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Bamboo Bicycles

Calfee Design, a high-end custom bicycle manufacturer in California, has now added bamboo bicycles to their line of hand-made custom-built bicycles. Craig Calfee, founder and owner of Calfee Design, drew initial inspiration for the bamboo bike by watching his dog try unsuccessfully to gnaw through a stalk of bamboo in 1996. The first bamboo bike was built as a publicity stunt to promote his company but his customers' reaction caused him to make a more sober assessment of the possibilities of bicycle frames made from bamboo in addition to the standard carbon-fiber frames made by his company.

Calfee describes bamboo as "tougher than carbon fiber in terms of impact resistance." It's less prone to fracturing than carbon fiber, and the bamboo bike is "about one pound heavier than carbon fiber," Calfee says. Bamboo also absorbs road vibrations well, allowing cyclists to ride longer without tiring. Since the stunt, Calfee has produced about 100 bamboo frames, each starting at $2,695 - in the mid-level cost range for Calfee products.

Bamboo Bike Production Information

Each bamboo frame is built to order and every frame is unique as the bamboo tubes are selected to best suit the weight of the rider. The geometry of the frame is available in 3 different stock types or custom frames can also be designed and built for riders looking for a specific style. Each piece of bamboo for the frames is carefully selected for overall strength and structural integrity and then smoked and heat treated to prevent splitting.

After treatment, the bamboo is then coated with tung oil to seal it and protect it from moisture and cosmetic damage from small rocks and other debris. The lugs and other fasteners and connectors are available in carbon fiber or hemp fiber, depending on the customers' preference, for a uniform look. The chainstays are made from carbon fiber to provide extra stiffness in the drive train.

Calfee Bamboo bikes have won several awards at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show including Best Road Bike, Best Off-Road Bike and the Peoples' Choice Award. Additionally, a Calfee Bamboo bike won 1st place in the open class at the Great Western Bicycle Rally's Concourse d'Elegance show.

Mr. Calfee, along with David Ho and John Mutter of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, is one of the driving forces of the Bamboo Bike Project. The project aims to examine the feasibility of implementing cargo bikes made of bamboo as a sustainable form of transportation in Africa. The ultimate goals of the project are to build a better bike for poor Africans in rural areas and to stimulate a bicycle building industry in Africa to provide employment opportunities, inexpensive transportation solutions, and less reliance on fossil fuels.


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