For those of you who missed it, last year Wil was challenged to build a bike out of bamboo. A home build kit, complete with an extensive manual and support from the suppliers throughout the process. Should be easy, right? Well, I started working at Singletrack mid October 2017, two months after Wil first received the kit from Bamboo Bicycle Club. Even then, there was still no bamboo bike in sight…
Most of us avoided the subject and left him to it. Those brave enough to enter the studio whilst he was working on the frame got an insight into just how stressful this process was for Wil, stress that can be put down to the fact he’s a perfectionist that had no prior knowledge in building a bike, working with bamboo, or woodworking in general. All of this coupled with the working conditions (the Singletrack Studio hits sub zero temperatures in winter) plus his general workload, and it was never going to be easy.
You may have already read the full Bamboo Bastard story, but if not, it’s now been published online so you can read the full thing here. During the build process, we kept the cameras rolling to capture some of the behind-the-scenes action, with the idea of showing our Singletrack readers how a bamboo frame comes together. Turns out what we captured was a lot more entertaining than that.
The first instalment of the bamboo trilogy sees Wil laying the foundations for the build, and making a start on the frame. You’ll notice that Mark makes several appearances, offering advice and moral support whilst documenting the early stages, and helping Wil get to grips with the kit and how it works. Tension builds as Wil realises he’s completely messed up, and that’ll be the last time you see Mark in the studio for the entire build…
Part Two then invites you to witness the gruelling binding process. Positioning the tubes, glueing them together, binding them, binding some more, and then a tad more. A very steady and solitary process, with only a short visit from Hannah to help cut the hessian fabric. Tensions were still running high though. What caused tantrum number two?
So now that the frame is done, all that needs to be done is to just pop the frame out of the jig, smooth the edges and build the bike. Sounds so simple right? Not quite. This ends up being one of the hardest and most time-consuming parts of the whole process. Then Wil has to build it up into a complete rideable bicycle. Oh and of course, then he has to actually ride it too…
And there we have it; the Bamboo Bastard is alive!
You may of course be wondering how a mountain bike frame made out of bamboo actually rides. Or not. Regardless, after a handful of test rides that he just managed to slip in before deadline, Wil took the bike out on a local trail to give you a full rundown of the tech specs and its ‘unique’ ride quality;
And so after six long, stressful months, Wil finally completed the Bamboo Bastard. And from the sounds of things, we was quite pleasantly surprised that a) it didn’t fall apart, and b) that it actually rode quite well. Makes it almost worth it eh Wil?
We’d like to pass on our thanks to the Bamboo Bicycle Club for providing us with a Home Build Kit in the first place, and for facilitating this hilarious experience. If you’re interested in building your own frame out of bamboo, check out the Bamboo Bicycle Club website for more info.
And if you’ve got any questions for Wil about his experience, let us know in the comments section below! And if you’re after some sage advice about building your own frame, we’ll find someone who knows what they’re talking about.
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I love the idea of bamboo and wooden bikes but looking at the amount of epoxy resin and electrical tape used in this build I can’t help but wonder if a carbon fibre bike using prepreg in closed tooling and an internal bladder would have less waste in terms of frame manufacture. Am obviously excluding the energy for creating the carbon fibres as this is where the bamboo and hemp are way ahead.
It’s a matter of scale. The benefits of bamboo bikes is that you can make them one at a time in your (or their) workshop. Closed tools only make sense once you’re making hundreds of the things…
I built my bamboo frame and got made redundant in the same week last month. On reflection, building the frame was the more stressful of the two.
Suffered the same rear wheel offset, rear tyre width and chainring clearance issues as Wil, but James at BBC has been really helpful in tips and advice for getting them sorted.
Building mine up as a drop-bar rigid 29er, 2×10. Can’t wait to get it out and hopefully do the BHF London to Brighton off-road on it in Sept. Despite the stress and frustrations, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as standing back and looking at a bike frame, and being able to say “Yeah, I built that!”