If you’re looking for a super Green mountain bike this holiday season and you’ve got a little cash to burn, why not consider a Bamboo 29er mountain bike from Calfee Designs? The $2,695 frame comes in 5 sizes and both 29er and good old fashioned 26-inch frames are available. According to Calfee Designs the bamboo mountain bike frame is more crash tolerant than a carbon fiber bike, though unfortunately there’s no weight data available.
While a bamboo mountain bike frame may seem a bit gimmicky, it turns out that bamboo as a building material is pretty gnarly. Bamboo has greater tensile strength than steel and handles compression better than concrete and because it’s mostly hollow it’s fairly lightweight (though probably not as lightweight as carbon fiber). Enviro-geeks love it because it’s a sustainable material that grows quickly in a variety of conditions and is biodegradeable. A bamboo frame takes far fewer chemicals and less energy to fabricate than traditional aluminum or carbon fiber frames making it even better for the environment.
In terms of performance, Craig Calfee, head of Calfee Designs, says bamboo offers a superior combination of stiffness and compliance over carbon fiber and he predicts bamboo will one day become standard in the bike racing world. Calfee may be onto something – he was one of the pioneers of carbon fiber bikes back in the 90s.
The promise of a higher performance bike made from sustainable, natural materials almost sounds too good to be true which means there has to be a catch. None of the articles I read about the bamboo mountain bike mentioned weight and the price makes me think bamboo is tough to work with from a fabrication standpoint. Calfee offers a 10-year warranty on workmanship and a 5-year crash replacement warranty but there’s no indication of how often riders have to take advantage of this. Keep watching though – bamboo just might be the next carbon fiber for mountain bikes!