Updated: Oct 30, 2020
Some days turn out to be extremely interesting and things just fall in place. Today I learnt quite a bit about cycles made of Bamboo, the hardy plant material after a chance message exchange with a facebook friend. My Facebook friend Sridhar Lakshmanan,Founder, Ecologin Rural and Tribal Products & Services Pvt Ltd, Founder, thaen Raw Wild Pure Rare Hone was talking about his eco-tourism venture Ecologin and his freak accident and I sent this page's url to him which sort of triggered a new connection with an cyclist enthusiast, Satish Vangal.
One led to the to the other and Sridhar suggested I look up Kalfee Design, a designer and manufacturer of Bamboo cycles! (picture courtesy from Kalfee Design website)
" We have been trying to rope in a few people from the gypsy community to make this if there is good demand" Sridhar says to which Satish helpfully added "And I know someone who designed an electric bamboo bike in Bali."
The discussions moved towards using battery operated bamboo cycles with Sridhar suggesting that they too are working on a design using Bamboo and batteries for cycle. Sridhar felt that foldable cycles may be a great idea while using Bamboo. "In Bamboo collapsible might be a easier possibility given the natural taper inherent and joints are a bit tough unless one designs for them specifically but problem is you have to look for specific diameter of bamboo", Sridhar says. "we can hire an intern and try in summer. My original two bi-cycles (bamboo) were made by a 15 yr old who is now pursuing his design course in Bangalore. Hopefully still interested else there are others" Sridhar helpfully added with a url link
Satish was insisting on exploring the folding bike design "Bromptons are well-made but very pricey folding bikes. I do like their 16 inch wheel size. Very practical for getting into a bus, metro, elevator, etc. Would that size be (inexpensively) available in India?" to which Sridhar added a link to the Decathlon sports store to say such tyres are available in India.
A quick search in the Net showed up https://bamboochicycle.com/ which was an Indian firm making Bamboo cycles founded by an avid aviator (no name given) who is passionate about cycling, fascinated by engineering concepts and building things with his own two hands, as the website helpfully adds. Another website www.bamboocycles.com has two videos on its home page explaining the entire process of making Bamboo frames by bi-cycles.
http://godrejbambusabike.com/ Another website run by one of the biggest multiproduct manufacturers has a videoabout a trip from Kashmir to Kanyakumari on two cycles made of, you guessed it Bamboo. Another Bamboo cycles enthusiast Vijay Sharma who personally designs his Bamboo bikes has this video explaining how it is made from the hardy wild plant.
Why bamboo for bikes? Bamboo has a greater tensile strength (or resistance to be pulled apart) than steel and it withstands compression better than concrete. Generally the cycle makers prefer using a special bamboo species called Pseudo-Oxytenanthera Stocksii ideally suited for building bamboo frame bicycles that it can absorb vibrations and shocks like bumps in the road, making it comfortable to ride over long distances. And the bikes could last many years with minimum maintenance. Another website helpfully adds Bamboo can withstand up to 1ton/cm2 of compression force, this is twice the tolerance of steel.Bamboo is also lighter making it ideal for bicycle construction
Of course if it could be made by tribals themselves who have access to bamboo and use for such cycles with some skill training it would be a major contribution to their welfare.