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It's high-tech bamboo. No, really, it is

MakeLab, a collaborative design group in Alabama, USA, is looking for financial backing on Kickstarter to set up a project to make Semester bikes from bamboo and carbon fibre.

The bikes look really interesting. They’re made using proprietary ‘Hextubes’. Unlike most bamboo bikes – and there are a lot of designs out there – these have a carbon-fibre skin on the inside, and the outside is covered with a glass/epoxy lamination.

The bamboo fibres run parallel along the length of the tube, while the carbon fibre and FRP skins are laid at 45°. The designers say this both provides torsional rigidity and protects the bamboo, and that the resulting Hextube is incredibly strong and lightweight.

They reckon the design dampens road vibration (yes, pretty much everyone claims that). Plus, they’re able to make tubes of consistent size, weight, and wall thickness, so the strength and performance is the same across different bikes.

With many bamboo designs that use simple bamboo poles, there’s a lot of variation from one bike to the next because… well, you can’t tell bamboo how to grow. As well as the Hextubes, the Semester bike is made from powder-coated cromo steel.

The bamboo used here is grown locally in Greensboro, Alabama – the town where this project is based. Watch the video to see the innovative transportation system used to move the bamboo from source to the workshop. Okay, they just put it on their shoulders and carry it across town.

“We have a high-strength, high-performance piece that could far outperform what’s existing now in bamboo and would rival the performance of any materials used on bicycles,” says Lance Rake, Industrial Designer at MakeLab.

The main motivation for the Kickstarter campaign is to create jobs in an area short of industry and the bikes look great in their own right. We’re not sure how the handwoven bamboo fenders (‘mudguards’ to most of us over here) would stand up to a British winter, but they’re certainly distinctive.

The Semester bikes will be available in different specs costing as little as $799 (that’s about £517 at today’s exchange rate). As usual with Kickstarter, you get various rewards based on the amount you pledge. MakeLab are looking for $40,000. With 15 days to go, they’re on $15,000.

Go to their Kickstarter page for more info or to make a pledge.

Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over 20+ years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for eight years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.