Step 8: Getting Started

Let's get some bamboo and get started.  There are 1600 varieties of bamboo and a lot of them would work.  I ended up using a timber variety called Blue Hennon.  My choice was based on what others had used successfully for their bikes and conversations with bamboo nursery staff.  There is a lot of variety between species in wall thickness and rigidity so investigate a bit.  You can buy Blue Hennon on ebay from Charlene (AKA rainbowsatoz).  I purchased my bamboo from her and was very pleased. http://myworld.ebay.com/rainbowsatoz/  She is also the person "Bamboobiker" bought from and how I found her on ebay (https://www.instructables.com/id/Bamboo-Bike-2/).  I also used the same resin as "Bamboobiker" -- Max CLR hp (pic 2) -- which you can buy here -- http://myworld.ebay.com/polymerproducts/.  Since I knew so little about carbon fiber, epoxy resins, etc, I went with Bamboobiker's suggestions and was very happy.  A lot of good info in his Instructable!

The first step to preparing the bamboo is puncturing the nodes inside the bamboo to allow air to escape during heating.  When my bamboo arrived, I broke every node or diaphragm in every piece so I wouldn't have to worry about it later.  You can break it with a metal rod or drill it out with a long (36") electrician's drill bit.  Puncturing the nodes allows air to escape when you are heat treating the bamboo.  If you do not break the nodes, there is no place for the trapped air to expand to and the bamboo will explode.  Do this step first on your pieces and you won't have to worry about having an accident.  From what I've heard, it's not something you'll do twice.

Next is to heat treat the bamboo which caramelizes the sugars in the walls and makes the culm harder and stronger.  You need a regular propane torch to gradually heat the bamboo over a fairly large area.  You'll also need leather gloves, safety glasses, and old bath towels or rags.  It takes a lot of heat to accomplish this step and a hot air gun isn't enough to do it efficiently.  I typically heat the bamboo until the waxy outer layer becomes shiny (pic 2) and wipe off the wax.  Repeat this step until the pole looks dull and then continue heating a smaller area about 3-4" long all the way around.  Suddenly the bamboo will switch to a brown color (pic 3) and you want to continue heating where the green and brown bamboo meet each other until the entire culm has been heat treated.  You will be able to shade the bamboo darker or lighter as you go along.  Since you'll be sanding the outer layer off it's best to go a little darker than you want your final color to be.  I prefer to heat treat all of the bamboo before I start so it's ready to go.  The other option is to cut your pieces and then bake them in the oven.  I've not tried this technique but it's described in various places on the web.  Baking in an oven would probably give you a more uniform color, but that's my guess.

The last thing I do before I begin cutting is to sand all of the poles.  To me, it's just easier to get the bulk of the sanding done on the entire culm than to sand small pieces later.  And since I hate sanding, it's nice to get the worst of it out of the way! 


Kent, can you please send me all of the dimensions for each frame piece that you used to build this bamboo trike and include all angles used too. I want to build one of these just like yours. I've ordered plans from Atomic Zombie <br><br>Thanks<br><br>Dan
This is an absolutely fantastic trike. A fantastic concept and a fantastic Instructable. I have all the AZ books, some plans and some ideas. Seeing how you made this trike has given me a desire to go down this avenue. Using nature's Carbon fibre (or fiber as you guys wrongly spell it) looks like a common sense backyard approach to heavy weight steel, difficult to work with aluminium or full blown carbon fibre. <br>I love it and I want a go. Your methods for accuracy are something I will take on board in this and other future projects. <br>You can tell I'm enthused can't you?
Yes, if you can please make a video. Any fb info is welcomed
<p>aluminum, isnt hard to work with. long as u have the right tools. aluminum brazing rods for example. aluminum tig an mig will work as well. it all come down wat u have to work with. and how much u are willing to spend.</p>
Thanks! Go for it! It's fun.
I was considering pvc as well but concerned about the weight. Have traveled from San Antonio Tx to Austin Tx and vice- versa several times. Used an old 26&quot;Diamond Back, Fleet Streak; too Heavy. Considering bamboo or pvc recumbent trike with a hammock type seat, any positive feedback is appreciated.
<p>I wonder if I could substitute PVC pipes for Bamboo canes. Nice design .... Looks like a design I'd like to use for a great nation wide fund raising trip I'd like to use. I like the seat design that goes with this design aswell. any replies from other people than the maker of this craft is welcome. Keep up the great work I love this item. </p>
How is ur frame<br>Holding up
Really nice and a good set of instructions. How much does it weigh? My steel tube tadpole weighs in at 38 pounds a trifle heavy.<br><br>Going to go the whole way and make the body?<br><br>I still ride it - I am 62
Thanks! The frame weighs 15 pounds but I haven't weighed the assembled trike yet. I'm guessing it's about the same as yours with the rear internal hub. The hub weighs about 5 lbs but simplifies running the chain by eliminating the stack of gears. I'll weigh it and let you know. <br><br>Would love to have a velomobile so I may give it a shot once I catch up on what I was supposed to be doing the past 4 months! Thanks again.
This guy has a Velo he built around a tandem trike. He was in Kansas City and I believe moved to Louisiana, so if you happen to be in the south somewhere, I'm sure he'd be happy to pass along some of what he learned. <br>Last I heard the tandem recumbent, velo and stoker were for sale. <br>http://www.bobbykizer.com/tandem_velomobile.htm
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There is a FB group on building VM from coroplast over a regulat trike or bike frame, you might want to check it out.
Please forgive my ignorance but wouldn't it be easier just to make the bike out of pvc reinforced with the carbon fiber?
That would have rather defeated his goal of using bamboo - - &amp; besides, I have seen pedal vehicles constructed from PVC, they tend to be rather ugly aside from the fact that over time ultra-violet from being in the sun tends to make PVC brittle.
<p>u can use uv B &amp; A plastic tubing to get the same end result too. an it can be welding with pvc clue an machined like metal, (soft metal).</p>
Probably not since you'd have even more carbon fiber wrapping and that's what takes all the time. On the other hand, carbon fiber is a lot stronger and stiffer so you could probably build a simpler frame. If you were to build a carbon fiber frame, I believe the pros would build a frame from foam and then wrap over it. After it's build, they pour acetone inside the frame to dissolve the foam. Of course the fastest way to build it would be from metal.
There is a method of joining bamboo I was taught by an old fisherman as a kid that will even make a but joint in pot metal indestructible. And it is simple, fast , and cheap! <br>Use nylon thread and epoxy , that's it! Rap the thread tightly and then soak with epoxy . Once it gets tacky weave the thread diagonally over the first layer then soak it add another layer rapped like the first , that;s it. On the thicker pieces it might be faster to use masons line which is incredibly strong stuff , it comes in differing strengths. <br>Try it , I guarantee the bamboo will fail elsewhere. <br>Cool project , how long did it take?
Good idea. Much cheaper than carbon fiber that's for sure.<br>It took me about 6 months working on it when I could find time. There was a lot of head scratching also. Thanks
<p>goto Alibaba.com an llok 4 carbon fiber there.</p>
Forgot to mention you can use different colored thread on the outer rap to decorate the joints.
could you please email me the full diagram for the frame I want to try and modify it for the area I live in and I cant find any structurly sturdy designs except for yours. if you can please email it to me if not no worries its still a great instructable
Sorry I don't have a diagram of the trike.
oh and I know that this describes all the processes but I need a diagram to really help understand.
If you were to wrap the pvc in carbon fiber do you think it would be strong enough to use then? Or would you still stay clear of it?
If you put enough carbon fiber on it I think it would. I've never made carbon fiber tubing so it's just a guess on my part.
Very neat solution, I like it a lot!
Amazing! So easy anyone can do it! Thanks for the well put together 'ible! You rock!
very nice what did you do for the hub, i have considered lathing a hub and using push in skate board bearings
Thanks! <br>I bought my hubs from Bitex. http://www.bitexhubs.com/htm/index.php <br>Here's a link from AtomicZombie you might consider on building hubs. <br>http://www.atomiczombie.com/Tutorial%20-%20No%20Lathe%20Trike%20Hubs%20-%20Page%201.aspx
im not seeing the price on the bitex hubs what did it cost you
I'm trying to remember but it seems is was less expensive than you'd think. Something like $60 for 2 with shipping. Sorry I don't have a better memory!
no problem that is about the ansure i was hopping for
Very well documented, well done and nice instructable. I really like your trike. <br> <br>I planned on doing a bike tour through Europe, mostly to northern Europe, maybe Scandinavia. Seeing other trikes and recumbent bikes, I thought about building one. I still can't decide on a bicycle or a trike because of following reason: <br>If you go fast (up to 50 km/h or 30 M/h) and make a turn, do you risk to fall over? <br>This would be the only drawback for a trike imo, though it's advantages would be that you can maneuver it more easily, ride stabler with slower speed (e.g. uphill) and it would be easier to ride in a city. <br> <br> <br>Thanks for your effort to post this and your precious information!
I also wanted to ask, but forgot; how does the bamboo hold up in long-term endurance? Does it keep its quality in moist or rain (fog during night, rainy days...)? Can it last at increased usage over a long period? Would you use bamboo in my case where you'd depend on it for, let's say, 1 and a half month on a daily basis? Would you rather use a normal bike or a recumbent vehicle for pulling a trailer? <br> <br>I also thought about the differences between recumbent bikes and trikes and came up with an idea of a recumbent bike with two helping wheels next to the back wheel that could be unmounted/mounted to switch between both vehicle types. <br> <br>Any help or thoughts are very appreciated.
This is the only recumbent trike I've ridden and I've not ridden it much unfortunately. That said, your center of gravity is very low and it would be difficult to turn this trike over. The hardest part is keeping your butt in the seat as you need tend to slide. Not a big deal if you anticipate the curve and lean into it. A trike is great on hills since you don't have to balance. For me, I love being able to lay back and enjoy the ride in comfort compared to a bike. And for most people, a recumbent trike if fast since you are so low to the ground and you are pushing against the seat. More bang for your buck. <br> <br>If I were heading out on the trip you are describing, I'd take a different trike. The main reason being that if you break down, no one is going to be able to help you fix it. Whereas a bike shop could help you with a metal frame. I think a bamboo trike could do the trip, but things happen and you could find yourself stuck somewhere. Bamboo bikes certainly stand up to long rides, mountain biking, etc and the bamboo is sealed so weather isn't an issue. <br> <br>Check out www.atomiczombie,com for great plans on building recumbent bikes and trikes. You'll get a lot of ideas and info from them.
Forgot to mention weight. It ended up a lot heavier than I thought once i got the fat tires, seat and all my junk on it. Weighs around 55lbs so i certainly didn't save any weight by building it out of bamboo. Check out www.atomiczombie.com for a lot of info on building and also plans.
Weight won't be an issue since a few kg less or more won't matter with a trailer. When we (2 of my brothers and my father) made our bike tour from Luxembourg to Italy we crossed the alps and I had to carry twice as much weight as the others and it didn't matter much to me. <br> <br>As for the low cg, I want to build a low racer similar to this one (with the same back-wheel construction as yours): <br> <br>http://forum.atomiczombie.com/gallery/showimage.php?i=87&amp;c=12 <br> <br>Thanks for the fast answer!
What a great looking trike! I have ridden trikes for years, and have tout about building my own. Now that you have had it a while, can you comment more on how it rides? And do you mind me asking what the finished weight is? Great job!
Thank you! Unfortunately due to &quot;life&quot;, I haven't ridden it much so I can't add a lot. This is the only recumbent trike I've ever ridden, but I'm sure it has more flex than a metal trike. While that makes it comfortable, the flexibility makes it feel less responsive. More swishy in how it handles. The only riding I've done is with my young son so we haven't gone on any long rides. I've been very pleased but I can't really comment on how it will hold up over time. The question is really more about my craftsmanship than the bamboo. The bamboo is very strong and I don't see it failing anytime soon.
Was the pvc version rideable?
No. It was pretty flimsy and only dry fit together. Simply a model for cutting and orienting the bamboo pieces.
Beautiful job; I like the way you used PVC pipe for the full scale model, very smart.
Beautiful bike, I love the idea of using bamboo. I like idea of the PVC pipe model. Just a pity can't cant be used to build an actual bike.
this is a real beaut! Do you have video of the trike yet? Id love to see some closeups in the vid, and pics too? <br> <br>Im thinking that a person could use the seat tubes you made as the seat itself. Many bent makers use sling seats, the build would be lighter, and quicker as the seat you made wouldnt be necesary. Though some of those dowel triangulations you made would have to be moved somewhat to allow for the shape of a persons backside to rest inside....
Thank you! I need to shoot some videos but just haven't yet. I originally considered using a sling seat but went with this type mainly for the stability of the frame. The triangulations you mentioned, ect. The bamboo has so much flex but it might be possible to make it work another way.
Amazing, beautiful work!<br><br>The first time I built a recumbent it was high and short and bucked me forward when I rode over bumps. This was unpleasant. <br><br>How does yours handle when riding over things like small speed bumps?<br><br>It looks like you have separate breaks and non-Ackermann steering. Does it pull to the side at all if you break on one side only? And do you have any trouble cornering with your steering arrangement?
Thank you! It takes bumps very well especially with the bigger tires. The angle of the seat makes it feels a bit like riding a recliner. With that degree of recline the only thing that has thrown me forward is locking the front brakes at high speed. Doing that will actually lift the back wheel off the ground.<br><br>It has Ackermann steering although not your typical set-up. I kinda made that part up by welding a couple pieces at 45 degrees on the steering arms to get the tie rod pins on a line running from the front axles to the center of the rear wheel. It turns well although I might change my handlebars at some point. When you turn hard you have to slide your butt to the side a bit. A lot of trikes have vertical handle bars but I liked the feel of having my hands at elbow level for comfort. Considered under the seat steering but that seemed to just complicate things -- primarily attaching the handlebar headset to the bamboo, etc.<br><br>I can't tell that it pulls much when braking. Whatever pull is present is easily compensated for and I haven't noticed much of a problem.
I want one of these ! A good recumbent costs so damn much though.<br>Ill build it from aluminum or steel though, I tend to break fancy things.
Congrats on being a finalist, and good luck!

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