The bamboo bike wave. Ride it.

The bamboo dream bike.

The bamboo dream bike.

I have seen the future of bike technology and it is growing like weeds in Ghana. Not bank-busting titanium, carbon fiber or even exotic aluminum sculpture. The ride of tomorrow only needs sunshine and water and a sharp machete. The bamboo bike boom is upon us.

My conversion to bamboo advocate happened last Saturday at the Marin County Biketoberfest where I saw the most stunning bike I’ve ever seen — a dark chocolate brown bamboo Calfee. It was not only beautiful but ironic — when we think of strength, we think metals, not the material they make into futon frames. The bamboo bike took my breath away and made me laugh at the same time. The notched bamboo tubes are joined with hemp lugs – they’re wrapped and soaked with epoxy.

If you live in Northern California where nearly everyone checks their carbon footprint before breakfast, this bike hands you bragging rights forever. The cool factor is off the charts. It was like suddenly learning you could make bulletproof jackets out of balsa wood. It blew my mind.

I’m not a tech guy but I wanted to know everything possible about bamboo bikes. At the Calfee booth,  Scott Moore explained that bamboo is as strong as steel and the damping properties exceed even carbon fiber for comfort. Apparently they “smoke” the tubes to kill any fungus and prevent splitting. This brings up fabulous possibilities — “yes, I’d like my Ethiopian coffee beans with a medium roast and my bamboo bike frame with an expresso roast, thanks.”

You think bamboo is rickety? The Calfee bamboos have a 10 year warranty and can be easily repaired. This work of art weights from 4 to 6 pounds with good stiffness. It’s the kind of genius that drags our polluted world into a shiny new future. Apparently the only drawback is the constant oohs, ahhs and whistles from strangers.

The Calfee bamboo will set you back around $2500 for the frame. This makes me cry because I checked with the wife and we’re $2400 short and she continues to keep her left hand hidden, the one that has the diamond ring on it. No hope of pawning that thing.

Nevertheless, the bamboo bike fantasy lead me down the rabbit hole. There are many bamboo possibilities and frame builders in every price range. Yes, Twisted Spoke is your bamboo bicycle aggregator.

Among the many cool things about bamboo — and Calfee definitely started the bamboosa–palooza — is what it means in the third world. They’re teaching folks to build the frames and start sustainable businesses. Job possibilities open up when you have your own wheels.

Calfee has set up a company called Bamboosera to help establish bamboo bike shops in Ghana, Zambia and Uganda, with more coming fast. They do the inspection, assemble the parts and ship it your way. A slick Bamboosero can be yours for under a groovy grand.

There is plenty more to the bamboo story and it’s really taking off. Hell, the stuff grows up to 24 inches a day.

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  • Ed Rubinstein

    You should also check out Boo Bicycles boobicycles.com. I saw them 3 weeks ago at Interbike where they displayed a road, cyclocross and fixie bike made from a special extra strong bamboo grown in Vietnam joined together with carbon joints. Their bamboo frames are the equivalent of being butted for lightness as they are bored out to specified dimensions. I rode the cyclocross version and it felt plenty stiff, and sure was different looking.

    • walshworld

      Thanks for checking in, Ed. I checked out his site and he had some great looking bikes. Lighter colored tubes, which is a different look than the Calfees.