What made you decide to build a bamboo bike?
There were a number of reasons I wanted to build a bamboo bike. The first was that I want to do some long-distance bike packing and I knew nothing about bike maintenance or how bikes fit together. I thought that if I could be involved in the whole process of putting it together, I would then have a better idea of how to tackle any inevitable breakages on route.
Second, I wanted to pick a bike that was fit for purpose but I didn’t want to spend hours working through all the different types and different components. I knew that the Bamboo Bicycle Club had the experience I needed to advise me sensibly on what I did and didn’t need, and then I could build EXACTLY what I wanted, rather than compromising on a generic store-bought version or being intensely confused trying to build a bike by researching components online. I don’t need (or want) to become a bike expert, I just need to know about mine.
Third, I am always interested in reducing my impact, so I wanted to choose a bike that would potentially have less impact on the planet. It is tricky to judge the overall impact of an off-the-shelf bike, whereas I could have conversations with James about where components were being sourced from and discuss the merits of imported bamboo vs UK-grown. The added benefit is that this bike is built for me, which means it is my bike-for-life rather than for a couple of years.
Did you enjoy building the bicycle from scratch and would you recommend the experience?
I loved it. It’s been a while since I did anything practical with my hands and my brain, rather than working at a laptop. It reminded me of how satisfying and absorbing it can be to build something from scratch. It was also enjoyable to problem solve as I was putting it together – it taught me about how bikes fit together, how the different components work with each other, and how things always appear to be far more complicated than they actually are. I’m not sure that I still fully understand how gears work, but I know how to attach them to a bike – and bearing in mind that I want to do long-distance journeys I need to be able to know how to basically maintain and replace parts.
What did you find most difficult about your bike build?
The sanding of the joints!!!! The patience level required for the smoothing and sanding section of the build was INSANE. I don’t have the disposition for it and James had to send me off for a break so I didn’t lose my mind. However, it is incredibly satisfying to know that I’ve done it all myself, bumpy bits and all. You can now opt for carbon fibre joints instead, but I know if that had been an option I would have still chosen to do the most analogue version of the build and would still have ended up sanding. It was type 2 fun.
What was the easiest part of the build?
Picking the bamboo? I’m kidding – the process itself was very straightforward and was broken down into easy-to-follow chunks. I built my bike in the workshop, so James was there for any questions.
How would you describe the ride of your finished bike?
Wonderful. It’s taken a bit of time to get used to how light it is (my previous bike was a tank), but it feels a bit like flying around my local lanes. In lockdown, this has been an even better experience of the open road.
What would you improve about the build experience of your finished bike?
It would have been nice to be able to book in to build it all in one go, but my schedule didn’t allow me to do that. It took about four and half days in total to finish it in the end.
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