Going Bamboo

As I’m in my fifth year of commuting by bike every day now, I’m beginning to think about a new bike. Not that there’s anything wrong with my old bike, but I’ve been making continuous improvements for years and a new bike would be an opportunity to leap ahead across some features.

Given my size (mainly the length of my legs), one of the main areas for improvement would be the geometry of a frame, I would hope. Other areas I would want to deal with is the gearing. Even now that I’m down to an 8-speed, I would love to get rid of derailleurs entirely, so internal hub it is…

As I’m looking around for new bikes, I’m also looking for a builder whom I can meet and talk to (i.e. strong preference for a local manufacturer, if not a local builder), as well as some innovation in the bike.

So… bamboo comes up as a choice. As far as I can tell that means Grass Frames in Vancouver.

Intuitively, bamboo makes total sense to me. Flexible, but strong, light, sustainable, what’s not to like.

I went to visit the Grass Frames guys and had a great time. I had a ton of questions and got many of them answered. This is definitely an option in the running!

Some of the things I learned:

  • not that much of a weight advantage over chrome alloy
  • sustainability not only in the material, but in all steps on the production process. I was really impressed that their workspace didn’t smell chemical at all.
  • 30 of their bikes on the roads and they’ve been building for 2 1/2 years
  • background in joinery and boat-building
  • given individual variations in pieces of bamboo, the build process is fairly individualized in any case, so adjustments in the geometry are feasible at a much lower price differential
  • my hope for a fork dipped in reflective paint would be a possibility, because the fork is the part that is bought separately
  • with so many variables (gearing, size of frame, brakes, etc.) test-riding a bike just for the qualities of its frame doesn’t tell me that much

Some of the things that came to me on the bike ride home:

  • can the top tube be extended to accommodate a hood ornament?
  • any light innovations that can be built into the frame?
  • add colour pigment to the resin?
  • some other innovation? shoe holster? field hockey stick loop?
  • bamboo rack?

To be continued…

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