One of the key components for a successful build is developing a strong material base for connecting the frame together and there are a number of ways to go about doing this. Here at Bamboo Bicycle Club, we have explored and experimented with the most common and proven methods: hemp and carbon. It is often a question we are asked about, so this blog will act as a guide to better understand the different joining methods that exist, along with their advantages and disadvantages. This is all based on knowledge we have required both through research and testing it out for our own builds. There are many other methods out there, and it can be up to personal style and preference to choose one over the other.
About – The original bamboo bicycle used metal at the joints, which is then crimped around the bamboo. Although it is a good method, it requires considerable manufacturing to create the steel lugs and also adds additional weight to the frame.
-Easy to manufacture once designed and moulded/machined part has been created
-Clean finish and does not require a lot of work to complete
-Easy to test the durability
-Needs expensive tooling
-Requires large quantities of CO2 to produce
-The crimping needs to be done carefully to prevent damage to the bamboo
Carbon Fibre – Joined with epoxy
About – This is one of the most popular methods used by people for building bamboo bicycles. Carbon offers excellent strength to weight ratio and can be bought in a number of different forms.
Carbon tow is generally used for a bamboo bicycle and is wrapped around the joints. Some builders will use a glass fibre base to increase strength and to make a good structural composite, due to carbon tow being one directional. This makes it very important to have a multi-directional base layer.
-Pre-process material so requires little finishing
-Cheap to purchase
-Requires a lot of processing, making it an unsustainable material and cannot be easily recycled
-Generally, it is a multi- directional glass-fibre, which increases the build time and material usage.
-It can be expensive as a large amount is required to complete a bicycle
Hemp Fibre-Joined with epoxy
On the same level as carbon fibre for usage in bamboo bicycles, hemp was often used to make sail canvases, and the word canvas derives from cannabis. The founder of modern bamboo bicycles has used raw hemp fibre since 1996 and continues to build bamboo bicycles using this method.
When grown for non-drug purposes, hemp is referred to as “industrial hemp”. A common product of this is known as fibre, which can be used in a wide variety of products, including the seed for nutritional aspects and for the oil. The number one grower is China, followed by France (the French do love a smoke!)
-Creates a very strong multi-directional composite
-Cheap to purchase
-Very sustainable due to undergoing very little processing.
-Hard to purchase in the UK, it can only be grown with a cultivation license which is issued by the Home Office as a result of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. It is also difficult to get in a raw form.
-Needs a lot of work to get a good finish
-Requires a lot of resin to bond
Twine – Joined with wood glue
Some people use twine – yes garden twine. Hemp string is available and extremely strong. Hemp rope was traditionally used at sea and is extremely strong. One chap we meet used twine with wood glue – we are not sure of the advantages or disadvantages of this, you can make your own mind up!
What we use
At Bamboo Bicycle Club, we use a unique type of hemp. We have found that it is easy to purchase in the UK, allows bikes to be built over a weekend with less time spent on finishing and lowers the amount of epoxy’s required. –
If you want to find out more about building bamboo bicycles, you can visit our workshop
If you want to build your very own bamboo bicycle we have available workshop dates