Craig Calfee says bamboo has "amazing vibration damping, even better than carbon fibre."
This from the designer who has been working with composites since 1988. His company may get a lot of press coverage out of a wooden-framed, pro-quality bike, but Calfee still says "carbon fibre is the material of choice for a frame."
That’s certainly what most of the rest of the bike trade thinks, too. Composites are de rigeur for most bikes above a certain price threshold. How many pros ride on anything other than a carbon fibre bike these days?
But these guys are paid to sit their skinny butts on carbon fibre bikes. Some, in reality, may prefer ti, alu or 953.
Bradley Saul, founder of OrganicAthlete and a category one racer, is down on composites: “I’ve riden a bamboo bike for over a year. I can honestly say it’s the best riding bike I’ve ever had.
“Bamboo is the darling of the sustainability movement – it is strong and renewable and beautiful. Also, since bicycles rely on people power, not petrol-power, the combination of green materials and green transport is irresistible."
Carbon fibre layers bonded with resin are not green. Carbon bikes are mostly plastic and plastics are derived from oil.
Last year BikeBiz carried a story about CelluComp of Fife, which was making a composite called Curran from carrots. A wag said: "Do I need to keep a carrot-fibre frame in the fridge?"
There’s clearly scope for many similar jokes, and ones featuring rabbits too, but Curran is no laughing matter, it could transform the composites industry.
CelluComp’s Dr David Hepworth said: "The potential is enormous and if we can replace just a small percentage of carbon fibres in products the effects on the environment could be significant and wide-ranging."
Until that day, composites remain the material of choice for high-end bikes, but consumers may soon catch on that ‘plastic’ bikes are getting easier and easier to manufacture, cannot be recycled and have other drawbacks too. Heresy? Yep, and we’d better get used to it. The surprising popularity of the North American Hand Built Bicycle Show demonstrates that not everybody aspires to carbon fibre.