Greening the bicycle

February 20th, 2013 by Gene

It sounds like the opposite of high-tech engineering, but it’s not. High-end racing bikes built of bamboo. Today, on Engineering Works!

If you’re a serious cyclist or know someone who is, you probably know that over the years, the stuff really good bikes are made of has changed. From steel and aluminum to exotic alloys and carbon fiber. Some engineers are taking the search for the best bicycle material the other way. All the way back to bamboo.

This sounds like green technology gone crazy. Except for one thing. It works. If you’ve ever watched a construction worker in Shanghai swing a bamboo-handled sledge hammer, you know. Bamboo is tough. And it’s light. Bamboo bike frames weigh about four-pounds. Features you need in a bike built for serious riding or racing. Bamboo frames also absorb vibration better than carbon fiber, absorb impacts better, and are less likely to break.

Like many other good things, good bamboo bike frames don’t come cheap. Some cost more than $2,500. Which, compared to top carbon fiber frames, isn’t bad.

Not all bamboo bikes are expensive or aimed at riding the Tour de France. One engineer has come up with a bamboo bike that people can build at home with basic tools. It’s intended for folks in Africa and other developing areas who need cheap, durable transportation.

Our bike isn’t made of bamboo, but we’re still going to ride it home. See you next time.

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