It’s been a while since I’ve found anything of real interest in my daily Google search engine results, but one of today’s search strings delivered a link to the Smithsonian Magazine’s website where I found a really nice article by Jeff Greenwald focused on the bamboo bicycle building trade entitled, Turning Bamboo into a Bicycle
As I would hope and expect, the article begins by introducing our friend Craig Calfee, who started the bamboo bicycle frame fabrication renaissance with a one-off utility frame in 1995, followed by some other personal bikes for friends and employees that ultimately provided the confidence to introduce a bamboo line of bikes in 2005. A say renaissance because bamboo was used in bicycle frame fabrication back in the 1890’s, something Jeff Greenwald points out in his article (Kudos to Jeff for making that point). However, the early bamboo bikes used what were essentially steel lugs to join the tubes, not the modern epoxies and composite technologies that have allowed Craig to help people in Ghana create a bicycle frame fabrication business called Baboosero.
The tandem connection here is that in addition to bamboo single bikes, Calfee has also been offering bamboo tandems and has also built a few very custom bamboo triplets, including one ridden by three Lutheran ministers on their 2007 ‘Tour de Rev” on their 100 day-long, 13,000 mile, 65 city tour across the US to raise awareness and funds in the fight against World Hunger.
Jeff Greenwald also introduces several other frame builders who have embraced bamboo as a frame material following on the success of Craig Calfee who’s “Green” frames and his philanthropic efforts in Ghana probably garnered him greater exposure and recognition than the celebrity he enjoyed for the Tour de France-winning Carbonframes bikes he built for Greg LeMond. Greenwald does a very nice job of circling back to Craig at the conclusion of the article to underscore how frame building in general, and building with bamboo, is a serious endeavor that demands attention to detail and experience to ensure adequate strength, durability and other critical safety-related characteristics are addressed.
Oh yeah, we’d still love to own a Calfee bamboo tandem… no doubt about it. Sadly, while the desire is strong it hasn’t risen to the level that gains it a place on our Bucket List.