Bamboo has long been a material of interest for TreeHugger. And, of course, bicycles are, in the words of Julie Andrews, one of our favourite things. When the two hang out together it is extra exciting and such is the case to learn via Wired that Craig Calfee of Calfee Design has expanded his bamboo/hemp offerings beyond road bikes into mountain bike, and beyond that he has a vision that one day he'll be able to 'grow' his own frames. Another pic and more detail follows.
Like Calfee's much vaunted bamboo road bike (the highest rated bike on TestRider.com), the newer 26 and 29 inch MTB model is also a classic diamond frame, made from specially selected bamboo stems, which are mitred and bound together with hemp cloth laid up with epoxy. This creates a bike frame which is said to be "stronger and lighter than most metals, but absorbs road vibration much better."
Unfortunately for mere mortals the bikes are handmade and come the rather daunting price tag of $2,700 USD - for the frame alone. According to the Wired article, Craig Calfee is working to improve their production processes by experimenting with a form of arborsculpture - whereby the bamboo is grown in the field to fit a predetermined mould or form. This will allow the company to move beyond the usual straight stems they currently work with. "It's like mass production," he said. "A factory in a field. You can have row after row of bamboo growing into the right structures for bike frames."
Aborsculpture is not new (see some previous posts below). My first exposure to it was when the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) published, more than a decade ago, a collection of sustainable design projects envisaged to assist developing countries with resource shortages. One such brilliant work was gourds that were grown into square moulds, so they could be used as storage containers that wouldn't tip over.
Neither expensive, handmade bikes nor aborsculpture are likely, in their own right, cure any major environmental ills, but they do clearly highlight that alternatives to the status quo exist, and that we can choose different paths to the one we are on.
On that note we should point out that Craig Calfee does see a future beyond eco-glamour bikes for western yuppies, and has been working with the Earth Institute and Village Bicycle Program to see if it might be possible for villagers in Ghana to grow their own bikes.
Top image from Calfee website, Second image by James Merithew/Wired.com