About five years ago, industrial engineer Nicolas Masuelli began working with the Argentina National Institute of Technology to develop a program of building bamboo bicycles to promote more sustainable transportation. Six months ago, Nicolas and his brother Danilo set up shop in California to hand build and sell their bamboo bikes to a more international audience.
Danilo likes to source from California suppliers, using bamboo from Jungle Supply Company and CrMo parts (for internal lugs, BB shell, headtube and rear fork ends) from Nova Cycle Supply. He keeps power use to a minimum by hand assembling, sanding, and finishing the frames on one of the three jigs he uses to make small, medium, large and extra large frames.
Danilo markets the bikes so far by hanging out mostly where cyclists show up and letting them try his rides. He rode at San Jose Bike Party in October, where people flocked to see his bamboo bikes and where he met Johnny of Coasties, with whom he shared booth space at the SF Bike Expo last Saturday.
Although Masuelli has had an online presence since only last August, he's already backordered two months, and no wonder: $800 buys you a handcrafted bamboo frame with about 40 hours of labor in it. Complete bikes from Masuelli start at $1100.
While Masuelli focuses on singlespeed bikes with track ends to appeal to the urban cyclist, the four pound frames can also be designed to accommodate more traditional road components. While the flexible bamboo gives a fairly plush ride, the joins are internally lugged and built up for reasonable stiffness to give a lively, responsive ride. Danilo and Nicolas are also creating a pedal forward design to appeal to the more casual rider.
DL - I've seen a handful of bamboo bikes in the wild, but then I live about three miles from Calfee GM's home and 15 miles from Calfee HQ in Aptos. I think Masuelli has around a dozen bikes in customer hands right now. He's had one guy in Australia buy four of his bikes.