Having just written about one British company's ambitious plans for with new hard-edged lightweighting developments in sports car engineering using Titanium, and previously other even stiffer applications of Carbon Fibre for weight saving and strength, there's reassuring contrast provided by another UK workshop making, and showing how to make, bicycle frames from bamboo and hemp.
British engineering at its most stylish
There was a cycling magazine column I used to enjoy showing that almost any innovation in bicycling technology (no matter how fancy) had already been patented and produced (probably made of brass) in the Victorian era.
My aluminium Canondale is getting a bit tired - so as a change I could consider older technology, certainly more stylish and sustainable.
According to the Bamboo Bicycle Club blog "There is a current re-emergence in the use wooden frames and components – from 1897-1898, timber was competing to be the favoured material for bicycle frames but with superior manufacturing reliability, steel soon came-up trumps commercially. Wooden wheels and handlebars were frequently used in bicycles up to the 1950s, with handlebars being recommended for long rides to reduce vibration to wrists and arms."
"In 2012 there are number of timber frame manufacturers using hardwood and increasingly bamboo, the most notable being Craig Calfee. There is also a trend towards using wooden components due to their dampening effects compared to that of steel."
Currently, Hackney Wick based Bamboo Bicycle Club are just offering frame builds.
Bamboo for vibration dampening
Their site states that "Bamboo has excellent properties highly suited to bicycle construction. As a material, it has excellent vibration dampening effects and the all the bumps in the roads seem to be effortlessly absorbed. Amongst others, academic research has been conducted at the Universities of Princeton, Zurich and Oxford Brookes, all accrediting bamboo as a fantastic material for bicycle building. The Bamboo Bicycle Club team have been researching and experimenting with bamboo frames for nearly 2 years and we just can’t get enough of that smooth sensation!"
If you want to find out more about building bamboo bicycles, you can visit their workshop and make your own.
"There is no welding, heat treatment or heavy mechanics involved in building bamboo frames – our workshops are user-friendly and informative, and you’ll have as much help as you need from the team. You’ll also be able to teach your friends to so the same!"