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Bamboo Bike A Reality 467

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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  • Ummmm..... (Score:5, Informative)

    by dr_dank ( 472072 ) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @02:34PM (#6540561) Homepage Journal
    Does any one see a set of brakes on this thing?

    Yes, I know that some bikes have the brake mechanism in the hub of the rear wheel, but that doesn't appear in the photo either.
  • Re:it's been done... (Score:2, Informative)

    by More Karma Than God ( 643953 ) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @02:37PM (#6540579)
    No it hasn't, that was a bamboo car.
  • by pgrote ( 68235 ) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @02:37PM (#6540580) Homepage
    "Born in Pennsylvania, Gilligan worked at a gas station before joining the Navy where he saved the life of the captain, becoming his "little buddy." In gratitude, when the Skipper started his own charter business, he hired Gilligan to be his first mate despite his incompetence. Gilligan's childlike nature makes him the perfect errand boy often performing many of the menial tasks on the island such as riding the Professor's generator bike, acting as manservant to Mr. Howell or collecting coconuts for the girls. It should be noted, some claim Gilligan's first name is "Willy", though none has been able to prove it."

    TV Land Rules []
  • by Crashmarik ( 635988 ) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @02:40PM (#6540597)
    Is the poster serious ?

    Aluminum makes up 8 percent of the crust of this damn planet. ustmaterials.html

  • I am a bike-geek as well as a Lunix-Geek:

    The bike is a single-speed. That means it does not need gears, breaks or even a ratcheted freewheel (on the back wheel)... the pedals are connected directly to the rear wheel by the chain. If you want to slow down you use your legs.

    Single-speeds are favourites of city-couriers, where there is a great advantage to have a light-simple bike. There is less to break (XTR gear systems are known to wear out after a few weeks of couriering).

    As for Aluminum - dont get me started on that nasty harsh material. There has been a disturbing trend for wannabee bikers to adopt the freakiest lightest materials at the expense of all other properties.

    For me, steel still has the edge over all these fancy materials. A steel frame will last for years of hard riding, and still feel as plush as the day it was first ridden.
  • by RiffRafff ( 234408 ) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @02:44PM (#6540636) Homepage
    He's prolly referring to raw aluminum. Extracting it consumes way too much electricity. Of course, recycling aluminum takes very little.
  • by jfengel ( 409917 ) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @02:47PM (#6540658) Homepage Journal
    Yes, but it's never found in its pure form. It takes a lot of energy to get workable aluminum out of the ore. You've got to heat it to 2300K, which takes a lot of energy. One report said that production of 1 kg of aluminum dumps 44 kg of CO2 into the air.

    In this case it's not so much the energy costs or the pollution as the fact that poor countries just don't have the energy to go around.
  • Bamboo is cool (Score:5, Informative)

    by aaron.rowe ( 40518 ) * on Saturday July 26, 2003 @02:48PM (#6540668) Homepage Journal
    I spent some time working in Nigeria and watched the local people erecting 4+ storey buildings using bamboo as scaffolding and for supporting newly laid concrete floors.

    My Structural engineer friend told me that Bamboo is better than steel if used properly and since it just grows like grass it's basically free.

    A bamboo bycicle would be neat but, as a natural product you aren't going to get uniform material to work with so every bike would probably be completeley different to an other. You wouldn't be able to mass produce these things.

    Doing a little googling I found this report about using bamboo instead of steel in reinforced concrete. []

    any way that's my bit out of the way.


  • by jchristopher ( 198929 ) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @02:50PM (#6540677)
    I think you mean it's a "fixed gear" not a singlespeed. There are certainly plenty of singlespeed bikes (bikes with one gear) that aren't fixed. In fact, the majority of them are not fixed gears (i.e., you can coast).
  • Fixie! (Score:5, Informative)

    by YeOldeGnurd ( 14524 ) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @02:52PM (#6540693) Homepage Journal
    It's called a "fixed gear bike". There's no freewheel in the rear hub, so you have to pedal all the time you are moving, and you stop by stopping pedalling.

    This may seem like a pain, but fixies are actually extremely popular among a certain bike subculture, particularly urban bike messengers. The famous and wonderful Sheldon Brown [] has an extensive collection of articles [] on building and riding fixies.

  • by paanta ( 640245 ) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @02:52PM (#6540695) Homepage
    I believe you're talking about "fixed gear" bikes rather than single-speed bikes. Single-speed means one speed, with or without a freewheel. Fixed gear is a fixed, non-freewheeled single-speed bike. As far as aluminum goes, its no harsher than any other frame material. The amount of flex offered by the frame, compared to the seat and tires is so small that, for a given frame geometry, I doubt many people could tell the difference between steel and aluminum. Steel's big advantage is that you can get it repaired in third world nations, and lugged steel frames look freekin' cool. Even the biggest retro-grouch of them all, Sheldon Brown, doesn't think steel offers significant comfort advantages: []
  • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @03:13PM (#6540802)
    Particularly in the orient, but in other places as well when times were either hard or when metals were subject to civilian restriction, such as during WWII. Wooden bikes have also been used at times.

    They don't work very well. Bamboo is strong, but it's also very flexible. This is also the reason that molded plastic bikes ( as opposed to fiber reineforced plastic bikes) have never worked. If a plastic is ridid enough to make a good bike frame it's also to brittle.

    Aluminum is energy intensive to originally produce, but the cheapest and easiest metal to recycle. It also doesn't rust away to unusable oxide, making aluminum the most green of the metals in the long run.

    In any case you'll still find most bikes made of steel, because iron is common, easy to smelt, easy to turn into high quality steel, easy to recycle, cheap, and, while not necessarily the highest performing material for a bike frame in any particular measurment, it is, nonetheless, in the top 90 percentile in every attribute needed to make a good bike frame.

    What's more, you need very little steel to make a bike whose usable lifespan may be measured in decades. I have two ridable children's trikes over 100 years old.

    There's simply nothing about bamboo bikes that make them more sustainable than a steel bike, and they're nowhere near as good.

  • Pandas aren't bears. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Kludge ( 13653 ) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @03:42PM (#6540952)
    They're believed to be related to racoons. Take a look at the lesser panda.
  • Fixed Gear Bikes (Score:3, Informative)

    by Eightlines ( 536572 ) <> on Saturday July 26, 2003 @04:02PM (#6541053) Homepage
    Technically speaking it does look like a single speed, but also a fixed gear. A fixed gear bike has less moving parts and therefore less chance of breaking down. The downside is that you will want to choose a gear that deals best with the terrain you are in.

    My fixed gear bike is running a ratio of 46t/16t chainrings (over a 2:1 ratio). The one in the photo looks more like a 24t/18t (close to a 1:1 ratio). Bottom line is you won't be picking up too much speed on this thing, but it should make the hills easy to climb and momentum easy to stop.

    Are the brakes necessary? For this bike, no. You can quickly bring this thing to a halt and in a worse case scenario put your feet down for a Flintstones stop.
  • Re:Ummmm..... (Score:3, Informative)

    by bolind ( 33496 ) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @06:46PM (#6541826) Homepage
    These are DIRECTLY tied to the wheel, no coasting action what so ever.

    Nope. It is true that many die hard MTB'ers ride Single Speeds, but there's always a freewheel/coasting capability. Imagine trying to clear a tehnical rock section without being able to keep your pedal arms horizontal.

  • by gnalle ( 125916 ) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @07:03PM (#6541888)
    Here is the homepage of the company. They haven't added the bamboo bike yet, but, I have mailed them and urged them to add it m
  • by Jafafa Hots ( 580169 ) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @07:20PM (#6541938) Homepage Journal
    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.

    clearly you've never touched a piece of bamboo in your life. Those "joints" are stronger than the rest. Incredibly strong. It's vitually impossible to break bamboo there... it breaks in the "segment" first.

  • by gessel ( 310103 ) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @08:29PM (#6542216) Homepage
    I think the bamboo bike is really cool from a cost perspective, but it's not really any more renewable than an aluminum one, nor having a net advantageous resource budget despite the obvious, intuitive expectation that it would.

    The matter system on this planet is closed loop.

    While this is not entirely true, some 40,000 tons of space borne dust land on our planet and we may someday mine extra-planetary bodies, for arguments sake all the aluminum we're going to use is here now. If we continue to use it all the bauxite will be gone some day, and from then on, all aluminum will be recycled.

    However, long before that day all aluminum will be recycled because it costs 20X as much to make aluminum from Bauxite as it does to remelt it from scrap. The aluminum industry uses all the scrap aluminum it can get because the final product is just as valuable as aluminum from ore, but the profit is very different.

    So aluminium the matter is a renewable resource, just like the carbon in bamboo, except to reuse aluminum it need merely be remelted via heat (typically electrical power, though a solar furnace could be used), and the carbon in bamboo must be oxidized and reduced (typically by rotting or burning and then photosynthesis).

    Most domestic aluminum production happens in the pacific northwest where the power is provided by dams, a renewable resource, but certainly much of it is provided by oxidizing hydrocarbons to produce CO2 and H2O, both end state products that require substantial energy to reduce to reduce back to something chemically useful. This return cycle of oxidized hydrocarbon energy production is managed by the biomass of the world, and is driven by solar power via photosynthesis at 0.2% net efficiency, just as bamboo production is.

    The energy system on this planet is constant rate

    All energy on this planet comes from the sun. The sun has provided a net energy surplus for a few million years, most of it stored in reduced hydrocarbons (about half in oil and half in methane hydrates, and a comparatively inconsequential amount in leftover fissile heavy atoms). The world's total carbon reserves (1.6E13 bbls oil equivalent) contain enough energy to provide current consumption (globally 1.2E14 Kwh/year) rates for 221 years. If the rest of the world catches up with US consumption rates all the reduced carbon in the world will only last 38 years.

    So, sooner or later (within 200 years, longer if there's a big global war or other population reducing event, much shorter if growth continues) all our energy will come from solar power directly as we will have consumed the planets "life savings" of net reduced carbon.

    Photosynthesis is 0.2% efficient. Photovoltaics are currently about 10% efficient (20X more) in commercial applications (7.5% efficient over the life of the device) and efficiencies of over 30% are achievable.

    To meet next year's global energy demands (1.2E14 Kwh, not including firewood) would take only 6.5E7 M2 of commercially available solar panels for $1.3E10 at current retail. The world will spend $4.4E11 on oil alone next year. If we spent 5% extra on oil (global tax) we could fully fund global solar power within a year. Interestingly, to meet the US's entire current energy demands with solar electric, we would need to cover about half of our roads, at no net change in albumen.

    Within 200 years, and probably within 50, all the energy used in the production of aluminum will be direct solar.

    Bamboo vs. Aluminum just isn't that obvious

    Bamboo is a very impressive material, basically a single orientation composite, which can be easily reinforced against torsion and it's comparatively low modulus can be compensated for with larger diameter tubes in a bicycle, but it is not obvious that it's a more efficient use of land to grow bamboo than to use solar power to recycle aluminum into new bicycles.

    But we have a long way to go on energy use and recycling, and so bamboo is an o
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 26, 2003 @11:06PM (#6542750)
    except it'll weigh 50 lbs
  • Done before (Score:4, Informative)

    by kitzilla ( 266382 ) <paperfrog AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday July 26, 2003 @11:38PM (#6542810) Homepage Journal
    I have seen bamboo and other wooden bikes done before.

    As some folks have pointed out, the problem with wooden bikes is that they flex. Badly.

    That means your chainline won't stay straight. It will rub, and the gears will try to shift by themselves. Note that the bamboo bike in the picture doesn't have derailleurs. There's a reason.

    To reduce flex, you have to increase the diameter of the bamboo tubing. At some point, it becomes impractical-- rather like riding a tree trunk down the street.

    The designer of this bamboo ride seems to have tried to compensate for the flexy tubing by adding a brace across the main diamond of the frame. It really won't help much if the rider is strong or heavy. The bottom bracket is gonna feel like it's made of rubber.

    There's also the matter of frame alignment. I don't care what you coat bamboo with--it's going to change shape with temperature and humidity. Even casual riders on low-end bambo bikes will be frustrated by a ride that doesn't track in a straight line.

    My dad used to race track bikes with wooden rims. They were notoriously dangerous. Riding a bicycle is risky enough without having to worry about being impaled by its wreckage.

    If you're really concerned about the resources consumed by aluminim or titanium framesets, there's always steel. Modern steel bike tubing approaches the low weight of aluminum and provides more forgiving ride characteristics. There are also cabon fiber and composite alternatives.

    The bamboo bike is a head-turner. But bamboo sucks as a bicycle frame material.
  • by SerpentMage ( 13390 ) on Sunday July 27, 2003 @05:40AM (#6543638)
    What is in a landfill is a small amount of consumer waste. The consumer can recycle their metal products and get money for it. I know...

    Why do I know about this metal recycling? Because my father used to own a metal stamping company. And it made sense to recycle because you would be given money. Most people do not know that you get MONEY back...

    So sorry, take a look at industry and how it recycles...
  • Re:it's been done... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Seahawk91 ( 585715 ) on Sunday July 27, 2003 @11:24AM (#6544405)

    This guy did it in India about two years ago.

Each new user of a new system uncovers a new class of bugs. -- Kernighan