Design: Gravel bike
Build: Gravel Frame Home Build Kit
What made you decide to build a bamboo bike?
As the n+1 bicycle I was looking for a gravel bike to explore the paths outside the usual asphalt roads. In the past years I have recycled a number of race bikes that were to be discarded and turned them into singlespeed bikes. To this end, among other things, I learned how to build wheels from scratch. A next challenge was to build a complete bicycle from scratch. My welding capabilities are very limited, so a steel frame was out of the question. The sustainability of bamboo as a frame material on the other hand was very attractive and available.
The idea of building a bicycle made from bamboo raised some eyebrows when I shared it with friends. But reading the stories and watching videos in which cyclists were riding bamboo bicycles on dirt roads assured me that building a bamboo gravel bike is definitely possible. So why build a bamboo bicycle? First, it gave me a chance to build my own bicycle frame from a sustainable material and, second, simply because it can.
Did you enjoy building the bicycle from scratch and would you recommend the experience?
Definitely yes and yes! I was looking forward to the build. The build had a few challenges along the way. Some things I would do differently the second time, e.g. I would attach the rear triangle with a wheel in it for alignment. But now that the bicycle is finished and riding perfect my hands are itching to build a second bicycle.
What did you find most difficult about your bike build?
The most difficult part was the alignment of the rear triangle with the front triangle. The manual was written for a rear axle of 130 mm and I had wheels in mind with a 142 mm axle so I made some (unnecessary) adjustments. After the first attempt when I put in the rear wheel the rim touched the left chainstay, so the rear triangle was not in line with the rest of the frame. On advice from James I removed the flax, repositioned the chainstays with the rear wheel in the jig and re-glued the chainstays. This resulted in a frame that is now straight as an arrow.
What was the easiest part of the build?
The easiest part was the front triangle. That part is very straightforward, cutting the bamboo to size, sanding the ends so they fit the bracket and the headset and glue them together.
How would you describe the ride of your finished bike?
One word: AWESOME! I was excited to ride my bamboo bicycle. When I stepped on the bicycle for the first time I feared that the bike would fall apart. This seems to be normal with something you build yourself. Once I was on it, it felt like an actual bicycle. It responded just like my other factory built racer. The first test was a ride on the asphalt roads, no problems there. The frame was actually stiffer than I expected. The second test a day later was the performance on the gravel track. It was an actual adventure. The bamboo frame was shaken with all the humps, bumps and rocks on the paths, but did not budge. It rode more relaxed than I believe a carbon bicycle would.
What would you improve about the build experience or your finished bike?
In a next build I would attempt to fit the brake and shift cable intern.