The Empire Strikes Back – Bamboo Bikes a Secret Weapon
Lets just all get it out of our system shall we? Go on, you have a massive urge to let out a loud whinge and have a long winded rant about the relevance of the idea of bamboo bikes and how terrible the whole idea is and how the industry conspires to perpetually find ways to “make” you spend more cash. So breath deeply and go for it….vent out the fear of change and the shackles of ‘the norm’ and then come and take a walk (ride) with diversity.
When I started with the idea on writing some pieces about the British bike industry I fully admit that I was seeing stoic engineer genius types who were divorced due to their shed based engineering addiction and had taken a monk like vow to stay in the workshop until they had fashioned the ultimate bike. I imagined sparks and melting pots of base materials, dangerous looking machines that were not for mere mortals to touch. I liked my mental image of maverick creators and it’s grimy floors…right up until the point that I found a lady that was building bikes out of some kind of grass that has been on steroids and clearly has a chip on it’s shoulder. Lets be honest grass is surely for cows and hippies.
I think it’s only fair to mention that I’ve not only written this to satisfy my curiosity of all things new and shiny, I was definitely prompted by hugely enthusiastic endorsements by my friend Stephen Phipps. He’s a pretty seriously on it kind of rider and spends plenty of time in the saddle as a guide, so if he raves about anything I’m willing to listen. So lets ask Rachel from Bamboo Bikes what the hell it’s all about.
Commence the Questions:
Si – So there you were sat down the launderette, thinking……bamboo bikes!! No? So how did it all start and how did you make it happen.
Rachel – I saw one on display at a show in London 5 years ago and fell in love. There was no one selling them in the UK so I started importing US made frames and selling them here. In 2010, we formed the current company and made a partnership with Oxford Brookes University who were thinking about developing a design for manufacture. We worked together on the design and launched the 26” XC MTB at the NEC Cycle Show in 2011.
Si – With more brands, more materials and more aspects of cycling, did you envisage having a tough time making bamboo part of peoples wish lists. And how did you plan to market in that crowded market place.
Rachel – Rather than it being ‘yet another high end bike’, our range is exclusively bamboo and so bamboo offers something other frame materials don’t. A smoothness sometimes compared to carbon, but quieter and not prone to breakages, a higher tensile strength than steel and a lighter material than alu.
Si – What are the highs and lows of bringing a brand from concept to completion.
Rachel – The excitement and satisfaction in launching something you’ve worked so hard on is great. It takes time, energy and dedication, which is no bad thing, but sometimes frustrating!
Si – You offer full custom geometry, that’s a superb option. Is it proving popular yet ?
Rachel – We get a lot of people interested in custom build, particularly for road and touring models which we don’t yet offer as standard – although watch this space!
Si – With so little actual manufacturing going on with the British bike scene, I find it kinda funny that your bikes are actually built in the UK. Tell us about the process.
Rachel – We wanted full control over the quality and pricing, and having everything here means whenever we need to ramp up production, we can do so quickly.
Si – Do you ever wake up at night after a nightmare about woodworm raiding your warehouse after a bit of exotic dinner?
Rachel – Well..as bamboo is a grass and so not prone to the same diseases as wood..no!
Si – Full credit for putting your money where your mouth is, a full XC race team is on your bikes. How is that working out for you? And how did you put the team together.
Rachel – Thanks, it was important to show people they were up to the job! It’s been great fun, quite a few wins last year, and already some wins this year, we’re really proud of all our riders. Some made contact with us, and some were known to us through bike clubs etc. We’re always interested in hearing from anyone who’d like to compete on a bamboo frame. We hope to have a CX team this year also.
Si – If you were to leave one of your 26” frames in water, how would you know when it would have grown into a 29er?
Rachel – Umm…
Si – Tell us why we should rush off and buy one of your bikes.
Rachel – You should rush off and try a bamboo bike to feel the difference to other materials. It’s a bit of a ‘Marmite’ brand, we appreciate everyone won’t like it, but when people do, they really do!
We’ve got bikes in Blue Door Bicycles, Crystal Palace, iCycle in Birmingham, The Activity Centre in Bromley and with Green Race Ltd in Stroud.
I’m willing to put a sizable bet that even those of you that have read this (with one disapproving eyebrow raised), want to try one. You’d like to think that it would prove that it’s hype, in truth you know that there may be a part of you that actually finds a hugely enjoyable bike. I’m 100% fascinated and I’m also convinced that these guys are well up to making it work, there is tons of dedication to be found with this most unusual brand. This grass based bike is shamelessly in my top three list of rides that I can’t wait to throw a leg over.