilian bamboo specialist Flavio Deslandes.
With all these companies jumping on the
bamboo bandwagon, the guys in Brooklyn are
concerned that bamboo bikes might become a fad
that eventually dies out.
“We feel like we’re building something with more
enduring value than that,” says Odlin. “Everyone
who leaves the studio says, ‘ Wow, my bike is my
favorite object now.’ They have such a connection
to this thing that came together under their own
hands. They may not come here to have that connection to their bicycle, but that’s what they leave
with. Everyone leaves with that.”
Jon Kalish (
firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Manhattan-based
radio reporter and podcast producer. He covers the DIY
scene for NPR.