Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Bamboo Bicycles, Bamboo Beer !

The biggest disadvantage to oil, coal and metals is that they are not renewable resources. We find the oil, coal or metallic ores, dig them up and we have to go looking for more. Bicyclists do a big part in reducing our use of oil and replacing it with a renewable resource. (Pedal power)

A bicycle designer in California has taken the quest to use renewable resources a step beyond the mainstream. Der Spiegel reports as follows.

"Craig Calfee is known as the Zen master of bamboo-bike builders. In his workshop on the Californian coast, only a hundred meters from the tumultuous waves of the Pacific Ocean, the frame designer builds breathtaking bikes out of the fast-growing plant, the largest member of the grass family.

But the American, who has become well known for making bikes out of plant materials, has some competition. The number of experts who are making bicycles out of renewable raw materials is growing. Among them are Brano Meres, an engineer from Slovakia and professional cyclist Nick Frey also from California. German engineer Nicolas Meyer is also working along this line, but not with bamboo. Instead he has built a triathlon bike out of hemp."

Calfee's discovery of bamboo as a building material for bicycles was a serendipitous one. When his dog grabbed a piece of bamboo and started chewing on it. Instead of splintering, it had almost no teeth marks on it.

Calfee found some weaknesses in his first bamboo bicycles. By curing and aging the bamboo, he was able to turn it into something versatile. Calfee's bikes go for about $s2700.00 dollars, clearly not a mass production item. But Calfee has a global vision. He has founded a company called Bamboosera, which has trained people from Ghana, Liberia, Uganda and other developing countries to make bicycles and even a mini cycle bus from bamboo.

Calfee is not alone. Nick Frey, a bicycle champion has founded Sol Cycles on much the same premise. He also founded Boo Bicycles on much the same principle.

Daedalus of Portland Oregon has been making bamboo bicycles since 2005. Germany and Denmark each have a company that manufactures bamboo bicycles.

This of course raises the general issue of industrial uses for bamboo. China and India both have major bamboo industries. I found a web site for the Bamboo Development Agency in Mizoram, India. On its web site it describes the nutritional value of bamboo as well as its pharmaceutical uses. There is even bamboo beer made in China!

There is bamboo vinegar with industrial uses as well as bamboo charcoal. There is bamboo plywood and particle board, which is said to be quite strong. Bamboo scaffolding has been in use for a very long time in Asia.

It seems that India and China already know a great deal about using bamboo for food and for industry. It already grows in parts of the US. Could the bamboo bicycle be the start of a trend that has already been developing in Asia? Perhaps this could be another way to make America greener, and to create a new growth industry. Will there be a bamboo car? I'll drink to that! (With bamboo beer.)

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