IN FIVE SIMPLE STEPS
Sounds simple right? I’ve always boggled at why it took so long to rustle up the penny farthing, which was somehow preceded by both the steam locomotive and the telephone. Building my own bike has taught me otherwise.
The past year of bamboo bike craft has resulted in blood, sweat and tears on more than one occasion (Stanley knives don’t like me). But, thankfully, we haven’t done it alone….
After deciding that we wanted to build our own bikes out of sustainable materials, good old Google pointed us to just the man we needed. James Marr runs the Bamboo Bicycle Club out of a semi-industrial, fully-hipster garage in the shadow of London Olympic Park. Inside, bike frames in various states of undress line the walls and in the corner, a large crate of bamboo waits to meet its maker.
James is part of the maker movement, which rides against the tide of mass-production and consumerism. Instead, it covets handmade, uniquely crafted and purpose-made items. It’s not an exclusive club, James is keen for everyone to experience the joy it brings to make the stuff we use every day. His ethos is to teach and not to build for you. Slightly disheartening when my half-built bike resembled a fallen tree next to James’ latest creation for the Design Museum, but the result is a bike that feels like a woody extension of my own arm, in a good way.
After a few days our precious time with James ran out, I faced the choice of spending an extra day at the workshop to make up for my mistakes or attend my sister’s wedding as a bridesmaid, we decided it was best to finish the bikes off at home. Possibly a mistake.
The next 9 months (we spent alot of time surfing not building) saw us do, undo and redo all the remaining jobs from creating bamboo cable stops and tidying the joints to fitting all the components.
Those vexing velocipedes have taught us so many lessons. We now know our bottom bracket from our derailleur. For two people with as much patience as a hangry toddler, we’ve stuck at it and come out the other side with two beautiful bikes. Never have we poured more energy nor pieces of our fingers into a project and we are unbelievably proud of the result
James say’s you’ve never really ridden a bike until you’ve built one. Nine months, umpteen meltdowns and 3 scars later I think we’re ready to ride.
With thanks to Damon and Nic for lending us their garage, my sister, Sarah for putting up with a bridesmaid with glue in her hair, Micah our Strata guy for giving us bamboo from his garden, Dan from Wheely Convenient for helping us cable them up, Jordan for lending us his vice, Bikes 4 Life for letting us scavenge mudguard parts and of course James and the Bamboo Bicycle Club for making this whole thing possible.
Inspired to create your own? Check out the Bamboo Bicycle Club for workshops and Home build kits.