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Science Technology

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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  • strength of bamboo (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mandalayx ( 674042 ) * on Saturday July 26, 2003 @02:33PM (#6540551) Journal
    Before you say that bamboo is weak and easily dismembered, here's a quote from the article:

    But Flavio makes me see things differently: Bamboo is a resource of immense potential. And it is strong too. 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.

    The main point of the article, of course, is that bamboo is much more environmentally friendly than metals while being extraordinarily plentiful.
  • Mountain biking (Score:5, Interesting)

    by failedlogic ( 627314 ) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @02:43PM (#6540624)
    I do a lot of mountain biking. I know there's some engineers who read /.

    There are suspension forks which can be purchased for mountain bikes and some offer read suspension.

    Assuming, the metal suspension fork is kept and a decent diameter bamboo tubing is used - would the bamboo have sufficient strength, durability and shock absorbing qualities to make a good mountain bike?

    One way or another it would be interesting to try, that's for sure.
  • by Schlemphfer ( 556732 ) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @02:51PM (#6540685) Homepage
    From the summary:

    This is a strong step towards making bicycling more sustainable, expecially in contrast to aluminum, one of the most resource demanding materials that exist.

    It's a cool looking bike, but there's a few things worth mentioning. First of all, compared to driving cars, any form of bicycle is the most sustainable mechanized transport imaginable. I think if we have to worry about the fifteen pounds of metal used for each bicycle, then we might as well give up all hope that humans can survive on the planet. Because if things are that bad, the millions of people buying SUV's are going to put us over the edge in no time, no matter what material we fashion bicycles out of.

    Secondly, the summary says that aluminum is "one of the most resource demanding materials that exist."

    That statement strikes me as terribly disingenuous, if it's not also mentioned that recycled aluminum does away with about 95% of the energies [] needed to extract aluminum from ore. And besides, how many bicycles are actually made from aluminum or fancy alloys/composites? No bicycle I've ever ridden, I know that much. And certainly not the bikes that are going to be produced for developing countries.

    The real question here is how much extra work goes into fabricating a bamboo bike, vs. mass producing a steel-framed bike that's totally useful to anyone who's not a racing enthusiast. Because I would bet that making bamboo bikes in quantity would take fivefold or even tenfold the labor of stamping out cheap steel-framed bikes. And if that's the case, bamboo bikes could never be within reach of the poor.

    Given how eco-friendly a steel-framed bike is, it's probably counterproductive to devote attention to an alternative that would probably be fundamentally unsuited to mass production.

  • Re:Ummmm..... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by YeOldeGnurd ( 14524 ) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @02:59PM (#6540737) Homepage Journal
    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.

    This bike might have a internal coaster brake, like kids' bikes, or may very well be a fixed gear bike. These things do exist and are perfectly suitable to most urban environments (with the possible exeption of cities like San Francisco). Going downhill you DON'T take your feet off the pedals, you just control your descent by spinning at the right speed. It's actually a better system than relying on brake pads once you get competent using a fixie.
  • by Jahf ( 21968 ) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @03:15PM (#6540815) Journal
    There is very little chance of that based on the way they are using the sticks. No drilling or cutting means the pole remains very stable. Sure, if you use it for extreme biking you're going to have problems, but otherwise it should remain quite solid.

    Add to that the possibility of very simple reinforcement by wrapping it at key points with a strong thread and/or laminating it with reinforcements and I doubt it would break under normal usage.

    Even if it did, you would see signs of wear before it happened. What causes catastrophic failure of bamboo is usually force being applied on bamboo that has been cut into the grain and/or had holes cut into it.

    Of course, that doesn't stop it from being fugly ... I would definitely be getting out some paint!
  • by WolfWithoutAClause ( 162946 ) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @03:26PM (#6540853) Homepage
    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.

    It's not the electricity or energy so much- aluminum is extracted via electrolysis- but the enormous amount of electricity for this is often taken from hydroelectric plants which doesn't generate much CO2 (except during construction of the dam).

    However, the electrolysis uses carbon electrodes and they are used up by the process, they react with oxygen ions to produce CO2- and that's where a lot of the CO2 comes from.

  • Slivers & Rattan (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Embedded Geek ( 532893 ) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @04:25PM (#6541171) Homepage
    Bamboo is prone to splitting and fracturing when under lateral strain. I would really hate to have one of those collapse under me due to lateral stress fractures. All those sharp slivers of bamboo right under my crotch?

    One of the primary reasons (even beyond weight and durability) why the SCA [] uses rattan instead of bamboo for weapon shafts in its mock "heavy" combat is that it does not splinter but instead kind of "pulps" when it breaks. The concern on the battle field is that splinters could easily be driven through helm eyeslots. There's enough risk in taking a blow or falling in armor during normal fighting that extreme hazzards like that are hardly welcome.

    After all, we can't have anyone getting hurt during a war, can we?

  • But (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 26, 2003 @04:42PM (#6541234)
    Is there a reason why the SCA is made up of worthless geeks who want nothing more than to suck each others' med-ren loving cocks?
  • by Wavicle ( 181176 ) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @05:12PM (#6541361)
    I don't think that's true. According to this greenpeace site [], 95% of a ship is recycleable material. Their beef is that these ships are sitting on beaches in asian countries while the non-recyclable 5% of them are pollutants being released into the environment. That and workers dismantling the ships without protection.
  • by chriso11 ( 254041 ) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @06:46PM (#6541823) Journal
    Wow - the way you phrase that it gives the impression that envirionmentalists are like boogiemen just waiting to leap out at you.

    Actaually, rotting is not as great a problem. Plain wood can last a long time - look at the many hundred+ year old buildings around. Also, redwood is naturally resistant to rot.

    Finally, if you make the bike somewhat modular, it would be possible to periodically replace sections which show any signs of damage or rot.

    My main question, which the article really didn't address (or I misses it), is price. Obviously, the first article must have been expensive. But how low could these get in volume production?
  • by CrowScape ( 659629 ) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @07:12PM (#6541914)
    Um, we do know what to do with by products of nuclear fission, it's just that when Carter was president he signed a presidential order banning the reclimation of spent fuel rods. Plus, if our youngest plants weren't 30 years old we'd be far more efficient and produce less waste. Japan and France seem to be doing just fine with 80% of their power being derived from nuclear sources.

    So, we can't use oil because of air pollution
    We can't use natural gas because we have to drill for it and build pipelines
    We can't use nuclear because the tiny ammount of byproducts produced over time will be around for a long while.
    We can't use dams because of local environmental concerns (yet we can put up with an over population of beavers doing the same thing)
    We can't use wind because it'll kill endangered birds and the whole "Not in our backyard" mentality
    We can't use tidal generators because it'll kill dolphins

    That leaves us with solar... we're screwed!
  • The Hemp Bicycle (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kardar ( 636122 ) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @10:13PM (#6542581)
    I wonder if there is a way to use hemp in the manufacture of bicycles as well? Ford was experimenting building cars out of it, and using the oil from the seeds as raw material fuel to run those cars, but nothing ever came of that, unfortunately.

    They make houses out of hemp. There is a hemp pulp that gets mixed with the right minerals and you can build walls. So far, however, the shipping from France, which is where you can get what is sometimes called "hemp concrete" or "hemp cement", has been more expensive than the product itself, which is rather inexpensive, and a relatively inexpensive way to build a house, or a shed, or a barn, etc....

    Some hemp pulp and the right minerals to make a cement - molded into tubes or other shapes - maybe with a little bamboo helping out here and there... I bet you could make a fairly nice bicycle out of hemp products.
  • by nick_urbanik ( 534101 ) <`nicku' `at' `'> on Sunday July 27, 2003 @08:17AM (#6543878) Homepage
    Here in Hong Kong, where builders scale massively high buildings, climbing only on bamboo scaffolding, I think there is scope for putting more trust in bamboo than you have!
  • Recycling problems (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TWX ( 665546 ) on Sunday July 27, 2003 @02:25PM (#6545553)
    Say I live in a fairly high-density city, in an apartment or condominium. I have a stove that is broken and old and not worth servicing to make functional again. It's dirty as hell, and just plain gross. Let's also so say that I don't own a truck. How am I supposed to recycle it? No one is going to come pick it up and still give me money for it, and even if someone is willing to pick it up for free to me, I still have to schedule and wait. However, there is the big trash can in the complex that is emptied three times a week, and I can get a couple of friends to help me heave it into the trashcan, and it'll be hauled off with all of the other garbage. Or, I can leave it sitting next to the trash can for it to be someone elses' problem.

    A large amount of consumer waste isn't metal, it's plastic, ceramic, glass, or silicon. Metal things generally last longer. The big things that are metal are the problems. Recycling needs to be made more practical for them to be handled right.

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