We recently wrote about Brooklyn’s Bamboo Bike Studio, and now the Guardian points us to a similar venture lead by Craig Calfee, a California based bicycle designer and early pioneer of carbon fiber, who since 2005 has begun to turn his attentions to the use of bamboo in frame construction. Given bamboo’s numerous advantages – lightweight, flexibility and when grown under the right circumstances, sustainability – as a raw material it is virtually unmatched. Not to mention, it requires a less energy-intensive (and environmentally intrusive) process to harden. So why has it yet to catch on as the smarter alternative to steel and carbon?
One reason, is consumer perception – the belief that a bamboo frame won’t hold up to the rigors of an urban ride – but the larger issue, at least for Calfee’s designs, is price. Despite their 10-year warranty, his high-end models cost between $2000-$3000, a fact that stands as a serious deterrent to widespread adoption. Still, as we’ve seen, many products need to catch on in smaller, premium markets first, before they reach the level of mass appeal.
However, if Calfree has his way, he’ll be building demand from the ground up while simultaneously pushing his luxury line. He is working on bringing his ideas to underprivileged parts of the world where bamboo crops grow well and teach the locals to construct simple, more utilitarian frames. A move that if successful, will not only empower communities, but grow global ridership as well.