I finally got the chance to throw my leg over Phil Webb’s bamboo bike. It exceeded my expectations. Right off the bat it obviously looked cool, but could the performance match the presentation…
As you see in the video, I gave the BambooBikeMaker.com bike an A+. For what the bike is intended, it is more than adequate. I could see myself someday owning one of these bikes.
What did I like about it? Well, if you were to ask me before I took it for a ride, I would tell you that it looks cool. It does. It is one of those double-take things. When you initially look at it you think it is just another bike. Then you realize this thing is botanical and not mineral.
Now that I have ridden it, I would say that the ride is as good or better than the looks. After riding around on stiff, carbon-fiber bikes for so long now, it was comfortable to ride the heavier (but not drastically so) and shock absorbing bamboo. I had not ridden the bike more than fifty yards before I was loving the ride.
The bike is still stiff. However, bumps were swallowed up with no complaint. The bike handled very well – not quite as snappy as my Giant TCR Advanced, but very respectably. As a commuter or even a long distance ride these bamboo bikes would excel.
In the video you will notice that the bike is not completely bamboo. The joints are bonded with carbon fiber. The fork and headset are aluminum.
There was another thing that took me a long time to realize. “Something is different,” I was saying to myself, but it didn’t come to me until later in the ride. The bike is quiet. I guess this is where the bike is more like a steel one.
On my carbon fiber bike, you can hear the road resonating through the frame. There are also the slight pops and other sounds that come from the flexing. Of course, you don’t even think about it when you are on one, but when I got on this bike the lack of those sounds was evident.
I know I am giving a glowing report here. On this bike the negatives would be the components. However, even that works to this bike’s advantage — what would the ride have been like had it been equipped with better wheels and components? The main thing I hated about it was the seat.
This particular bike was not my size. I felt slightly cramped on it. I probably needed to raise the seat just a tad more and a longer stem would have helped. However, there again the properties of bamboo make it so that custom building a frame to exact size requirements is not a problem.
The finish also could improve. When you compare the look of this bike with one of CalfeeDesign’s creations, there is a definite gap. Yet, in a way, it adds to the bike’s charm. The layering of the carbon fiber almost gives the joints an organic look that goes well with the natural bamboo.
Phil hopes to go into production with these bikes giving opportunities for people in developing South Asian countries to learn skills that will increase their quality of life. This bike’s success helps bring employment to needy people allowing them to better provide food, shelter, clothing, and medical care.
I hope he succeeds.