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HEMP and BAMBOO BICYCLE

I thought this was far out!

HEMP and BAMBOO BICYCLE:

LAS VEGAS, Nevada — Bike maker Craig Calfee has found a way to grow bicycle frames in a field, with sunlight and water.

He makes them out of bamboo.

“It’s like bonsai basically,” said Calfee, who is based in Santa Cruz, California. “If you grow it in the shape you want it, it’s by far the strongest way to get it in the shape you want it.”

He’s been making bamboo bikes for awhile now, but because each bicycle is made to order, his workshop can turn out only limited numbers of the $2,700 frames.

To increase production and improve design, Craig is experimenting with growing bamboo into pre-formed shapes in the field.

By forcing the bamboo to grow through carefully placed barriers, the naturally straight plant grows with the bends and curves he needs for frames and other components.

Calfee said he’s experimenting with a limited number of plants, but can envision fields full of bamboo. “It’s like mass production,” he said. “A factory in a field. You can have row after row of bamboo growing into the right structures for bike frames.”

According to Calfee, bamboo is an ideal material for bicycles: It’s stronger and lighter than most metals, but absorbs road vibration much better.

“It’s tougher than metal,” he said. “It takes impact very well.”

Calfee showed off one of his creations — a gorgeous bicycle with a bamboo frame with carbon fiber and titanium components. It looks like a fast organic machine, a fascinating blend of natural and high-tech.

The bamboo frame tubes are held together with lugs made from a hemp epoxy composite; long strips of hemp fiber soaked in epoxy that dry to create tough and durable lugs.

The bike is comparable in weight to an aluminum bike, Calfee said, but offers better performance. Plus it appeals to consumers who want to buy green — a rapidly expanding market.

“Sales have been growing in double-digit numbers the last few years,” Calfee said. “The bamboo is very much a green product. People who buy it are making a statement as well as enjoying the ride quality.”

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Bike-maker Calfee’s bamboo-framed, single-speed, 29-inch wheel mountain bike. Photos: James Merithew/Wired.com

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