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Bamboo Bike Frame.

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I built a bamboo bike frame over the summer. It's super fun, both to build and to ride. I was inspired by Brano Meres' excellent Instructable, ayasbek's Instructable, and, of course, Craig Calfee's bikes. My method is slightly different, so I decided to document it. Beware: I underbuilt the bottom bracket joint and it cracked; I'm currently looking at vacuum bagging to make the joints much stronger. I will update this Instructable once Bamboo Bike Mk. III is done (this one is Mk. II).

DISCLAIMER: If you try this, it's your fault if it breaks and you get hurt. Frame failures are no fun, and if you build this and your frame fails, it is very possible you will get hurt. Don't blame me.

The basic process will be:
1. Get materials!
2. Design the frame
3. Heat treat the bamboo
4. miter the tubes; the head tube and the bb shell will be metal parts that fit inside bamboo sheaths.
5. Tack it all together
6. Reinforce the joints
7. Build up a bike
8. Ride!
 
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Step 1: Materials and Tools

Picture of Materials and Tools
Materials you'll need:
- bamboo, of the appropriate sizes. I got mine from OSH. They had " 1" Bamboo ", which in reality ranged from .75" to 1.25" in diameter, and " 1.5" Bamboo ", which in reality ranged from 1.25" to 1.875". I used .875" for the rear triangle and 1.5"-1.75" for the front triangle. It's definitely strong enough.
- hemp fiber, or fiberglass, or carbon fiber. I used hemp fiber from hemptraders.com. Fiberglass is cheap and available at OSH. You can get carbon fiber ( and fiberglass, too) at fiberglast.com .
- epoxy resin and hardener. 10 minute pot life worked well. I got mine from West Marine, and it's available at fiberglast.com too.
- 5-minute epoxy. Or 30-minute, or 2-hour, it really depends on how patient you are. I got them from OSH.
- a head tube and a lugless bottom bracket shell. I got mine from novacycles.com .
- dropouts. I got mine from ebikestop .
- expanding foam. I'm not sure if it is needed, but Brano Meres seems to think foam does good things, so I put some in the rear triangle. It helped keep the dropouts in their place when it was all getting tacked together. It's light and cheap, and I got it at OSH.

Tools you'll need:
- a propane torch, or a heat gun. This isn't necessary if you can breathe fire. It's for heat treating the bamboo. Mine is from OSH.
- a hacksaw or a coping saw. This is for mitering the bamboo, and for cutting the tube to length. Mine is from Home Depot, I think. You probably have one already, though.
- if you have a drill press, I hear you can get an attachment that holds a tube at an angle so you can miter quickly and accurately. thavinator posted this link in the comments which points you toward where you can buy them.
- a half-round wood rasp. This is for mitering the bamboo. Got it from OSH.
- tubemiter.exe . Invaluable when mitering. Mitering tubes. Not so useful for mitering other things.
- a Dremel. Useful for everything. I bummed one off a friend, but I was almost done with the frame at that point. This would have made things go much faster.
- disposable gloves. Epoxy is bad for you, don't touch it. Costco sells these in bulk. Your local drug store will carry them too.
- a mask; epoxy and sawdust and the like is bad for you. Don't inhale it. OSH.
- a jig. I got aluminum from OSH and built the almost jig by dr welby . Well, you technically don't need one, but I found it to be very useful. You'll also need clamps if you use a jig.
- calipers are nice to have. I "borrowed" mine from my school's robotics lab. Harbor Freight carries them cheap, though. Measuring tape is also important.
- a protractor is important to have. Angles are important to get right.
- a Sharpie, or something else that marks up just about anything.
- trash bags; they are useful for making the joints.
- scissors.
- a camera, so you can document your work.

You'll also need bike components. I bummed around and got some free, and bought some for cheap. Total cost of the entire bike: about $300.
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CobyUnger made it!5 months ago

Fun project. Thanks for the help.

Bamboo_Bike.jpg
ac-dc4 years ago
(removed by author or community request)
Fear is innovations worst enemy. Let's be more realistic and more positive before we start telling people that what their doing is a liability. You can be hurt by anything! Doesn't mean you should live life in a bubble of "you could hurt yourself or your fellow innovators" I appreciate this site and i don't want to see anymore of these type of comments posted, it undermines the whole purpose of the site. Please!
Strange way to put it. I have no fear when I wipe out on my mountain bike, but I do acknowledge there will be some damage done (depending on speed and terrain). I recognize there is a risk and keep it in mind, and do not suggest to other people to do things that would likely pose substantial harm. You can't, reasonably, be hurt by anything at equal levels and it is crazy to think that because it is not a 100% safe world that some things need more care and attention than others. I don't care what you don't want to read. It does not undermine at all, it helps keep people thinking about SAFETY so they can assess their skill level before starting a project, have a better result, or spend their time on something else their skill level is more in line with, and most of all live to do another instructable another day. I am not suggesting it is the same type of liability as some, in fact the opposite I was suggesting that at least when people have a frame failure from one made by a professional, they have some recourse to sue, to get at least their medical bills taken care of instead of being bankrupt for life (since interest on medical bills can easily grow faster than a young person's income). Let alone the actual physical harm. REDandroid you seem to take lightly the harm that can come, and I think it is because you don't see a lot of people riding around on alternative material bicycle frames. This is not the same thing as making a rug out of drinking straws, a failure can easily put someone's head under a multi ton vehicle. Never wrote live in a bubble, you are making things up to pretend you have a reasonable position but it is never reasonable to make things up as if you can attribute them to someone who never wrote them. No matter how many times someone says life isn't safe, it is always reasonable for at least the first person to say "hey this is really dangerous people get crippled from far more rugged frames failing every day".
cosmopuli ac-dc2 years ago
ac-dc I have built a number of bamboo bikes using an instructable as my initial blueprint. I understand your concern for safety but, I have built a road bike, a beach cruiser, and a mountain bike using this method. The mountain bike that I use regularly is able to take big drops and absorb the bumps and crashes that come from regular offroad biking. Bamboo and carbon fiber tow/ or hemp are extremely strong and if used correctly make a beautiful and durable bike. If you were to do your due diligence and research the use of bamboo in the building of bicycle frames you would see that it is a safe alternative to traditional materials. Please do your research before making comments as you are spreading fear that is not based on fact. Any bike frame is capable of failure but, if built correctly bamboo bikes are some of the strongest most vibration dampening bikes I have ever had the pleasure to ride. If you are reasonably mechanically inclined and do the proper research you can build a safe bamboo bike that can handle all of the rigors of their steel, carbon fiber, and aluminum counterparts. It's as simple as that, make sure your joints are strong enough (overbuild them) and that your bamboo is properly heat treated and left to dry for at least a month and you will have a durable bike. Any bike can fail due to poor construction but, there is no inherent danger in using bamboo, hemp, and/or carbon tow to construct your bike. Take your time and don't take any short-cuts and you will have a beautiful bike. It is quite rewarding when people ask where you got your bike and you can tell them "I made it".
Hey no harm in warning people of potential failures from poorly constructed devices, but it is not cool to completely dismisses an invention as being completely dangerous. That is the interpretation that I got from your initial post. I apologies if I misread your meaning. I'm not the author of the bamboo bike, but 'my' interpretation was that he was not pushing this to be a replacement of your standard rugged aluminum or steel mountain bike, but rather a fun project. I could be wrong... I live in Portland, deemed "bike capital" of the US by some and there are literally thousands of homemade bikes here that are built 'safe'; it's the drivers of cars that you usually have to worry about :) There are the tall bikes where the rider sits 5 or so feet or higher off the ground that I feel are not quite safe. I was hit head-on last winter and taco'd my road bike. I'm sure the bamboo bike would have shattered pretty bad. Take care.
Hey REDandroid- I completely agree with you. ac-dc apparently has a fear of danger, even the slightest danger, and thinks that a fairly reasonable disclaimer is completely unreasonable. I myself couldn't live life without a little danger. It would just be BORING. And if the instructable is suggesting that someone try something risky, then the disclaimer was a good idea and was definitely not "irresponsible" as ac-dc suggested. It may "entice" the viewers to build the bike, but it in no way forces them to build it, and it is still entirely their choice to build a bike that is a little more risky than a welded aluminum one. So my suggestion to ac-dc: Back off with your arguments, I bet you that at least more than half of Instructables would readily disagree with your ridiculous statements.
ac-dc catman5294 years ago
How dare you suggest I should not voice my opinion because you don't like or agree with it. Did it occur to you that I will give your opinions no more respect than you have mine? Do you even understand why we live in such litigious times? Because people act without concern of the consequences then blame someone else!! They make statements like "blah blah blah that person has fear of danger" but you overlook something, if I choose not to build a bamboo bike there is no need for me to write anything about it here, I could just let Darwinism finish off the weaker links. As I had written already, indeed I do not control what choices someone makes including whether to build this or not, I only offered my opinion and you act like a spoiled child because it differs with your own. Grow up and accept we are not censoring people they are entitled to disagree and it should always be stressed to err on the side of caution. People really do, do dumb things and the reason eve more don't is because all the way through life we have little reminders from others that "hey this may be dangerous, think about what you are doing". It all comes back to central issue in many types of projects, if you have to be told how to do it instead of having the experience and intelligence to do it without instruction, you probably aren't fit to do it. When someone offers to help, how much can they really do so? Can they inspect your bamboo bike over the internet? Can they catch you if the frame collapses next to a car going 50MPH? Will they care that you have "no fear" (Nonsense! You hide behind a keyboard when you'd ever act this way IRL) if they wreck? I never claimed that the act of disclaiming was irresponsible, the irresponsible part is acting as though that is enough. Someone could easily follow instructions to the best of their ability and it still woudn't be enough, mere text readings "blah danger I no responsible" doesn't drill home that there is a reason average people aren't grabbing materials to DIY modes of transportation commonly used on public roads alongside dangerous vehicles. There is a difference between being afraid of something and acknowledging a risk. I knew the difference going in but you would LOVE to twist things so you can pretend to be more reasonable. What's the best case scenario if you build a working bamboo bike? you get to ride it same as you could've the original frame or any new bike. What's the worst? Is the worst really worth the risk vs payoff? Really? Have you built this several ways including wrong so you know where the issues lie? Or are you just upset that some things really shouldn't be tried at home? Being responsible isn't about your own safety, it's about how your actions impact others. Throwing around challenges like "fear of danger" is irresponsible. If bamboo were an equally good frame material, then one professionally made would seriously compete with other materials in the marketplace. I suppose you can't even accept this fundamental truth and it far precedes making a frame out of the best materials mankind uses.
catman529 ac-dc4 years ago
Sorry if I made you feel as though I was saying you couldn't voice your opinion, but I still disagree. I think pretty much everyone else here disagrees with what you're saying. And I am not "throwing around challenges like 'fear of danger'" - you may not realize that you come off as someone who is afraid of risk and dangerous activities - I'm just saying it how I see it, maybe you don't intend to, but you do come off as a safe freak and that's not what Instructables is about.
ac-dc catman5294 years ago
I think we are beating a dead horse. All that needed to be said was, we are only offerining input and then each person decides what to do. I feel this is a strange reaction sometimes, if someone disagrees everyone thinks they "insist" it be their way but I do not. It is a forum where obviously we all add a little bit to think about. It's just about more info, if you or I choose risk, so be it, but let it be a fullly informed choice.
jeff2818 ac-dc4 years ago
You have got to be kidding. If you are on this site at all you must know that most anything home made will have risks. I think this Instructable is great. There are now commercial bike builders ( saw one on Green Network TV) using bamboo. They are very expensive. The techniques they used were the same. Please give this guy the respect he deserves . And, if you don't feel safe building one... DON'T!
If this is your philosophy of DIY, you will be writing a lot of these 'shame on you' comments. There are many, many dangerous things posted on Instructables. We would hope that individuals are smart enough to know their limitations. David, who will not be building a 7 foot Tesla coil or a Leyden jar out of a 3 foot cylindrical acrylic aquarium.
... and I am totally in support of warning on each and every one of those Instructables. Not just the token gesture disclaimer of "I'm not responsible", but that people should take a good hard look at the possible outcome if things don't go according to plans. Just because you "can" do something, doesn't necessarily mean you "should". I am going to generalize that there are very good odds that a substantial % of people DIY building a bamboo bike frame will have it fail on them. Possibly even the author, I don't want him injured either. Individuals that don't have limitations that would pose a risk don't generally need to be told how to do something like this. As the old saying goes, "If you have to ask...". Now I have already written more than I ever intended to, but some clarification was in order. IMO, not every project is as reasonable as the next one, I think deep down you would agree that children and young adults feel a little more invincible than they really are, as accident rates tend to show statistically.
ac-dc, I'm not here to flame you. I think your responses are well reasoned, despite some of the angry responses you've received. Personally, I am glad you wrote in with your initial comment. It raises a question worth debate. So the question is: As a maker and writer of an Instructable, what is your responsibility to keep your readers safe? How far does your culpability extend?
It is not your responsibility alone, that is why we should welcome all input from posters as to the potential risks, and ways to test and ensure as much safety as possible. Until that happens, it remains more and more of a risk. I suppose we could make automobile frames out of bamboo too, but that I would even more strongly encourage people to pause and think about before doing it. Contrary to some posters here I cannot agree that because something in life has a risk we can simple sweep aside though of risks, especially when not all risks are truely equal. I do however feel this project should not be posed to people who cannot compare the strength of the new frame against the original and find it at least as strong, keeping in mind bicycle frames are generally, per type/purpose of bike, as light as they can be and still meet a minimum durability level. One last thought. In more and more industrialized areas, there tends to be more and more automobile traffic. Places where it is more common to have a homemade bamboo bike, you are less likely to have as many very high speed vehicles around to make a mistake a terrible one.
catman529 ac-dc4 years ago
"ways to test and ensure as much safety as possible" Instructables is not about creating super-safe everything, it's about creativity, DIY, building things that aren't always going to be perfectly safe. It is the builders' responsibilities to assess the risk, and make their own decisions. Obviously you have decided against one of the less-risky Instructables, but that's no reason for you to come spewing all your "possibility of danger," "jumping off bridges," and other paranoid talk. Let everyone decide for themselves whether or not they want to take the risk. The disclaimer works just right for this instructable, and no more need be mentioned by its author.
I wouldn't go so far as to say his responses were "well reasoned." People these days are just too paranoid, and the slightest risk brings fear of injury, liability, lawsuits, all that crap. People are too lawyer-happy these days and I think that is directly related to the fear of "possibility of danger."
PKM whiteoakart4 years ago
A very good question- so good I've spun it off into a forum thread. If you have any further views please do comment.
PKM PKM4 years ago
Knew I'd forgotten something...

Debaet on responsibility and culpability?
rabagley ac-dc4 years ago
Your post is as blatantly anti-instructable as any I've seen. Others have already covered the bases on your attitude, so I'll just compliment the author's disclaimer as nearly perfect for the DIY crowd. "There are such things as ready made bike frames, using time tested quality materials, and a company with deep pockets to sue if the rider ends up crippled." "deep pockets to sue"? Really? I can't possibly imagine what interest you have on this website. Voiding a warranty must terrify you.
ac-dc rabagley4 years ago
Nonsense. There are many good ideas on this site, even this one is a good idea but a potentially dangerous one as well. Once again I will write, with any project the cons have to be weighed as well as the pros. If you don't like this aspect of reality, then you are one of the people I hope to make think twice about safety.
catman529 ac-dc4 years ago
In this case, the pros far outweigh the cons, especially if you are an avid biker and DIYer like me and so many others on this site. I'm glad you said "potentially dangerous," because it contradicts the comparison you made with the jumping off of a bridge. That would be more like "extremely dangerous, if not fatal." Your comments are the most exaggerated danger-fearing, anti-Instructable/DIY posting I have ever seen on Instructables.
Fondots ac-dc4 years ago
dude, nearly any idea can be dangerous, you can open up nearly any Instructable on this site and find at least one way a person can be hurt or killed by doing it, (i personally would rather die because an awesome bike fell apart than by being fried by a tesla coil, or blown up, stabbed, lit on fire, etc. but that's just me). bamboo is a naturally very strong material, i don't remember exact numbers but i've seen many places put it at or above the same strength as steel, and the construction is a pretty sound method, that's actually pretty hard to screw up if you follow the directions. if a person has the heat gun, and dremel, and knows where to get fiberglass and bamboo, odds are they're pretty well up on building things themselves, and won't have man problems. hell, i'd trust a bike made out of bamboo more than i trust the rusted out POS that i ride now.
How about people accept some personal responsibility when THEY CHOOSE to build it and ride it. I'm tired of people not taking any responsibility for their OWN actions. This is a forum that helps to spread ideas as well as give instructions. There are many other instructables that depict activities that have the potential for harm. If someone does an instructable about how to jump off a bridge and you decide to jump off the bridge and kill yourself, where does the blame lie....With YOU. Stop hassling the guy and give him something constructive, like a complement. Or an idea of how to improve his instructable so the lay person you are sooo worried about can better complete the project and create a safe finished product.
If someone posts an Instructable about jumping off bridges, yes someone should step up and say something. The constructive thing I will write is I hope he goes back to riding a professionally made and tested frame for his own safety. Being safe may be boring but it beats the heck out of the other alternative. Odds catch up, everyone out there that gets into an accident was fine up until it happened. Spreading ideas includes the idea of staying well to do another instructable another day. You may not like that idea, and you certainly don't have to agree, but I'm not going to be politically correct when there is a more accurate and truthful way to word something. This project is an unreasonable risk and totally unnecessary. How exactly is someone going to choose, make an informed choice, if we're all supposed to pretend something is a good idea when we don't all feel that way? The only way to make the intelligent CHOICE is to be given several different perspectives, sometimes that includes mine. At the very least accept the fact that I am entitled to my opinion and we all have the ability to ignore the opinions of others... free will and all...
The fact of the matter is that every material has a point at which it fails. I've had professionally produced bikes and parts fail on me due to things like aluminum fatigue, that sometimes resulted in injury. But I accepted the possibility of injury when I got on the bike.

Regardless, being safe is important, as is being given a complete picture, but alas you continue not to acknowledge that it is ones choice to do this. Instead of being constructive and helping others, you don't give any real help to improve this instructable. You continue to point from the top of your ivory tower. And granted you are entitled to your own opinion, but you obviously only believe in freedom as it pertains to you and your opinion, not the freedom of a person to choose to do this project and the freedom to get hurt by not operating with his own due diligence. Maybe you would prefer to be the statist in charge of a newly formed instructable gulag. You could quarantine any instructable you don't like, then you could just have them deleted.

OH and here is another instructable about making a bamboo bike. http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Build-a-Bamboo-Bicycle/ Maybe you would like to put your critcism there too.

Maybe you would also like to warn all the people at The Bamboo Bike Project not to continue their work because of the potential for injury. http://www.bamboobike.org/Home.html
In what way did I "continue not to acknowledge that it is ones choice to do this"? On the contrary, I never once wrote it is not one's choice. To have an informed choice includes considering the negative aspects as well as the positive. It also includes considering if there is any real merit to doing something or only risk. At least when you jump off a bridge you get a thrill for a few seconds. I don't think I would say the same about riding alongside moving traffic when my bike frame broke apart. Instead it would probably be "oh sh _ t!"
catman529 ac-dc4 years ago
And stop referring to jumping off a bridge. There is just no comparison, in terms of risk, between that and riding a bamboo bike.
are you a Levin-ite?
No, not a Levin-ite, though I've read some pretty conservative books, like Sinclair Lewis's "It Can't Happen Here" along with Levin's book and have Beck's new book on order. And I have a copy of The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution on my Awesome Cardboard Desk (that I should have done an Instructable on). I just believe in Liberty and Freedom. I am glad that someone picked up on the connection tho.
catman529 ac-dc4 years ago
Jumping off bridges is not even remotely close to building a bike that might be structurally imperfect. We're talking about a bike, not a daredevil stunt that is sure to bring one near death.

Screw the "professionally made and tested" stuff for now, this web site is all about building your own things, being creative, making some things that might have some risk involved. Get over it, nothing is going to be perfectly safe and the safer you try to be, the more boring life gets.

This project is NOT an unreasonable risk, and is NOT totally unnecessary. It's a very creative concept and is worth a try if you love bikes, love to build things, and love to actually have a life instead of freaking out about the slightest risks involved in doings something out of the ordinary.

You are entitled to your opinion, and we all have free will, so I have used my free will to hopefully show you that your opinion needs a lot of re-thinking for your own good. Of course it wouldn't be for anyone else's good, because no one else here is going to agree with your opinions anyway.
Shut up!!! If you don't feel capable of building this then don't, but nobody needs to hear your B.S. Shame on you for trying to minimize others abilities for breaking their necks. There are plenty of things that are more dangerous than building your own bike frame, such as driving your car... which coincidentally was professionally built by a large company with deep pockets.
Good point about driving a car...definitely a lot more dangerous. So many other cars and stupid drivers around, who would want to worry about a bike breaking?
Life isn't safe, no matter what precautions you take. And I agree with the instructable author that it is up to the individual to decide for whether or not they want to take the risk of building something that might cause injury or death when they use it. I highly doubt the intention of this instructable was solely 'to entice others to build it,' but more likely to show off a really cool thing, and how to make it, in case anyone else was interested. Certainly the author isn't forcing anyone to make a bamboo bike frame, so I think you are quite overreacting, especially to tell the author that his authoring this instructable is something to be ashamed of.
nande ac-dc4 years ago
Going by your logic, there should be no chemistry textbooks too.
ac-dc nande4 years ago
If you were asking a more relevant question, like do I think an amateur should take several random chemicals and mix them together to see if they get the right result, yes I would urge caution on that too. Chemistry textbooks are paper, not the chemicals themselves and experiments are conducted under the supervision of the instructor. Now tell me whether you think there are more chemistry textbooks or bicycles in accidents? Hmmmmm.
nande ac-dc4 years ago
You didn't get the point. The point is that there are instructions on all kinds of potentially dangerous things. And that information is available to all, including children. That's the basis of learning. Learning about things you don't know about.
OK I feel you don't belong here. at least he did have a DISCLAIMER its better then not having one. to xman you rock if I was able to build this I would but I know that I would be one that would get hurt. other then that its a great Instructable keep up the great work. oh ac-dc most of the people on here are smart snuff to know if they could build this or not. and what are you going to do in after December 21, 2012 when you can't go out and buy a bike you might have to build some thing.
jentran4 years ago
Do you know if carbon fiber fabric strips would work as well? I can't find a local source of carbon fiber tow. I'm in Singapore right now, and finding the materials is proving a little difficult.
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