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Earnan Maguire

Luddia, United States

Member since October 06, 2007

  • The original "bamboo bike" was a cute project for a Czech engineering student with access to very high-tech materials and machine tools, and the disposable wealth---in both time and money---to indulge in a fanciful project.

    As a practical bike for rural Africa it is a terrible idea.

    The frame of a utility bike is one of the simplest parts of such a bike to fabricate. Other than the parts such as the bottom bracket (housing the bearings and axle for the crankset), the head tube (housing the bearings for the fork assembly) and the drop outs (where the wheels are attached)---all of which are precision-machined metal parts on the so-called bamboo bike as well---the frame can be built of simple cheap steel tubing and lugs that can be cast in quite low-tech foundries. This, in fact, is how many of these old-fashioned bikes are manufactured in India and China.

    Bamboo frames would do nothing to promote self-reliance or encourage local industry in Africa. They would be completely dependent upon imported bottom bracket shells, headset tubes and frame dropouts---just to fabricate the frames---as well as still being dependent upon imported bearings, forks, wheels, cranks, chains and so on. And the end result would be a frame that would be far inferior to an old-fashioned steel bike of the sort, based on early 20th century British designs, commonly seen in Africa. Those bikes are strong and durable---something a bike built using a bamboo frame subject to degradation fr...