Instructables
Picture of Build a Bamboo Bicycle (And Light it up!)
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If you have ever wanted to build your own bicycle frame, but can't afford a framebuilding class or the materials to braze a frame, building one out of bamboo and carbon fiber is a great and relatively inexpensive way to get started.  In this Instructable, I will explain in detail how to build a great looking bamboo frame.  After that, you will learn how to make some LED spoke lights to go along with your DIY bike, or any other bike you want to put them on.

WARNING:  If you are not comfortable with being stopped by strangers and answering their questions about your bicycle, this is not the project for you.  And DEFINITELY do not build the spoke lights.

 
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Step 1: Gather Your Tools and Materials

For the bicycle frame:
  • Bamboo:  I used 1 7/8" diameter for the down tube, 1 3/8" for the top and seat tubes, 15/16" for the seat stays, and 1 1/16 for the chain stays.  All values are approximate, and anything close to those should work.
  • Carbon Fiber Tow:  I got 5000 meters of it off ebay for 50$.  I have enough left over to build at least 4 more bikes.
  • Epoxy:  I used West Systems 105 resin and 205 Hardener.
  • Old Bicycle Frame:  I chose to cut apart an old frame for the lugs, rather than buy new ones.  Using an old frame also lets you get away with not building a proper jig.
  • Propane Torch:  For heat-treating the bamboo.
  • Basic hand tools:  Saws, a decent knife, a drill, a rotary tool.
  • Electrical Tape:  For compressing the carbon fiber while the resin hardens.
  • Aluminum angle bar:  For making a simple stand to hold the frame in place.
  • Threaded rod and nuts:  For holding the dropouts in place in the stand.
  • Spar Varnish:  For finishing the bamboo.
  • Paint remover:  For stripping the old frame.
  • Sand Paper:  For sanding, of course!
  • Rubber Gloves:  For working with epoxy.  Apparently, you can develop a nasty allergy from too much skin exposure to the hardener.  You will need at least 50 pairs of these.

For the lights:
  • 4 square wooden dowels
  • Drill and 1/16 drill bit
  • 80 LED's:  I used 3mm orange ones
  • 2x 9V battery clips
  • Resistors:  To run the orange LED's off 9V, I needed 20x 30 Ohm resistors
  • Electrical tape
  • Soldering Iron
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why did you wrap it up with black tape? and it look like sticky side up
Brent171 month ago

I built mine using a similar method. Really fun to do

http://www.instructables.com/id/Bamboo-Carbon-Bike/

Hi,

You use hollow bamboo or they are full inside?

I think every bamboo is hollow.

You just need to punch thorough nodes, so bamboo don't brake during heating.

Justin Lam made it!1 month ago

Thanks for your helpful instructable! I made my own based on your methods. Nice work by the way!

FKDHJH1HZFE1O14.jpeg
jborrelli21 year ago
I was wondering how much carbon fiber you ended up using, the length, and what size (1k,3k,6k,12k,etc) thankyou
ben_k (author)  jborrelli21 year ago
12K tow, under 1000 m
MK10 ben_k1 month ago

Hi,

will tow such as this be OK?:

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Carbon-Fibre-12K-Tow-100...

If I understood correctly, I would need 10 of these tows to make one bike?

Arniebarney9 months ago

hi there,

awesome bike and very good instrucatble. Can you give me some more information on the buildup of the dropouts? Is it only carbon fibre tow you used? It seems there is something under the carbon (bamboo?)? I am trying to get more information on connecting the metal pieces to the bamboo but am not quite sure what is the best way to do it..

Thanks!

Arnoud

fx7311 months ago
How did you prevent epoxy getting into bottom bracket? or headset when wrapping?
Is waxing the thread good and so epoxy won't stick? plastic bag? wax paper?

thanks!
ben_k (author)  fx7311 months ago
I covered the inside of the BB shell in tape. Also, if you remove any epoxy that gets into the threads before it is fully cured and in a soft state, it's really easy to remove.
ROAFROAF1 year ago
Hi Ben, great great super great instructable, do u think that this could work for a Mountain bike with full suspension?
thanks!
I will try and comment after. Thanks !
would it be possible to make some fenders and attach some reflectors to is and some accent LED's under them? i think that would be really cool :D
LEDs can be embedded into epoxy and are fairly waterproof when they are. So, probably. But you're going to fling all kinds of road crude at them, so think about sealants, like a clearcoat over the top of all of it.
jacko6222 years ago
For carbon, where should i get it, and how much do i get? I'm having a bit of trouble on this but this looks like a fun project. Also, when riding the frame what cautions do i need to be aware of?
ben_k (author)  jacko6222 years ago
I found mine on ebay, but if you just search for "carbon tow" you should be able to find other sources. I do not know an exact amount, but 1000 m should be more than enough. As far as cautions, I ride it just as I would any other road bike.
jacko622 ben_k2 years ago
Thanks! I had heard that you can't get the bike wet, is that true?
The Epoxy should seal the outside surfaces, but really high humidity for long periods might do bad things for the 'boo. You really don't want it changing shape.
when you say "nodes" is that the little membrane the compartmentalizes the bamboo?
ben_k (author)  kingandygonz2 years ago
Yes, exactly.
cletero2 years ago
Hi, I'm stuck with the wrapping of the tubes with carbonfiber: what pattern should be used to wrap around the joints? especially the bottom bracket area! I would appreciate any comments about this? Using carbon cloth is nice but at the long run, it takes longer, since you have to do one layer at a time, wrap it, let it dry, sand, etc, etc.
ben_k (author)  cletero2 years ago
I doubt using cloth would take longer. For the joints to be strong, the direction of the carbon fiber needs to vary (as it does in woven cloth), so that the joint is strong in all directions instead of just one. To get fibers perpendicular to the natural wrapping direction, I cut short strips of tow, lay them along the joint lengthwise, in the direction of the tubes, and then wrapped around the tubes with more fiber. The bottom bracket area is especially difficult to fill by just wrapping around the tubes in an easy wrapping pattern, so you will need to cut shorter strips of carbon tow to lay across these gaps and fill them.
cletero ben_k2 years ago
Thanks for your reply, I think I've got it. Great! Seriously, cloth takes longer, you have to carefully cut the patterns, lay each layer, wrapp it, let cure, then same layer on the other side of joint, etc, etc. Check out Brano Meres website and see. But anyway, it's just my opinion. Thanks again and have a great day!!
That frame looks incredible. I was wondering could it be built using carbon fibre cloth instead of tow? What would be the advantages/disadvantages?

ben_k (author)  Hiphoppapotamus2 years ago
You could definitely build it with cloth. With cloth, you will be able to use less material to get a strong joint. Also, cloth may be easier to work with, since it covers much more area at a time. The reason I chose tow is because cloth is much more expensive.
pcook-23 years ago
I am desperate to do this. I live in the UK and cannot find bamboo poles for love nor money though. If anyone could point me in the right direction I'd be forever indebted....
I'm in the same boat, though I've found a couple of options. eBay has a limited selection, but look at the right time and you may get what you need. also, try this website -> http://www.japangarden.co.uk/Buy-Bamboo-Poles-Twine-c-346.html
It's pricey but has a decent selection
i'm sure you'll find some. Either go to the garden shop and buy a plant and wait for a few months, or maybe you'll find some at a fancy asian hotel and maybe they'll let you take a pole or two
Aik682 years ago
The chain seems too short, you may need to add some links.
As a rule of thumb the two idle gears of the rear derallieaur should have their axle on a vertical line when you put the bigger crank and the smaller pinion.
Compliments for the nice frame!
Total cost?
ben_k (author)  frisbeechamp19832 years ago
For the frame:

Bamboo: Free
Donor bike for droputs, bottom bracket, headtube: Free
Carbon Fiber: 50$ on Ebay
Epoxy: ~50$ + 20$ for dispensers
this is a great looking bike. would the frame be strong enough to make into a bmx ? id love to show it off at the local skate parks lol
ben_k (author)  curious youth2 years ago
I think you could build one strong enough for BMX, as long as you used thick walled tubes and heavily built up the joints. However, I do not think it would do well if the tubes were impacted frequently. In situations were metal tubes would dent, bamboo would more likely crack.
ok then cheers mate. but yeah i wouldnt be doing anything to special. when i get to it and get it done (finding suitable bamboo is hard around my parts) ill definately post pictures
how much does it weigh? it looks relatively light
ben_k (author)  #OccupyInstruct2 years ago
The frame or the bike? The frame weighs in at about 5 pounds, which is not especially light. If I built another, I could definitely cut at least a pound off the frame.
yellohello2 years ago
How much would you charge to make me a bamboo frame?
ben_k (author)  yellohello2 years ago
I've decided that I would not sell frames for a few reasons. First, the amount of time they make means that I would have to charge a lot to make it worth while. Also, if somehow the frame did fail, I would not want to be responsible. If you are interested in buying frames, I would take a look at Boo Bikes and Calfee Design, or Bamboosero for less expensive options.
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