back to article Brit boffins' bendy bamboo bike breakthrough

The first UK-built bamboo bike has been shown off at the Cycle Show in Birmingham. bamboo_bike2 One of the bamboo bikes from the range. Image courtesy RAW Bamboo Bikes The large grass velocipede is the brainchild of designers from Oxford Brookes University, who say that the bamboo has the strength of steel but the …


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  1. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Additional benefit

    ... and nobody would ever nick one. Though you might have to be a bit careful leaving it near goats.

    1. Ian Michael Gumby


      Sorry but while it is relatively unique now and easy to spot, at 1,000 pounds, it aint cheap.

      Also wouldn't the goat's eat the leaves and not the raw wood?

      I would be more afraid of the bums hanging around the 50 gallon drums than goats...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ecological benefits.

    Buy a normal metal bike for a couple of hundred quid and buy 800 quid worth of trees somewhere?

    As dumb as the Pious this one.

    1. James Micallef Silver badge

      a 'normal' steel bike that weighs a ton is a couple of hundred quid. A pro or semi-pro bike with carbon-fibre chassis that you can literally lift with 2 fingers starts at a couple of thousand quid and go all the way up to the price of a small car.

      I would expect that a bamboo bike would weigh considerably less than a steel one, so if it's stiffness really compares well with Carbon fibre then £800 is snip. Just keep it away from Pandas

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        >"I would expect that a bamboo bike would weigh considerably less than a steel one"


        I would expect similar or more, whilst bamboo is stronger than steel in some ways, in others it isn't. Consider, joints, variations in structure (grown rather than made) bending stresses rather than simply tensile stress, more limited choice of form, cross section, internal structure and so on.

        It's a bloody hard material to use and that will mean using more of it.

  3. Tom 80

    Not First

    Here's an earlier one:

  4. Ian McLaughlin


    that's 1894 on the telegraph

    it wants its news story back

  5. pierce
    Paris Hilton

    nothing new here

    Calfee Bikes in Santa Cruz, California has been selling bamboo bikes for several years, race bikes, mountain bikes, they've even taught villagers in Ghana how to make their own basic transportation bikes...

    paris, cuz she thinks she's original

    1. wonderer

      Give credit where it's due

      The second photo shows a Calfee bike.

  6. Silverburn
    Thumb Up


    ..screw the environmental *good* a bike is it?

    And does bamboo has the same resistance to repeated-flex fatigue that carbon does?

    This could be a good thing; if it can match the properties of carbon, but with none of the environmental drawbacks, I'm all for it.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They don't mention the weight

    I can't see any mention of it being lightweight on their website or in this story which is a key issue for a hard tail XC bike. Its still cool to be doing something like this it but I hate when trade-offs are not explained.

  8. James 51
    Thumb Up

    How long before the rot to the point were they need to be replaced?

    I do like the idea though it's a bit expensive. Particularly if they are a lot easier to vandalise than metal framed bikes.

  9. atomic jam
    Thumb Up


    It's a bike, made from bamboo, brilliant!

    Maybe I should make my car out of bamboo, less co2 emissions, and it could withstand these Donegal roads(if you could call them that).

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cool - a bike for life!

    Get a small frame when you are a kid and while you grow, water the bike! ;-)

  11. Winkypop Silver badge

    Gilligan was first

    I'm sure the professor made him a bamboo bike.

    He probably got the idea from the radio they had with the inexhaustible battery technology

    1. Ugotta B. Kiddingme
      Thumb Up

      it was a car, not a bike

      The professor did indeed build transportation from bamboo, but it was a car, not a bike.

      link goes to a forum which contains a picture from the episode in which the car appeared.

      1. perlcat

        I believe that...

        they cannibalized one of the bamboo bikes to make a generator at one point.

  12. Ragarath

    "is extremely absorbent of vibrations and bumps in the road and trail"

    Does not the above say to any rider that while you pedal the energy is going into the frame not into forward motion? You know like suspension does when it absorbs the bumps but can wobble a lot (if not configured right) when just pedaling?

    On the website they do say that their technique makes it one of the stiffest frames out there. But this is contradictory to the absorbing the bumps, which is it, stiff or absorbent?

    1. The Indomitable Gall

      Fibrous materials.

      You're missing the whole point of using a fibrous medium. The fibres will move to some degree within the medium, but the structure as a whole will appear rigid on the macro scale. Vibration is medium frequency and low power, which will be absorbed in the fibres rather than the structure, preventing in reaching the rider. Bumps are low frequency and high power, and have the potential to damage the structure, but the bamboo is rigid enough relative to these to protect itself (the rider gets a jolt, but it's less than he'd get if the bike split beneath him and he hit the road).

      Or to put it another way: bamboo is harder to bend/break than metal pipes, but hit them both with a drumstick and it's the metal pipe that will ring...

  13. HP Cynic

    Great idea but they really need to get that price down.

  14. amanfromearth

    Yeah, but

    Despite it being "stronger than steel", there's an awful lot of steel and ally bits on the bike.

    Can I be the first to say I wooden want one?

    1. Nick Galloway

      Wood, its been done

      A bunch of northern Italians at the end of the second world war who were ski makers saw a market when steel was in shoprt supply after the war. They made a bike from wood using ski laminate forms that by all accounts worked very well and I understand there are still a few of them in working condition.

      As for the eco-friendliness of bamboo, no one mentions it is considered a weed by a great many gardeners because it absolutely strips the nutrients out of the soil. Quick way to make a desert from otherwise fertile soil. Leave it to the pandas to mow down!

      I am being ecofriendly by riding a bike that is about 25+ years old and cost about 40 quid at an auction. Goes like the clappers and gets me to where I want to go.

  15. The Flying Dutchman

    Of course...

    ... no expensive toy these days is presented to the public without mentioning how "green" it is. Never mind these toys are then bought by the stinking rich who then proceed to pack it in their landrover and head off to, say, the Pyrenees for a bit of "eXtreme biking".

    If they'd really want to make a difference, they'd design a "green" utility bike that can be bought for not more than a hundred and fifty quid, such that also those of more modest means can make their contribution towards saving the planet.

  16. David Cantrell

    1700 quid for a bike? A bike that will rot when it rains? And people think us Apple users waste our money!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Chances are it would last longer than a steel bike - that rusts!

      Putting a lacquer on bamboo has been done in the far east for centuries to make items that last a very long time. When done properly they are water proof and very tough, yet are still remarkably light. It does however take quite a lot of time to put a good lacquer down, whcih is probably why these bikes are rather expensive (effetively hand crafted).

  17. Sir Runcible Spoon


    "and re-grows easily"

    As anyone who has put it in their garden without a steel ring buried around it's roots will attest.

    It goes _everywhere_ .

    One tendril appeared on the other side of a 20 ft patio from where the main plant was.

    Sounds nice in the wind though.

  18. JDX Gold badge


    For a wooden bike? Less about sustainability and ecology, more about designer fashion?

    Shame because you'd think these would be of use to people who actually LIVE in countries with lots of bamboo, often very poorly.

  19. Jon Double Nice


    Not a road bike? FTW?

  20. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    Not impressed.

    Bamboo has been used for things like high-rise scaffolding in the Far East for years. Frankly, making a bike out of the stuff is pretty yawntastic in comparison, and then try to flog the idea for £1750-a-shot is downright exploitative.

    1. Silverburn


      Scaffolding is easy.

      Making a light-but-strong, stable bike with good ride and handling properties, using complex joins that will provide consistent performance for years is not.

  21. DF118

    Nothing new under the sun

    Bamboo has been used as a frame material loads of times before. Great that it's been brought bang up to date though. Wonder whether they'll be coming out with a road version?

  22. DrXym

    Eco benefits

    Bamboo surely does have eco benefits but I seriously wonder how great those benefits are when you're shipping bamboo thousands of miles to just to flog a bike costing £1000 to some hipsters. If I bought a bike for £1000 you can sure as hell bet I would want it to last me at least 5 years of moderate use to justify the price. Would a bamboo bike fair so well?

    It seems to me that such a project would be better served selling cheap bikes to people in the east where the raw material is in plentiful supply and where bicycle riding is more common anyway.

    At least it's not as bad as those laptops a few years back which were clad in bamboo for supposed "eco" reasons but really just to slap a £100 markup onto the price of the device.

  23. GrahamT

    Really the first?

    Warning - this is based on old memories and hearsay, so may not be 100% accurate.

    My father, a keen cyclist when he was young, told me about indoor racing bikes made of bamboo in the 1930s. He said that even the wheel rims were made of bamboo strips. Of course there were no carbon fibre or resin-glass composites in those days, and even aluminium was scarce, so it made sense to use a strong lightweight natural material to produce something lighter than an all steel bike.

    I believe the fragility of the bamboo, and the lethal splinters when it broke on impact (not unusual in indoor racing) put paid to it as a realistic material, certainly for outdoor use. After the war there were new materials, so it faded into the mists of time, waiting for someone to reinvent it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Further back than that, but missing the point

      Bamboo bikes were made in the 1800s and have had periodic resurgences ever since, not least because wars have made metal expensive or scarce.

      However the manufacturers haven't claimed to be first from what I've seen. They even say they started using bamboo after having ridden another bamboo bike! They claim some novelty in having identified selection and conditioning methods to get the best material properties, and in the lugs. It's an incremental improvement on what's been done before, as engineering often is.

    2. The Indomitable Gall

      Fragility of bamboo...?

      Before passing judgement on bamboo, I think we'd need more information on the points of failure of these bikes. The thing that jumps out at me is this:

      " He said that even the wheel rims were made of bamboo strips. "

      A lot of the strength of bamboo comes from its cylindrical structure, which is lost when you cut it. You also lose the benefit of the dense impermeable outer layer if you expose the insides. The wheels certainly sound like the weak link here -- I would expect the rims to be in splinters before you'd even see a split in the tubes.

  24. David Dawson
    Thumb Up

    Had a look on their FB page for pics

    And I must say, its a very nice looking piece of kit. beautifully done.

  25. Andus McCoatover


    Someone's havin' a giraffe. (Or, pandaring to the tree-hugging environmentalists)

  26. detritus

    Not UK's 'first'

    First ‘widely-commercially available UK-made’ bamboo bikes, possibly.

    There've been at least three or four other groups of people making and selling UK-made bamboo bikes over the past few years, including a friend of mine who made and sold a handful around North London last year, and would be still if he didn't have other responsibilities (much to my chagrin - I was supposed to be swapping a website for my own bamboo bike, grrr!)

    Also, does your second image there not show an American-made bamboo bike, made by Calfee?

    Anyway, that aside - if you ever get a chance to try one, do. They're an interesting, surprisingly comfortable ride.

  27. SirTainleyBarking

    So instead of dogs chasing it

    Cyclists will have to dodge packs of marauding Pandas

  28. I understand now

    Fire and water

    Surely rain is a very bad thing for this bike.

    Also, how combustible is the frame i wonder?

  29. Ian Stephenson

    Nice, now for real Dr Frankenstienery....

    Genetically modify it so the frame is grown ready jointed.

    Im sure it would be much stronger and sleeker without the flax joints.

    and if it could have tentacles as well... Muwhahaha!

  30. Hollerith 1

    Grass bike for £1000?

    I assume, as farmers get subsidies, this price will come down.

    I've seen huge skyscrapers in China being built, swathed in bamboo scaffolding and working a treat. I assume a bamboo bike will be as strong.

  31. Haku
    Thumb Up

    I remember seeing a website a few years back of someone who had made a mountain bike frame using bamboo as the main struts, the site is still going and he's still making new frames, the first he made some 7+ years ago:

    He's even gone as far as making a full frame using just bamboo fibers in much the same way carbon fibers are woven to create shapes:

    We still have a long way to go to beat nature at it's own game, and as they say; if you can't beat em, join em.

  32. The Jase

    "with the frame at £1,000 and the first mountain bike starting from £1,750."

    What, what, what?


    That's just taking the piss, big time.

    1. Darren Barratt

      There's a lot of people in this thread that clearly haven't been in a proper bike shop. If the frame really does compare favourably with a full-carbon then £1000 is pretty reasonable.

      You can get something much cheaper from Bike Hut, punched out of steel and screwed together by chimps, but if you want a good bike, you pays your money.

      **Rides off on Epic Evo**

  33. Steven Jones


    It would be more impressive if they actually quoted a typical weight for such a frame. I rather doubt it will out-perform a carbon frame which has similar shock damping characteristics (anyway, it must be better than large diameter aluminium which has horrid shock absorption). I also suspect that they have to build in a much larger safety factor than with less variable materials which are less affected by environmental degradation.

    Given that bamboo will bio-degrade, I hope they treat this with lots of (nasty) preservatives, our you might find this nice expensive frame will have lost a good bit of its strength after being stored in a damp shed for a few years.

    Nb. for comfort, I don't think anything beats a titanium frame.

  34. Will 20

    I'll consider buying one when the knock off a "0" on the RRP.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I was having visions of it breaking as soon as you look at it, given what some grass tubing can be like.

    Do not like.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There have been bamboo bikes around for years

    They have been making them in Africa for a number of years now, better to get one from those folks than this new guy

    Check zambike and bamboobike,

  37. elawyn

    I made something like this as a kid. Except I decided it needed a motor as well, so I made a wooden motorcycle.

    Wooden wheels, wooden frame, wooden petrol tank, wooden engine.

    Sadly tho, it wooden go.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I know the article says first UK-built, but the rest of the article seems to give the impression that it was their innovation, whereas this guy appears to have been doing the same thing for years -

  39. Anonymous Coward

    Another 'uses natural' materials but costs as much as space age technology materials...

    ...why? I could not help think "Cool, a bamboo bike! Oh, I'll never be able to afford that"

    I always feel so frustrated that so many of these 'green', 'environment friendly', 'revolutionary', etc solutions very rarely seem to be accessible to people regardless of financial position. They quite often seem to be packaged and aimed at the 'exclusive', 'desirable' end of the market.

    How about some genuine mass market, green products that are truly affordable? *insert suggestions of products that I may have missed here. Thanks!*

    1. Darren Barratt


      You could always just pick some bamboo up from the garden centre plus a whole load of eppoxy resin and duct tape. Problem solved!

  40. Mr Young

    Does look like nice work I guess...but

    "ecological benefits" I'm not so sure about - try Imagine all the burgers you'd have to eat if you cycled everywhere!

  41. snellasaurus

    Whilst it is a nice publicity shot thie bike is lacking one manajor advantage of carbon fibre.

    When you build any structure from CF you can specify the direction of each of the many layers of the fibre to specifically tune the strength and stiffness in response to the expected loads generated during cycling. Additionaly outer protective layers can be used laid against the direction of the main load bearing fibres to work as an effective barrier to crack propagation.

    Even with metal frames you can using tube butting, shaping and gussetting.

    With bamboo you are completely limited to taking the material as-is. So I would assume (as is the case with many wood structures) that the structure has to be massively overengineered in many areas to cope with the peak loads in just a few places. I really doubt it would be a pleasure to ride!

    Just because you can doesn't mean you should or that it is progress.

  42. Zmodem

    it would be like going down a mountain on a £200 bike from halfords and wouild snap in half if your not riding around amsterdam

  43. Smithson

    But how do they grow it in that shape?!

  44. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    A note on bamboo and carbon fibre

    Actually some mfg have replaced CF by bamboo in FRP. Not using solid bamboo, processed strips.

    Yes it does work as well as CF. AFAIK it's not quite as fire resistant as CF but in an atmosphere with say 20%+ O2 present (what you're breathing right now) CF will "rapidly oxidize" as quickly as bamboo anyway.

    1. Zmodem

      probaly not, you would be hard pushed to freeride over the coastal rocks on the back wheel inthe photo and would snap in half on never mind

    2. snellasaurus

      Replacing something can be done for a number of reasons - frequently build to cost!.

      Anyway my point was with CF or any polymer/fibre composite the designer has a lot of control ofer the material. With bamboo you are immediately limited by the nature plant itself. I'd rather recycle one of the umpteen steel frames I see at the local tip than ride a bamboo frame thanks.

  45. bananabender

    Journalistic standards to be maintained at El Reg?

    The second photo of the allegedly all British Bike is in fact not indigenous at all, rather it is a product of .

    Surely it was not too hard for your ex-News of the World reporter to use a real photo of the actual all-British device, well perhaps it was.....

    BTW, to anyone moderately experienced with bicycles the photos are of two different bikes. Quite apart from the different colour Bamboo, the different wheels, gearing, forks and braking system is kind of a giveaway.

    The different Decals on the downtube are also a hint.

  46. DF118


    People, the price at which Halfords will sell you something that looks like a bike, but is in fact made out of old gas pipes, is not the price of a bike.

    1. Zmodem

      if you going to spend £1700 on a bike, you a better off with a basic freeride bike for work and bounce over all of the potholes on british roads and coble back alleys

  47. Robevan

    Not quite so new

    My neighbour as I was growing up in the 1970's had been a keen cycle racer in the 1940's, his racing bike had bamboo wheel rims, so I think this one has missed a trick there. The ice axe I still use for general mountaineering use still has its laminated bamboo shaft from the late 1970's.

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