Carbon? Titanium? Flax? Carrot fibre? Meh. The next big thing in framebuilding is bamboo, and US outfit Calfee design are spearheading the trend. Well, them and the guy who always shows up at the Bristol Bikefest with a MTB made out of sticks.
Not even sticks, to be accurate: bamboo, as any pub quizzer will know, is actually a grass. So this is a bike made out of grass. Is that wise? Well, Calfee think it is. The overall weight of the frame (4-6lb depending on the build) won't appeal to the weight weenie brigade but the vibration damping qualities of bamboo, say the makers, are second to none, far better than Carbon or Titanium. This is a bike aimed at the moneyed sportive set, and with a price tag of £3,800 for our test model specced out with Ultegra 6500 it's certainly a premium bit of kit.
It's not just a technology for the rich though. Bamboo is easy to grow in most climates and the construction of a bamboo bike is a labour-intensive process that's not easily mechanised. both these factors mean that bamboo bike production is well suited to developing countries where the people can grow the bamboo locally and produce the bikes by hand for local use. With the bike such an important vehicle in developing communities the bamboo bike could have a big impact, and Calfee are piloting a scheme in Ghana to train workers to build the machines.
The mainframe of our test bike is all bamboo; you can spec Carbon fibre stays at the rear if you want to firm things up back there, as the bamboo stays aren't as stiff. The bamboo is smoked and heat treated before the frame is constructed to make sure the tubes don't split; each frame is covered by a ten-year guarantee. The joints are wrapped in hemp fibre, in keeping with the nature of the bike, and all cable guides are attached this way too before the frame is finished with a matt polyurethane coat.
No doubt: it's an amazing looking bike. Everyone that's seen it so far has heaped praises upon it, at least from an aesthetic point of view, and the attention to detail is superb. The bike as specced weighs in at 8.7kg/19.2lb so it's not over light for a bike that won't leave you much change from four grand, but that's not really the point. As to the ride qualities of bamboo, well we'll report back on that soon. Stay tuned.
Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.