We Buy Used Cell Phones
    main site home page | sell your used cell phones | purchase price list | about us | careers | testimonials | contact us   
Pacebutler Recycling Blog header image 2

Would You Ride A Bamboo Bike?

February 14th, 2011 · No Comments

Would you ride a bamboo bike. Find out how the bike has gone beyond fad to become an instrument for social change in Africa.

Bamboo bike by Calfee Design

Beyond the mere fad stage, bamboo bikes are increasingly gaining popularity these days not just among environmentalists but among biking enthusiasts as well. A long-time biker friend from New York who owns a carbon fiber alloy mountain bike also has a bamboo bicycle which he says rides well and is just as strong as its metallic sibling.

Would you ride one?

It’s actually safer than you might think, thanks to good old American ingenuity. Meet Craig Calfee, a U.S. engineer and bike designer, the man who’s widely acknowledged as the inventor of the most effective method that people in different parts of the world are now using to produce sturdy well-designed bamboo bicycles.

You can’t solder bamboo tubes together obviously so the main design problem that Calfee faced when he started developing his technique in 1996 was how to make sure that the tubes are welded together strongly to ensure the safety of the rider as well as to withstand the stress of riding over rough terrain. In 2005, Calfee perfected the technology joining together heat-hardened bamboo tubes with epoxy-soaked fiber. The result – a strong, rugged bike that weighs much less than its carbon fibre counterparts which rides well across the roughest off-road country.

Bamboos are one of the most common plants in parts of Asia and Africa – people there have been using this plant for centuries now as construction materials, utensils, ornaments, and fuel. The abundance of bamboo in Africa, the desperate need for access to basic transportation in these parts, and the availability of the bamboo bike technology became the basis for Columbia University’s Earth Institute to introduce the Bamboo Bike Project in Ghana, West Africa.

Watch: How bamboo bikes are made in the Philippines

Last month (January 2011), the Earth Institute announced the start of production for 750 bikes in Kumasi, Ghana. It’s a UN-recognized initiative that may prove to be crucial in alleviating the poverty in Africa by providing people with cheap and readily-available means of transportation. The potential to replicate Calfee’s bicycle on a large sustainable scale could prove to be a game changer for the people of Africa.

Commercially, Ghana bamboo bike makers have been exporting their products to the U.S. since 2008. Demand reached a turning point after President Obama’s visit to the country in 2009 when a bamboo bike was displayed during the welcome ceremonies. This year, they are expecting to export 300 bikes to the U.S. and Austria. The prize for them, however, is the vast local market in Ghana but the $150 price tag per bicycle is still prohibitive to most people but manufacturers are expecting the price to come down once bamboo bike use gains wide acceptance.

In the Philippines, thanks in part to Calfee’s initiative (he visited the country in 2009 to train bike enthusiasts in his new technology), bamboo bike manufacturing is flourishing and gaining momentum. Their primary markets are in North America and Europe although at $400 – $500 for the most basic bamboo bike frame, locals still need to discover bamboo bike riding (a good quality metal bike only costs about $100 – $120 in Manila).

In terms of sustainability, few products can match the bamboo bicycle – materials can be sourced from practically the maker’s backyard and the bike can be manufactured without electricity! Economically, every bike purchased here can directly help the local manufacturers and bring the price down to pave the way for large-scale production for use in Africa.

So, would you ride a bamboo bike? I know you would.

Photo: Calfee Design

Tags: Clean Technology