Over the years I’m been very lucky to have been able to have work with most every frame material out there and when I started my business I decided that for me steel was the best material to use. I love the way it rides and that it has such wonderful fatigue properties so it will give a lifetime of service. The one thing I don’t like about steel is that it’s not renewable and to make more of it requires digging a big hole in the ground and then lots of energy to turn that ore extracted from that big hole into the material that the tubes are made from. And while it’s true that steel is recyclable one can not make high strength steel from recycled swingsets – high strength material needs to be made that way from the get go which brings us back to that big hole in the ground.
With the help of my wife Karin I started working on the renewable issue a number of years ago. We looked at materials like carbon which is pretty cheap and easy to work with but hardly a low energy, low impact material and it certainly can’t be recycled or renewed. We briefly considered magnesium but the energy needed to refine this abundant material was too high and most people would have no idea where to take their magnesium bike to recycle it. And then we considered bamboo.
Many people are now building with bamboo and it’s a wonderful material. It’s a perennial evergreen that is one of the fastest growing plants in the world with the added benefit that it’s best grown in South East Asia where they cold certainly use the money and the work. But using traditional bamboo construction techniques is hardly a low impact or renewable way to go. It requires the use a lots of epoxy that, while stable and non-toxic once cured, renders the bamboo un-recyclable. In working with local farmers in S.E. Asia through international aide agencies I’m proud to say we have had a material breakthrough in bike building materials that at once make the entire frame renewable, recyclable, low impact and extremely light and stiff. I’m pleased to introduce to you now – Bamboominum.
In working with local fair trade farmers we realized that we could improve on nature and bamboo during its growth so that it would not require the use of epoxy to construct a frame with the side benefits of it being water and rot resistant and much stiffer in both bending and torsion than traditional bamboo. We discovered that if one fertilizes the bamboo with aluminum powder starting at its gestation period and through full growth that one can in effect blend the material properties of bamboo and aluminum into one fabulous new material – Bamboominum. The bamboo plants grow so quickly they will suck up most any material presented at their roots and if one gives a constant diet of aluminum powder to a plant it will take it up into it’s cellular structure much the same way that celery did with ink in those school science experiments you did when you were a kid. The bamboo itself grows almost as quickly as old school bamboo so a farmer can grown many frames worth of material in one day on a small plot of land and this gives them an alternative to growing poppies or marijuana.
Bamboominum looks like old school bamboo except it’s got a grayish color instead of the normal tan color. This was at first an issue with the locals as they thought this was mocking the Gods and that they would suffer the wrath of a vengeful God once he saw what they had done. This almost ended the project at its inception. But we were able to convince the farmers that God was busy doing other stuff and wouldn’t see what they were up to and then we were able to move ahead.
Bamboominum is of course renewable and it’s also fully recyclable. We are currently in negotiations with specialty firms here in the USA to turn used Bamboominum frames into tiki torches for lawn and patio use. Remember – reuse, renew, recycle!
There are a few things about Bamboominum that make it very unique. First is that due to its extremely high aluminum content it can be welded using traditional methods. Welding is of course the easiest and cleanest way to join aluminum tubes and can be done by most any hack welder out there. The second extremely unique thing about Bamboominum is that it can be grown in such a way that the frame built from it can be at once laterally stiff and vertically compliant. Fertilizing the plant on two sides more than the other sides so it in effect makes the Bamboominum stalk asymmetrically stiff. This has been the holey grail for most framebuilders and I’m pleased to announce that the goal has at long last been achieved.
We expect to be building with Bamboominum very soon but frames will be limited to belt drive fixies at first to satisfy pent up demand for them. All Bamboominum frames will be build around the new bottom bracket and headset standards of BB90 (a flex free 90 mm BB spindle) and HS90 (a flex free 90 mm fork steerer diameter – because this stuff can never be stiff enough). The third photo below shows a worker harvesting Bamboominum to be used for fork steerers.
Bamboominum will not be cheap starting at $23,500 for a frame and fork set but the few select owners can sleep easy and have just grounds to brag to their coffee shop buddies that they are cooler because their bikes are like their coffee – fair trade.
Please keep an eye on this space for further announcements about the breakthrough that is Bamboominum. We will be announcing delivery schedules and options soon.
The future belongs to Bamboominum!