Bamboo Bikes – riding well and supporting change in Africa.

The second part of our exploration into bamboo and its potential contribution to the sustainable development of the adventure sports sector. We look at Calfee bamboo road and mountain bikes, discover how bamboo bikes can bring support to communities in the developing world, and ponder the possibilities for community built bamboo bike tours.

In the first part of this bamboo article we established that, with its stunning, low maintenance growth rate and myriad uses in every element of human existence, bamboo is potentially the most sustainable resource on earth.

We also discovered that the actual process of converting bamboo into clothing fiber is currently the thorn in the side of an otherwise exciting step forward in progressive fabric production.

But are there other ways that bamboo can contribute to adventure sports and make a difference?

The answer if you are Craig Calfee is overwhelmingly yes.

Famous for being the first to bring carbon into the cycling world, with Greg LeMond riding yellow jersey on the 1991 Tour de France on a carbon frame, Calfee Design has continued to pioneer carbon and more recently bamboo frame bikes.

Beginning as a publicity stunt in 1995, Craig’s created himself a bamboo errand bike which evolved into a well-tested model for the general public. 12 Bamboo bikes had been built for employees, relatives and friends. The feedback on the smooth ride quality was too good to ignore, so he decided to go into production.

His bamboo bikes have proved to be able to stand the competition, with Cycling Weekly recently giving the Bamboo pro road a huge 8 out of 10, commenting that It feels stiffer than many carbon-fibre bikes. It is smooth on the road, with vibration indeed absorbed very effectively.

If mountain biking if more your thing, and you love the unique look of the bamboo, then you should consider seriously the bamboo mountain bike built again by Calfee designs. The Dale Hard Tail Bamboo bike was reviewed by Chasing Trails, who said they were expecting a fragile feeling bike that would need riding carefully but the solid feel & almost silent ride inspired confidence early on. The Uk distributor of bamboo bikes is

On the one hand, Calfee is committed to the production of genuinely competitive bamboo mountain and road bikes. But his vision reaches further. On a recent visit to Africa he noticed three things: 1. There was a lot of bamboo. 2. People used bikes and didn’t have enough of them. 3. They needed jobs. Perhaps, he thought, people could build their own bamboo cargo bikes.

This vision, encouraged by various organizations and charities, means that today, the bamboo cargo bike is delivering to the African people a cheap, sustainable method of goods transport that can be constructed with a minimum of effort, tools and materials and zero electricity. There is more information about this project available here

Beyond the obvious revolution in everyday African life and the potential to combat poverty, we see a second revolution coming. African built, African run, African cycle tours. The potential to establish an entirely sustainable community tourism industry off the back of this innovation is massive. We shall certainly keep an ear to ground…

Here is what Andrew from Saddle Skedaddle thinks, People would love this concept, riding literally through such stunning settings as Africa offers, on bikes grown locally, and led by local people who know it best I can see such a scheme being very successful with all ages of intrepid traveler.

This is not the only potentially exciting development in cycle related African community tourism. Check out our chat with Kona to see the incredible work being done in the Kona Basic needs project. will keep you posted on latest developments.

Build your own Bike! check out this great blog entry on how to build your own bamboo bike!

All images (except the bamboo forest image) taken from

2 Replies to “Bamboo Bikes – riding well and supporting change in Africa.”

  1. I am in the market for a new road bike. I am think that buying a bamboo bike is a great idea. If I can help contribute to sustainability and have a top of the line road bike at the same time… Why wouldn’t I?? Thanks for the info!!

  2. Hi Pete,

    Its true this is a great option – let me know if you buy one and you can do a review!

    Thanks Ed

    ps. I’m thinking of getting one too!

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