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Case Study: Ajiro Bamboo Bicycle

Most of this recumbent bicycle is grown rather than manufactured.

Bamboo is a fantastic building material. It grows ridiculously fast (up to 3 cm every hour), has a higher compressive strength than wood, brick, or concrete, and a tensile strength similar to that of steel. It's fracture properties are also better than many other comparable materials (that is, it doesn't fracture as catastrophically). So naturally, it's a preferred construction material from a sustainability point of view.

Bicycles remain one of the best short-distance modes of transportation for cost, sustainability, ease of use, “parking,” manufacture, reliability, etc.

It seems obvious, then, that bamboo bicycles ought to be particularly attractive.

There are many bicycles that use bamboo as a main structural material. Below are three examples drawn from the web.

Notice that while bamboo is used in all cases, the basic form of the bicycle frame remains unaffected by its use.

The insight here is this: If you're going to use bamboo for bicycles, it makes sense to study all the properties and behaviours of bamboo for the sake of stimulating innovative solutions.

Monash University student Alexander Vittouris saw something that others didn't. He recognized that while it's growing, a tree can be shaped by forcing it to follow a certain path. Combined with the rapid growth rate of bamboo, Vittouris invented the Ajiro recumbent bicycle, shown below.

What's special about the Ajiro is that it's frame is not manufactured, but rather grown in the correct shape. A form is made and set beside where bamboo is growing. As the bamboo grows, it is bound to the form. The binding forces the bamboo to grow around the form. Once it's grown far enough, the bamboo is cut at the base, and is treated and left to dry. Once dried, the bamboo frame is removed from the form and the rest of the bicycle parts are attached.

No machines are needed. The forms around which the bamboo grows can be made of sustainable and recycled materials, and can themselves be used hundreds if not thousands of time. A frame can be grown in a matter of a few days. No machines or electric power is needed. The frame can be manually sawn from the bamboo plant when it's fully grown. Compared to how a conventional bicycle frame is made - even if the structural elements are bamboo - the Ajiro has virtually no environmental impact.

And it looks cool!

See Also

design/ajiro_bamboo_bicycle.txt · Last modified: 2020.03.12 13:30 (external edit)