We built a bicycle out of bamboo for our journey in The Americas, to show off as a sustainable alternative while riding.
We harvested the bamboo close to home in Australia, treated it, cut it and built a bicycle frame with the lugs and an old frame.
For a step-by-step explanation how we did it, please scroll down this page.
We cycled for more than 1.000 kilometres in the USA and Mexico, with the bamboo bicycle fully loaded.
– at one time it even housed a small garden!
Unfortunately the frame broke at the front joint in Mexico.
Presently it is living a happy second life as a bicycle blender at Casa de la Libertad in San Cristobal, Chiapas.
Scroll down to see images of the break.
Unfortunately we had to leave the bamboo frame in San Cristobal, Mexico, as there was a crack in the hemp joint on the front.
We have cycled more than 1.000 km with the first bamboo frame we built, so we are keen to built another when we have the chance!!
See some pictures below of the crack of the joint, and the crack in the bamboo that happened afterwards..
We have re enforced the bamboo frame with hemp fiber, so now it is a bamboo-hemp hybrid bicycle!
by Mykal and Nico
We made a horizontal jig of ply wood with threaded rod to hold the frame onto.
The so called ‘donor frame’ is made up of damaged frames donated to Turnstyle Community Hub.
We cut the bamboo to size so it fits exactly into the donor frame.
Inside the bamboo tubes (not shown on the pictures) we slid some thinner bamboo to re-ennforce the connection.
We dropped a metal seat post tube inside the bamboo seat post, which took a lot of filing of the bamboo and grinding of the metal to make it the right fit.
The frame is slowly but surely starting to look like a bicycle frame
We made a seat post joint with balsa wood, with straight edges where the wood meet the bamboo tubes.
Balsa wood is a soft wood that can be shaped easily, allowing for extraordinary looking joints.
We glued the tubes on the balsa wood with epoxy, and shaped the balsa wood with a file and sanding paper.
It is important to make strong connections between the bamboo and steel, crossing over the steel and bamboo.
We taped bamboo tubes, to protect them from getting epoxy on them, and left it to dry and be a show case at our FUNdRaiser @Turnstyle on Sunday May 27th.
After the bamboo cloth drenched with epoxy resin dried properly, Nico sanded it down, creating a smooth surface for the next step: wrapping the joints with hemp fibre and epoxy resin.
We started on the front joint.
The surface of the joint needs to be wet with epoxy, before applying the hemp fibre.
The epoxy we used is the best eco solution we found, based on pine resin from Entropy. More information via http://www.entropyresins.com/
Even though this epoxy is based on pine resin, it still has some chemical components, and it is better to wear a mask when your nose is on top of the fumes for a while ; )
Wrapping the joints with long ‘dread lock’ strings of hemp fibre is a GREAT team building activity. You want to do it quite fast, before the epoxy hardens.
It is important to wrap the hemp fibre strings quite tightly around the joints, and then drench them in epoxy resin.
To be continued (May 30th 2012)
Why to practice with a prototype
See the difference in color before and after using the blowtorch
and use a cardboard mould and precise tools to make the joints fit to the millimetre
The joints we wrap with hemp fibre which we sand down, and we repeat:
wrap, sand, wrap sand, ..
Be careful not to wrap too enthusiastically, as Nico glued the frame to the jig!! : )
We also experimented with a bamboo cloth, which we sanded down, and we repeat:
wrap, sand, wrap sand, ..
The bamboo used on this protoype is Timor black bamboo, which is a very moist bamboo. As such it is not very strong and prone to splitting, thus not so good for building a bicycle frame, although it is GREAT to experiment with and very pretty : )
We used this frame to play with during the workshop we hosted on May 13th @Turnstyle in Brisbane and applied all we learned on the first frame for the journey.
We haven’t build a frame out of bamboo before, we learned from the internet and then through trial and error.. ; )
Websites we found very useful are www.bamboobike.wordpress.com and www.bamboobikestudio.useful-arts.com
I have collected an assortment of bamboo for the bicycle thanks to Jasper Hall and the good paramedic Craig.
Jasper Hall is an inspiring permaculture paradise hidden in the beautiful hills of northern NSW. They are certified organic with appr. 80 species of fruit trees, vegetables, herbs & salad greens.
More importantly however they have 112 species of bamboo growing on the property, and a increasingly growing bamboo nursery. They were really nice people who gave me a wide assortment of species to experiment on, and a whole host of advice to guide me along the way.
The ones we chose were three different Bamboo Multiplex:
From Craig’s backyard we picked up some huge Timor Black, beautiful, but prone to splitting.
I decided on a two part approach:
The black bamboo I would start drying out with a blowtorch so I would have something to play with almost immediately. Whereas the rest I would treat with a mixture of Copper Sulphate and Boric Acid and let sit for two months.
Mykal helps to run bicycle cooperative Strong Bearrings.
The cooperative is part of the Turnstyle Community Hub in Highgate Hill, Brisbane.
Should you like to try and build a bamboo bicycle yourself the best and most informative site we have found so far is here.
If you’d like to follow the progress of the Brisbane Bamboo Bicycle Collective, come join our group on Facebook.