Reinventing the bike: Man completes 2,500 km ride on DIY bamboo cycle

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This cycling enthusiast has gone on an adventure to prove his DIY bamboo bicycles are as sturdy as the more conventional metal versions.

Ren Yao, from Chengdu, southwest China’s Sichuan Province, recently took a 2,500 km ride from Chengdu to Lhasa, capital city of Tibet Autonomous Region, on his bamboo bike. Video footage of his creative trip soon went viral online, with netizens wowing at the durability of the handcrafted bamboo bike.

The soul of the sustainable DIY bike, Ren said, is its bamboo frame. He experimented on a variety of bamboo species, and finally decided that the Pseudosasa amabilis from south China’s Guangdong Province was the most suitable for his creation – it has both flexibility and strength comparable to light steel. And, to Ren’s surprise, the bamboo frame was head and shoulders above alternatives for smoothness and shock absorption.

Crafting the bamboo bike is a delicate process. The raw material is first heated to remove all moisture and then painted with oil, which helps fuse the gaps between bamboo fibers and strengthen flexibility. Careful assembly is also vital. Ren uses his DIY tools to make sure the length and angular deviation comes within a minimal limit.  

Ren sent his first prototype to a test center in Europe for stress-testing, and the results were very encouraging—the bike is up to the industry standard!

To further prove its sustainability, Ren embarked on a cycling adventure starting from his hometown in Chengdu in May. He pedaled through the depopulated Hoh Xil area, crossed the lofty Balang Mountain while challenged by blizzards and freezing wind, and finally made it to Lhasa 30 days later.

Ren’s DIY bamboo bikes have drawn much attention, but he has refused to transform his creation into a pipeline business. The now experienced craftsman insists that each handmade bike is unique in itself and more inspiring for its owner.

China was once known as the “Bicycle Kingdom”, but four wheels have now dethroned two. Ren hopes his bamboo bike, which artistically combines engineering with nature, will reignite people’s love for pedal-power – the simple and ecological way to travel.

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