How to Build a Bamboo Bicycle

Picture of How to Build a Bamboo Bicycle
I saw a picture of a bamboo bike and decided I had to have one. I found out that professionally built bamboo frames cost a few thousand dollars so I decided to build one myself.

I had a lot of fun and I hope that you can make one too by following these instructions.

The bike I made is a track bike for commuting to work. The bicycle was inspired by Craig Calfee who makes much nicer bamboo bikes. I really wanted something with a minimum of fancy technology and carbon fiber (although I sprang for the carbon fork). I used epoxy and hemp fibers on all the joints (no pun intended). The track bike also makes it easy in that it is a very simple bike - no gears, cable routings, rear brake or derailers.

Disclaimer: Death or serious injury can result from a bicycle frame failure. Using new and untested techniques is risky. Be smart.

Some links to check out before you get started:
Brano's instructable on carbon and bamboo bike building
Craig Calfee's bamboo bike project
Calfee bamboo bikes
Bike Forest BikeCAD
The forum for info on bamboo and heat treating it

The basic steps:
1. Figure out what type of bicycle you want
2. Get all of the parts and bamboo
3. Heat treat the bamboo
4. Tack it all together
6. Epoxy it all together
7. Build up bike
8. Ride off into sunset
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CobyUnger made it!5 months ago

Fun project. Thanks for the help.

cameronbrown10 months ago
Here is my finished bike, with a step by step writeup
Kelly021 year ago
It must be lighter than usual bikes. Nice work.
dlu1 year ago
I've a little Q:
How's ur bike now~?
ayasbek (author)  dlu1 year ago
I have stopped riding this one. My other bamboo bike has been sitting outside under a tarp for over a year now and still rides and feels great.
rjpeterson1 year ago
In response to:
"ayasbek (author) says: Jan 6, 2009. 4:10 PMReply
Wow! Looks good except for that one thing! I am so glad you got this far. Here is an idea - try get a different fork. Do you have a local frame builder you can speak to who could make you something? There are many old steel forks that have a good amount of rake/drag or whatever the offset from the headset is called. Another idea is to get a 650 wheel (sometimes called triathlon wheel). It is smaller and may allow you to ride your bike. It would also give you a super track star look but will lower your bottom bracket a bit. Either way be careful. If you really want to remove the hemp epoxy I think I would try a hacksaw or grinder. Chemicals seem like a bad idea."

Getting another fork with more rake is not a good idea. It may solve the problem of your wheel hitting the downtube, however the bike will have terrible steering characteristics. Bikes have a property called "trail". Trail is the distance behind the steering axis that the front wheel contacts the ground. Modern bikes with comfortable steering generally have a trail around 2-3 inches. In your picture above, the bike has close to zero trail. If you put a fork with more rake on that bike, you would end up with a non-existant or a negative trail. This would result in a bike that does not want to ride straight. In fact the fork will try to flip 180 degrees before it will go straight. Using a smaller front wheel would result in the same problem
Dandie3 years ago
I think It is not a very good idea to build a bike frame of bamboo because It’s impossible to assure strong and safe joint sticks, especially in the headset, one of the most stressed pieces. I have seen more than once headset breakages and I can assure that the consequences for the drivers have been horribly serious, they hit the pavement with their faces,……. noses, jawbones, teeth smashed. I think this is not a matter to play with.
syphek Dandie1 year ago
properly treated bamboo has a tensile strength equal to or greater than mild steel.
snotty3 years ago

Yeah, bamboo bikes are awesome. Make sure to build your lugs strong and use Tonkin or Iron bamboo or you may have problems.
chuck190 snotty2 years ago
I plan to substitute top tube top tube of my steel bike with some bamboo of about 1" diameter (I could make it 1.25" if necessary). If I use iron bamboo of about 1"diameter, does anyone know if drilling out the center with, say, a 3/8" drill would weaken it too much? That would leave walls of about 5/16" or 8 to 9mm. I have read that walls of hollow bamboo should be a minimum of 3mm.
snotty chuck1902 years ago
Of course the only sure way to know is to test it.

But I've used bamboo with ~4mm sidewalls and it's been fine. Be gentle when you drill, if you push too hard it might splay the bamboo apart and crack. I've had trouble with this before.

Also be careful to let the drill find its own way down the hollow or you might drift too far to one side.
chuck190 snotty2 years ago
snotty - Your last sentence - drilling down the hollow - makes me think that maybe you don't know that iron bamboo is not hollow - it's the only species that's solid. I have already drilled hollow bamboo without a problem. Actually, when it split, I simply wrapped it with carbon tape. I used a pair in place of the steel chain stays. It has taken quite a pounding on some very rough roads without a problem.

But I would like to experiment with iron bamboo because I can make them into any diameter I need with a wood lathe. I'm thinking it would be OK to drill them to take weight off, but I was just wondering if anyone has had experience with this.
snotty chuck1902 years ago
Ah yes. For some reason I thought iron bamboo had a little hollow area. I must be thinking of some other type.
snotty snotty3 years ago
Yes, that's a bamboo wind turbine in behind me there:
Where have you bougth your hemps? And whats important to look at when I buy them?
Ebay! After some research, i believe you want the "bast" as it is the strongest part of the plant, i.e. search "hemp bast fiber" and you should get a few hits. I have had trouble sourcing hemp in its non twine form.
Uh.. Where did you get the hemp? Untangling hemp ropes? Cough cough.
davmaldo3 years ago
(removed by author or community request)
snotty davmaldo2 years ago
Any frame builders' supply has all sorts of head tubes. I chop mine out of dead bikes sometimes though.
foxes761332 years ago
Hey Ayasbek, I have some questions I'd like to ask about this project about "Heat Treating Bamboo".
I was wondering what tools you used for the project, and how you used them. I would like to experiment, but due to my finances, my experiments would also have to be useful, because I don't have enough money to buy bamboo in bulk amounts, and use some of it only to ruin it because of experimentation.
I've been trying to work on a project of my own as well, but not making a bamboo bike, it's actually to make shafts for Arrows for my bow. So I'd like to know more. Otherwise, I have to do a search and destroy all over Goggle just to find a dealer in my local area just for Heat Tempered Bamboo.
sephiroth672 years ago
Hope it's not TOO late, but B2 sounds like a fine name...fits your description of a stealth bomber, and you can just say it stands for bamboo =D
mykall2 years ago
hey there,
amazing job you did there, you have my greatest respect.
We were thinking of trying to build one in our bicycle cooperative, but the fella we are getting hemp from needs to know what kind of hemp fibre we need, how thin, and how clean, and also of course how much.
I was wondering if you could possibly help me with some advice?
how much did you use on one bicycle and what sort of hemp were you using?
look forward to your help
fgunnar2 years ago
Out of curiosity, how much does it weigh?
geekonabike2 years ago
The Woody
So if you were to build something out of either green or heated bamboo, which would be the easier to work with? mainly with flexibility and hardness.
mad doctor3 years ago
How did you get your bottom bracket shell out of the bike? Most of the bikes I have looked at have their bottom bracket shells welded on.
can this be used to make a hardtail mountain bike?
Calc for blog cred...:P

Cool idea, but I'd be very afraid to ride it, myself. Even if a professional built it :P
Fear is scary stuff eh. Seriously though; I made a bamboo bike really badly and it broke in lots of places but it never fell apart. It just got wiggly.
NetReaper3 years ago
Could you use a second metal piece under the seat that you put at the bottom? It seems like it's the same angles and it would be sturdier.
The Bambicycle or The Bambike. Yeah...
a918bmxr3 years ago
i have seen a frame break and the rider got a huge gash across his stomach from where the top and bottom tubes attached to the head tube... it wasn't pretty D-8
Oxzane683 years ago
No offesnse, but I built one, and it shattered.
http://www.ridepanda.comYou should also check out what some guys from Colorado are doing at Their company, Panda Bicycles, looks like it's making some sweet bamboo bikes with steel lugs.
Neat! I live in Colorado Springs! I may be up for a field trip. I wonder if there is any way to do the spokes in smaller bamboo?
Never mind! If you look at the website, you see that very thing done in Africa. It makes for a stronger back wheel that can carry larger loads than the standard wire spokes. 8>)
jentran4 years ago
For the headset, perhaps you could cut one so that there are nodes at either end to increase stiffness. There are more nodes located at the bottom of a bamboo culm than at the top. I'm not sure how thick the walls of the headset you tried was, that could help too. Some other people sprayed expanding form successfully to increase stiffness to the seat tube.
mmann11234 years ago
Hey everyone I have found the large majority of 'how to' sites lacking in specificity. I am putting together a blog with a lot more detail and experiments together come check it out at

There are a lot of pictures and good details on how to choose materials, how to miter better, even how to make a hemp fiber head tube etc. Hope it is helpful.
Nkevin905 years ago
Okay, hopefully the last question; I really messed up on my headtube angle (but I couldn't help but laugh at it), so how would one go about taking all that crap off? I read up about sodium hydroxide or soaking stuff in acetone, but I'm not sure how great that either'd be for the bamboo itself. Oh right, and I used a steel tube by the way.
very nice, its a handy craftman's work.
I've been working with bamboo for last 5 years.  You may try this bamboo species, its very "rugged", you can bend and shape it as you like.
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