What would it take to make bamboo bicycles more exciting? Lance Rake thinks a wickery weave could change bike design for the better. Rake is an industrial designer and researcher at Kansas State who has been exploring bamboo materials for years. His aim is finding new structural options for the ancient grass, to make modern fabrication options more sustainable – and more interesting. And the HERO bike project is certainly more interesting.
Bamboo is already a common construction and frame material in parts of the world where it is natively grown and worked, but it’s a relatively cumbersome novelty in the international bike market. The impressive blend of strength and flexibility makes bamboo a desirable replacement for many other fibers and metals, but the density of the bamboo culm presents a strength/weight dilemma in bike tubing.
Bikes these days have to be both light and dynamically tough. With this in mind, Rake has developed a woven and laminated bamboo tube that offers many of the appealing strengths of carbon fiber, with added resilience and a more resource-conscientious footprint and a much thinner wall than common bamboo bike tubing.
Though he started with a traditional road frame design, this woven HERO prototype would allow variability in tube dimensions, and offer a range of shock absorption and stiffness that sounds similar to more familiar steel and carbon characteristics, while still shaving weight compared with solid bamboo.
Many of Rake’s previous projects (like the Semester bike) used traditional bonded bamboo tubes or composites of thicker bamboo planks, and this iteration takes their environmental aims to a dramatic new level.
The current version of the finished HERO Bike weighs in at 19 pounds. With a traditional sleeved bottom bracket, seat cluster and front end that’s an impressive amount of strength and weight savings for a material we’re used to relegating to garden furniture.
Have you worked with woven bamboo? Would you consider testing a woven frame? Or would you have to be a basket case?
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