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I'm curiously interested in buying a bamboo bike for use as a Sunday road bike, and I'm just wondering whether they're suitable:

  • Strength at high speed? I live near Parbold, which has nice hill for climbing and of course speeding down. So my question is whether the bike would hold together at 40mph+?
  • Durability in the wet? The UK has some miserable weather. I accept that the bike would be like a suede jacket, and not something to be caught in the rain with!
  • Weight - found a quote of a 60cm road frame weighs just under 2.5 kilos. I think that's substantially more than carbon or my titanium road bike frame.
  • Joints - Would you go for a bike frame with steel interlocking joints or bamboo throughout?

These are the two manufacturers I'm looking at:

As a note, this is for fun, I just want to be safe. I fully acknowledge that I won't be winning races on this bike, but not being dropped from the peloton would be good!

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Living in Bolton, I'd definitely be concerned about the rain. Even on a good day the weather can change so quickly (normally to rain) that I'd be looking for a poncho to cover the whole bike just in case. Although you'd probably end up being blown backwards by the wind. –  Amos Feb 17 '11 at 11:41
    
Those are some nice looking bikes! –  Neil Fein Feb 18 '11 at 0:19
    
Seems like an expensive way to make a bike - unless of course you do it yourself. Or start with one of these and wait. –  mgb Feb 18 '11 at 0:19

2 Answers 2

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Strength at high speed? I have ridden my road frame for 2 years now, and have many miles on it. One of my favorite rides takes me to a hilly section where I have a long sweeping downhill. On a good day, I can reach 70 km/hour. At the bottom is a bit of a tight bend where lateral forces are a plenty. The joints and the bamboo are holding up better than I expected. I love it!

Durability in the wet? The natural characteristics of the bamboo are phenomenal, including the water resistance of the exterior skin. As long as you seal it well so moisture cannot get inside (particularly where the skin is not present, like cuts and nicks in the bamboo or where the shoots come out of the sides at the nodes) you have nothing to worry about. I have been caught in some pretty horrendous monsoon downpours here in Thailand.

Weight - My 54cm road frame weighed in at 2.0 kgs. I built it light as I am a 150 lb rider. The last road frame (we call Thai Silk) that went out the door was a 58cm which weighed in at 5.4 kgs.

Joints - The only place you really need steel is where the bearings or threads go, like head tube, bottom bracket, drop outs (even then, there are ways around this as well). The joints are plenty strong from carbon fiber or fiberglass. Thermal expansion factors are something we consider on our proprietary joint construction. Some builders have abandoned carbon fiber because it is too stable, others have abandoned hemp/sisal joints because the rigidity degrades too rapidly. If you choose to use steel joint lugs, you will need to overcome the challenge of a good bond between the bamboo and the steel. Take a look at our site if interested BambooBikeMaker.com or email me at philwebb333@gmail.com

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+1 for being on-topic (not 'spam') and for disclosing your affiliation with the web site that you linked to (not 'astroturf'). –  ChrisW Feb 22 '11 at 2:14
    
Instead of your inviting the OP to send you email, other readers might prefer if any further Q+A were published here on this web site: either as comments in reply to your answer here, or as new (but possibly hyperlinked) separate questions. You have published your email on your web site already; you can also, if you like, publish your email address in your profile. –  ChrisW Feb 22 '11 at 2:19

I've made one, and I'm currently in the process of building another. I'm going to paraphrase you here:

Q: Will it hold together?

A: Yes the joins are quite strong, and mainly depend on how much of the fibre you wrap them with (resin just fills the gaps, the fibre holds the joints together).

Q: Will it hold together if you're going 40mph?

A: My first bike is a mountain bike, and I've had it near that speed on a paved road, but it was too flexible and started to wobble in an unsettling, but not dangerous manner (the first bike is really an experiment so deficiencies like this are expected). The second bike should not have this problem.

Q: Durability in the wet?

A: The bamboo should be sealed with a number of coats of exterior varnish, or resin. My bike has shown no signs of bother even when ridden in rain, through streams and puddles. I doubt that this is an issue.

Q: Are they heavy?

A: That depends on the construction, species of bamboo, when it was picked. My first bike frame weighed approximately the same as the aluminum frame bike that was cannibalized for its parts. I haven't weighed the frame of my bike, but 2.5 kilos sounds a lot heavier than what I produced.

Q: Joints - Would you go for a bike frame with steel interlocking joints or bamboo through out?

A: The joints are not bamboo, in my case I use hemp twine and wrap enough of it to get 1-2 tonnes of holding force per joint. I doubt that steel is required.

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