Gravel Bike by Ben
What made you decide to build a bamboo bike?
I've never done anything like this before and when I heard about the idea from a friend a few years ago I thought it sounded like a great experience and opportunity. It was in the back of my mind for a while as something I'd love to do. Then when lockdown hit and I was looking for something to keep me occupied over the weekends I thought now was the ideal time.
Did you enjoy building the bicycle from scratch and would you recommend the experience?
As someone who has almost no experience in woodwork, building in general or fitting up a bike, it was really an amazing experience and I learned so much. I did the build mostly on my weekends during the lockdown period. It gave me something to look forward to each weekend and was addictively satisfying to look back and see my progress each Sunday evening as I could see how much I had been able to do over the last 2 days, and how it started to resemble a bike more and more as I worked through each stage of the build. Working with Bamboo as a material was really cool and seeing how the epoxy almost magically turned the flax into hard plastic to join everything together was amazing.
Overall I would absolutely recommend the experience to anyone who is up for the challenge. It is by no means an easy task but it is incredibly rewarding and satisfying to have built a bike completely from scratch. Looking back at all the work you've put in and ending up with a beautiful looking high quality bike is well worth it.
What did you find most difficult about your bike build?
The rear triangle and the alignment of the dropouts was really fiddly and challenging. It took me a long time to get this right and I even had to back track once I had glued everything together and created the flax joints as my rear wheel wasn't aligned properly. This was a bit of a pain but was all part of the process.
My overall advice to everyone would be to really take your time and don't underestimate the scale of the project. I was convinced multiple times that it was only going to take another day of work to be finished only to realise that the next stage is not as simple as I had originally thought.
What was the easiest part of the build?
The shaping of each piece of bamboo was quite time consuming but was actually quite easy. Once you've done it once or twice you get into the groove of sanding down and creating a very smooth and satisfying grove in the end of the bamboo that fits snuggly into place. As long as you check the connection after every couple of minutes of sanding it's hard to go wrong.
How would you describe the ride of your finished bike?
I was pleasantly surprised by how smoothly the bike rides. It feels great, and granted that my previous bike was a little old and rusty so not much for comparison, I am really happy with it so far, it's fast, smooth and looks awesome.
What would you improve about the build experience or your finished bike?
I had a few issues with the delivery of various incorrect or missing parts which slowed the process down a little. Though once these were brought to the attention of the company they were rectified pretty quickly.
I would like to see a bit more of an explanation as to how the epoxy works. I received a rock hard substance and googling how to turn it back into a liquid before I could use it took me down completely the wrong route until I contacted James to ask for help. Some more information here would have saved a lot of time and effort.
The alignment of the dropouts was also very difficult and ended up not working properly once I had built the frame, therefore I had to undo and redo a lot of the work I had done. Some clarity in the instructions as to how to ensure you do the appropriate checks at an early stage would have saved a lot of hassle here.