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Science Technology

Bamboo Bike A Reality 467

Posted by michael
from the recycle-your-beer-cans dept.
markjugg writes "The American Bamboo Society has a page describing a working bamboo bike. This is a strong step towards making bicycling more sustainable, expecially in contrast to aluminum, one of the most resource demanding materials that exist."
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Bamboo Bike A Reality

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  • Re:Ummmm..... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Elwood P Dowd (16933) <judgmentalist@gmail.com> on Saturday July 26, 2003 @01:39PM (#6540590) Journal
    Since it's only got one gear, would it be possible to control speed with the chain?
  • by Citizen of Earth (569446) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @01:42PM (#6540611)
    expecially in contrast to aluminum, one of the most resource demanding materials that exist.

    That's funny. Aluminum is indeed expensive to extract and process and that's why it's also the most recycled mineral(?) in existence.
  • "Sustainable"? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by justinburt (262452) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @01:43PM (#6540620)

    Bicycling more "sustainable"? Haven't the environmentalists been trying to get us all to change to bicycles from cars supposedly because of the pollution that cars generate? And now not even bicycles are "sustainable" because they are "resource intensive"?

    When does it end? Should I just stop using resources altogether (i.e. die?)

    I won't post this anonymously precisely because I mean this quite seriously and not as a troll. Mod me down if you must.

    Justin
  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @01:47PM (#6540653)

    Before you say that bamboo is weak and easily dismembered [snip] What makes it possible to build bicycles from it is that it is stronger than steel when strained in the longitudinal direction, 17% to be exact.

    Yes, but steel/aluminum won't rot, won't get eaten by bugs, are stronger in NON-logitudinal directions(ie, twisting- think about when you pump the pedals holding the handlebars, yes, you're twisting pieces of the frame!)...and when they fail, they (usually) just bend. Bamboo cracks, and then it just disintegrates.

  • Wow, I want one! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Feztaa (633745) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @01:47PM (#6540657) Homepage
    I wonder if this would me more or less expensive than a traditional bicycle? I usually try not to pay more than $200 (CDN) for a bike, because they always get stolen (even if they're locked up... those bastards).

    Since bamboo is so plentiful, I hope this would be uber-cheap. It would be great if I could ride around on a $15 bicycle... I wouldn't really care if it got stolen, but then again, nobody would really want to steal it if they knew how cheap it was... :)
  • Re:Ummmm..... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bj8rn (583532) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @01:50PM (#6540683)
    Grandparent: I think it does have breaks inside the hub of the rear wheel, look more carefully - there is this metal clamp thingie just near the hub on the chain side of the bike.

    Parent: yeah, right. Imagine this - you're going at full speed. Downhill. You'd better keep your feet as far away from the pedals as possible - if you don't want to break your legs.

  • Re:Sustainable? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by thebigmacd (545973) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @01:53PM (#6540703)
    The thing is, unlike trees bamboo reaches usable size in three years, and no need to replant after harvesting. Rather than deforest you can simply plant your own. And if they deforest correctly there is a new forest within three years. In the process of producing carbon fibre don't doubt there is a crazy amount of pollution and environmental destruction. Just think of the chemicals in the resin, and the use of sulphuric acid and petrochemicals in the fibre production process. All in all, the point is that I couldn't grow carbon fibre in my back yard no matter where I lived on this earth. Did it ever occur to you that in underprivilidged societies a bamboo bike may be a whole lot cheaper than carbon fibre?
  • Re:Ummmm..... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AmigaAvenger (210519) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @01:55PM (#6540712) Journal
    many die hard mountain bikers use single speeds, especially for training. These are DIRECTLY tied to the wheel, no coasting action what so ever. (although they DO have normal handbrakes brakes, running without is just plain stupid, you use those for quick emergency stops only)
  • by evilWurst (96042) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @02:02PM (#6540752) Journal
    I question whether this is an environmental good thing. Using bamboo in stuff means *importing* bamboo - because if you try growing it anywhere other than where it's supposed to be, you can destroy your own local ecology. So it has to be imported, and you're economically tied to the few countries that can grow it in quantity and to the right quality. Steel and aluminum, on the other hand, are easy to get locally, and can be shaped in ways bamboo cannot. Plastics and carbon fiber can also be made locally, and carbon nanostuff will eventually also be available locally. And all of these other materials can be recycled, whereas bamboo can only be burned or mulched.

    You also can't mass produce bamboo products - as it says towards the bottom of the article, the guy that makes these needs to hand-select everything for quality. Remember, you can cut the length of these, but not the diameter - you're stuck with whatever diameter it grew to - so precision is extremely difficult.
  • by hobbs (82453) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @02:03PM (#6540756)
    Since you mention CDN, I assume you are in Canada, like myself. My question when I see this is will it stand up to the weather? He's using laminated bamboo. I have an old cromag/alu bike (over 10 years old now). Aside from the occasional greasing of the chain and other moving parts, the bike requires no thought to maintain, and it's had a lot of mud caked on it.

    Will I have to care for a laminated bamboo bike by oiling it or reweatherproofing it in some way? Will I have to carefully clean and dry it after riding on rainy days?
  • Re:"Sustainable"? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by babymac (312364) <[ph33d] [at] [charter.net]> on Saturday July 26, 2003 @02:08PM (#6540785) Homepage
    Should I just stop using resources altogether (i.e. die?)

    Actually I've been convinced for years that this is exactly what radical environmentalists would like. They'd like to see 90% of the earth's population dead and the remaining 10% should behave and think exactly as they do. This means living a completely agrarian lifestyle and automatically believing that all advancing technology is bad and/or evil. How these ninnies ever expect to live beyond the death of our own sun is beyond me. But then again, they probably think that the death of all humanity is ultimately a good thing.

  • by SerpentMage (13390) <ChristianHGross.yahoo@ca> on Saturday July 26, 2003 @02:35PM (#6540903)
    Sure it is funny, but the bamboo society is missing a fundenmental point...

    I disagree with this non-environmental friendly stuff regarding Aluminum and Steel. These two metals are some of most recycled materials that there are. What do you think happens to old ships, cars, buildings? They are not buried, but smelted again.

    In fact this is the beauty of these metals. They can be essentially recycled 100% unlike plastics and papers that always need additives. The reason we do not know about this is because steel and aluminum have been recycled for decades...
  • by Maimun (631984) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @02:41PM (#6540943)
    I wonder what a material scientist would reply to that (I am not one). Steel is not one thing, you know. Neither are bamboo or aluminium alloys, of course.
    • What kind of steel? If the author means ordinary steel in his comparison, for sure high-quality steel would be stronger than bamboo. Mountain bikes, AFAIK, use fairly high quality alloys, be that steel or aluminium.
    • Under what longtitudal force---sorry, I don't know the terms in English---pushing the ends towards each other, or pulling the ends apart? (AFAIK, in the first case the shape of the cross-section is crucial.)
    • Typically, a material under increasing force goes through ellastic transformation (sorry, missing the term again) when the original shape recovers once the force is removed; then plastic transofrmation that leaves permanent damages; then is breaks. So, what is the 17% advantage of bamboo, is it that the rod stays in the ellastic zone under 17% bigger force? Or is it that the force that breaks it is 17% bigger?
    • A bamboo rod has---again, missing the word---"segments" about 30cm long that have "joint" between them. I would think that the joints are the weak point. A steel rod of the type that is found in bikes is has uniform structure, without such joints. Methinks this is an advantage for the metal one.
    • Further, the metal rod can be given appropriate shaping. On my bike for instance, the two rods that go between the stem of the seat post and the rear wheel are bent slightly to the inside at the place where the rear brakes are attached. In this way, they (the rods) bend less (to the outside) when the rear brakes are used. This stiffness means more efficient stopping. If the two rods were made of bamboo, they would be straight and thus more prone to bending to the outside once the brakes are pressed.
  • by MrLint (519792) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @02:46PM (#6540966) Journal
    Well I think the solution is clear. Laminate the bamboo with carbon fiber:)
  • Re:"Sustainable"? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 26, 2003 @03:01PM (#6541045)
    Hey, I'd bike a lot more if it were safe. However, the biking community, laws, and road construction in my area combined create a crappy atmosphere. I used to bike everywhere when I was a kid and teenager, but I don't now. Road conditions combined with laws and, well, generally shitty bike riders end up making biking a hell of a lot less safe.

    First, the roads where I live (north of Lancaster, PA) are fairly decent, but not great. Typically good for safe driving. However, they don't put shoulders on the damn things half the time anymore, due to traffic congestion in the area (they widen roads frequently by removing the old roads shoulders and widening a little, usually somebody's front yard). Where there are shoulders, they don't maintain them. Which I find stupid--they pave them anyways, just do a crappy job of it, and if they did a couple more passes to flatten the edges and painted some narrow bike lanes on them, it'd be great.

    The only safe places to ride nowadays are some backroads, and with the growth in the area, that's even out the window as people now use them principally for shortcuts. (They stuff up traffic lights regularly, but they aren't sync'd--at 5pm, it's a stupid sight--you see the main road waiting with cars, while the lesser traveled cross road gets a green for over 1 minute, with no traffic crossing--this isn't a city with blocks but more like farmland gone suburbia, so having lines backed up to the next intersections is absurdly long.)

    Second, bicyle rider politeness has gone downhill, some of it understandably though. Automobile drivers aren't exactly nice. However, I used to ride, and most of the bikers in the area now are clueless. They blow stop signs completely without checking. They double up, riding side by side, blocking traffic lanes. Politely tap your vehicle horn at them, they go ballistic, overreact and you get a middle finger while swerving around some ass that can't control their ride--gee, they have 3 feet to move over, but ride the white line. Where there is a decent shoulder, which is rare, they still ride on the rightmost white line, blocking any hell of a chance of being safely passed, safe being to the driver due to opposing traffic and to them.

    Frequently, they are clueless as to what's going on around them. This also causes irate drivers, given they have to wait, when they could have proceeded if the biker moved over 3 freakin feet. Now, being a po'd driver isn't helping things, but at least there is some rhyme and reason to driving around the area in a car. Not so with a bike.

    Third, the laws in PA suck wrt bicycles. They are considered both pedestrian and vehicle. Generally, in PA, it's the pedestrian who must watch out for vehicles. OTOH, bikes are supposed to follow road signs, which most don't. Add to that the most state law is/was such that it's legal to block traffic lanes with your bike which then makes due consideration and safety a secondary thing to most drivers as they try hard to pass safely by, leading to pissed off, abrasive drivers and riders.

    Add to this that you can't ride on sidewalks, bah. Now, I'm usually opposed to sidewalk riding, except that in residential areas, there are frequently NO ONE on the damn sidewalk (everyone drives), so it's safer there than on the road. Of course, ride on the sidewalk will get you a local ticket.

    I'd ride everyday--I only work 1.6 miles away from where I sleep. Of course, there are no sidewalks, and 3/4s of the road up has no shoulder (one area is so bad, they have no pedestrian signs up). So, I hop in my car, and drive to work. Drive to the post office (.5 miles away from work). To the grocery store (2 .5 miles away from either work or residence).

    Hell, half the places, I'd walk to if they'd put freakin decent sidewalks, crosswalks or traffic light crossing lanes in. But no. I hop in my stupid car and drive, because I'd rather not get run over.

    Stupid municipality.
  • Re:Mountain biking (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Elwood P Dowd (16933) <judgmentalist@gmail.com> on Saturday July 26, 2003 @03:14PM (#6541108) Journal
    I'm not an engineer, but the kind of force applied when you push down on one pedal and pull on the corresponding handlebar seems like you'd be attempting to twist and bend the bamboo poles. The bamboo is only stronger than steel when you're pushing on each end.

    You'd eventually wear out your bike like that. Much faster than any commonly used bike material, I'm sure.

    I'd be concerned about the glue being too brittle to deal with serious vibrations, too, but they might be able to come up with the right kind, I'm sure.
  • by switcha (551514) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @04:31PM (#6541469)
    This is a strong step towards making bicycling more sustainable,

    Fine, get excited about the technology involved here, but spare me the statements like that. Everytime I ride to work, I keep a car or about 1/30th of a bus off the road. (I realize I'm not actually 'keeping the bus off the road', but work with me here.) I don't even need to go on about what a retarded statement that is, to call bicycles anything but a vehicle of sustainability.

    What's next? Smack-talking a water powered car because it's a drought season?

  • by klevin (11545) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @05:04PM (#6541611) Homepage Journal
    Sure, but what's required in order to refine raw aluminum (or what ever you call the ore)? Lots and lots of electricity. How's that electricity produced? Power plants that: burn coal/natural gas (leading to air pollution), use nuclear fision (all sorts of nasty biproducts that we still haven't figured out what to do with, other than bury them), or hydroelectric dams (don't even get me started here).

    Recycling aluminum & steel reduces the problem, but even that requires large amounts of energy (see above).
  • by VPN3000 (561717) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @06:19PM (#6541934)
    I don't think it's that big of a deal when it comes to bikes. The only bikes made from aluminum are the mid to high end bikes in the $500-$1500 range. The amount of aluminum used in these bikes is less than 6 pounds, typically. Most of the bike's weight is due to the gearing system, tires, strut system, crank and chain. These guys seem to be focusing on the low-end, buy your bike at Kmart crowd.

    If you look closely at the design of an aluminum bike, you can tell not many resources are used as they use the least for weight purposes. I know the frame on my Cannondale is a couple of millimeters thick. The rigidness comes from thin walls on a fat tube.

    Aluminum bikes aren't going to be around for much longer anyway, the price range for a good aluminum bike gets you right up there with titanium and magnesium alloy frames, which are superior in my opinion. Most of the trim parts consist of carbon fiber (wheels and forks on the better bikes use this).

    I am not sure what the point in this article is. There are far greater wastes of resources in new car design as well as the actual bottling process of cans. If the media, or anyone else cared enough to be earth friendly, we'd do it in ways that were actually beneficial. Not by purchasing organic bikes.

    A note on steel bikes. They aren't taking into consideration the actual alloys used when doing the comparison. No bikes are made with 100% steel. They use various alloies in the process.

    I'm picky on this subject after commuting soley by bike for a few years. I would not trust my riding on busy city streets to an organic material, I'd much prefer the comfort of knowing the materials are consistent due to the manufacture process involved with metals. I highly doubt the bamboo is nearly as consistent if measured across the bike's whole frame.

  • Re:"Sustainable"? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cosyne (324176) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @06:31PM (#6541981) Homepage
    How is "more sustainable" hard to comprehend? What makes you think that just because bicycling is better than driving automatically makes it perfect?

    What you seem to miss is that environmentalists' goals aren't just some arbitrary crap that someone made up to punish you. The idea is to do the least damage to the environment. If you can do less damage by biking, great. If you can do even less than that by using fewer resources in the process, wonderful. Even if "the environmentalists" you refer to are overestimating the problems caused by burning fossil fuels, do you honestly think that driving an Excursion around is helping anything but Ford and Exxon's bottom lines?

  • by Avihson (689950) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @07:10PM (#6542149)
    Why worry about the glue? All "stick and cloth" aircraft such as the SPAD, Foker, Sopwith, Stearman, etc had spruce wing spars and ribs that were built with animal glue. The glue is stronger than the wood it connects. I wonder what holds all those carbon fibers together in the modern composite bike. Could it be a glue like epoxy?
  • Re:"Sustainable"? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gobbo (567674) <wrewrite AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday July 26, 2003 @08:16PM (#6542381) Journal
    Yes, "radical" -- in the same way that Charles Manson was a radical aesthete. But you're in reality referring to a very few fringe freaks, who get great media coverage because the news is a circus.

    they probably think that the death of all humanity is ultimately a good thing...the word you're searching for is 'misanthropic' and yes some of the kookoo activists are deeply misanthropic, eg. Paul Watson [seashepherd.org]. Misanthropes are as bad as Social Darwinists.

    No being can stop using resources. It's simply a question of ecology. How much do you give back to the life-sustaining biosphere, it's vigor and diversity? Only robo-heads assume that technology must by definition consume increasingly vast amounts of resources. It's our sloppiness, technological youth, and immature economics (eg. GDP benefits from ecological disaster) that keeps us overusing and laying waste. (Sidestepping population debates here.)

    Most environmentalists are all about appropriate technology, and want nothing more than society to act upon some of the basic principles of progress, such as "waste is a costly inefficiency" and "knowledge must complexify". That way we'll begin to understand chaotic systems like ecologies and develop cheaper, higher tech stuff that pollutes WAY less or not at all.

    I think a bamboo bike in mass production would have to be pretty high-tech to succeed. And, like many environmentalists, I look forward to cleverly designed industry, cities, and social conditions--appropriate (sustainable) technology. It's conservative, applies the precautionary principle, but it's not technophobic, its really an argument about what technology and how to deploy it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 26, 2003 @08:18PM (#6542394)
    ...Well, from the picture, they are not using bamboo-to-bamboo interfaces at the high-stress areas (head tube-top/down tubes or bottom bracket shell), but are using metal lugs, much like many of the newer carbon-fiber racing bikes are again, so one does not have to make difficult carbon fiber-based lugs (like Trek's carbon bikes have). The results are not quite as pretty as a Trek, but if it's lighter and works, this usually trumps everything for most bike riders...

    So the metal lugs take care of the complicated stresses at these points and only transmit compression/tension stresses to the bamboo tubes, and minimize torsion stresses along a given tube (probably by using "oversize" bamboo tubes also).

    Another advantage to this is, if you crack a top tube in a crash, I would think it is relatively cheap to get a new tube put back in, instead of having to throw away the entire bike (i.e., Trek 5000-series) frame.

    I know I would probably NOT trust a bamboo handlebar (besides, how would they ever grow a bamboo drop handlebar?), but other than that...

    Yes, I realize that this article is about bikes for third-world countries, but if some sort of mandate from UCI came about to use more sustainable materials (if they can do it with bike frame shapes, they could do it with construction techniques and materials as well...) in exchange from deviation from standard "double-diamond" designs, then this affects a rabid, money-spending group of bike consumers...

    While I appreciate some of the tech in the bikes that pro bike racers use, I know that for 99% of bike racers, it does not make the difference between winning or losing a bike race, finishing that century, or grabbing a latte across town.
    It is a bit like buying a ferarri to buy groceries and run errands.

    Those who have the $$$ (or think or want to project that they do) will always spend it. The rest of us who don't have to look for value.

    It would be cool to buy a Colnago C-40 "ferarri" bike. But it's definitely not worth $7,000. Besides, the people who win bike races simply have better motors than those who don't. Their equipment doesn't matter much, if at all, compared to their peers. If everyone only had Schwinn Varsity's, the people who win bike races now would still be winning the races...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 26, 2003 @08:32PM (#6542446)
    ...the kinds of steel and aluminum alloys used in most high-end EuroAmerican bikes (i.e., not purchased at Wal-Mart, Target, K-Mart) is not the same rolled cold-steel tubes that the cheapest bikes use.

    The bikes that the bamboo bike is hoped to eventually replace weigh about 40-50 lbs unloaded. They are BEASTS.

    Remember, in Asia, they build skyscrapers using bamboo scaffolding.

    The article mentions "longitudinal" loads (compression/tension), rather than torsional or bending loads.

    As far as the rear triangle on your bike, that is specific to your bike. A bamboo bike could use a unistay (i.e., single piece goes from seat tube to a metal crown, where the seatstays then go to the rear dropouts), where the brake is clamped to the crown, and be just as "efficient" as your bike.

    For 90% of the bikes sold and used in the world, they're NOT used for barrelling down single-track or alpine descents. They are used on flat streets at not much above walking pace. Braking efficieny is not a concern (as long as the brakes can lock the wheels with reasonable force, they're good enough).
  • by 1u3hr (530656) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @11:14PM (#6542901)
    Much better to work on making bamboo beer cans than bicycles, consdidering the amount of Al consumed by the average Joe in every sixpack. Or go back to refillable glass bottles.

    On a tangent, in Thailand you can buy snacks of steamed rice with various goodies, cooked inside a section of bamboo. Buy them outside Hualampung Station before going on long train trips.

  • Re:This Rocks! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 1u3hr (530656) on Sunday July 27, 2003 @12:17AM (#6543131)
    None of these are the real point at hand. I think the real potential is in third world countries, where many people don't own any sort of bicycle

    No, because a bamboo bike would be more expensive and less durable than a steel one.

    The ability to have a cheap bicycle, made from sustainable materials is an incredible thing for these people

    Except that it's impossible. Can they make a bamboo hub or chain? What about the lugs? Wheels? Gear wheel? Ball bearings?

    I'm sure in Laos you can buy cheap Chinese-made bikes. (Flying Pigeon, eg). They ARE ALREADY "sustainable". All they need are new tires every ear or so, and put some oil on the chain when it rains, regrease the bearings once a year or two, repaint every 10 years. You find little roadside shops where guys fix bikes (patch flats, fix most other problems with a hammer and a wrench) for pennies in the third world. (I've biked in Indonesia, Thailand and China.) With minimum maintenance they last for decades. Bamboo bikes are a novelty item for rich Westerners, completely useless to the third world.

  • by tau-lepton (639761) on Sunday July 27, 2003 @05:57AM (#6543775)
    Excellent Points. One problem that needs to be pointed out is that the type of efficiency given for photosynthesis are not the same type of efficiency numbers given for solar panels. One would assume that both of these are the quantum efficiencies of the systems when in fact the quantum efficiency of photosynthesis is between 6 and 9%. The lower 0.2 percent figure may take into account the following issues (taken from lecture by Dr. Tad W. Patzek) 1. C3 crops are at maximum photosynthesis rate at 1/5 of full sunlight, so 4/5 must be dissipated as heat (experiments in laboratories are performed at low light intensity) 2. Crops do not cover the entire field area. 3. Upper leafs form an unbroken canopy, which blocks sunlight from lower ones. 4. In areas far from the equator, the ambient temperature is too low for appreciable photosynthesis. E11, Prof. Tad W. Patzek 3 5. At temperatures higher than 30 degrees C, photorespiration losses are high. 6. Water shortage and deficiencies in trace elements limit plant growth. 7. CO2 at 360 ppm is frequently a limiting factor. C3 plants can double or triple photosynthesis rate in augmented CO2 . After these factors are taken into account the yield efficiency is approximately 0.5 percent. The post specifies 0.2 percent. I have not seen a number this low in the literature. Also 20 * 0.2% is 4% not 10%. Did the post intend to use 0.5% for efficiency of photosynthesis? ( 20 * 0.5% = 10%). "authors undermine their case by making inaccurate claims" Some of these factors also apply to solar panels. Which reduces the efficiency to an extent.

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