HERObike, a non-profit initiative in Greensboro, Alabama, is designing and manufacturing bikes made from locally sourced bamboo. After partnering with Inhabitat favorite Bamboo Bike Studio, the organization has released plans for their newest model, the Semester — a sweet cycle that employs composite bamboo and carbon fiber for a sturdy ride. Unlike other bamboo bikes that bump along streets like rickshaws, the Semester achieves lateral stiffness and damped vibration through the use of a steel rear triangle and innovative composite bamboo and carbon fiber tubes for the frame. The resulting bicycle supposedly rivals some of the best pure metal frame bikes on the market. HERObike recently launched a Kickstarter campaign, and they hope to get enough support to start production of the new bike model.
Inspired by bamboo fly rods, the team has decided to use the large stands of bamboo to create hexagon-shaped tubes to support the bike. To make the frames, the bamboo is first split, precisely sectioned and then laminated. The idea of introducing carbon fiber came when HEROBike designer Lance Gordon Rake visited the North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS) in 2012 and saw a titanium frame lined with carbon fiber. He was told that the combination of two dissimilar materials was mitigating negative vibrations during rides. Rake used the same concept to later develop his own process of laminating a carbon fiber sleeve on the inside of the bamboo tube—a combo that resulted in tubes that were stronger and stiffer. To make the material weatherproof Lance created a “stressed skin composite”—a material similar to the one used in aircraft construction. Within the bike, bamboo fiber runs the length of the tube while the carbon fiber and FRP (Fiber-Reinforced Plastic) is laid diagonally.
The goal of HEROBike, and its recently launched Kickstarter campaign, is to create bamboo bikes that not only look beautiful, but in their production can also help provide jobs in Greensboro, Alabama, an area in need.