Students build bikes from bamboo

Three students from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich plan to market bamboo bikes with their small business “Koala Bicycles”. The aim is to sell the bikes across Europe for less than CHF 500.

Kevin Klein describes the bamboo-framed bikes as stable, lightweight, sustainable and beautiful. The 21-year-old student from the ETH Zurich is managing director of Koala Bicycles, which he founded with fellow students Tim Taubner and Philip Junker.

Back in the spring, the trio devised the idea of replacing steel and aluminium, and building the whole bike frame from bamboo, according to a news release.

Unlike traditional bikes, which can carry a heavy burden of embodied energy, bamboo “grows three centimetres every hour – just like that, without your having to lift a finger,” says Klein.

Bamboo bikes already exist, but the computer science students found that they were too expensive. The bikes that they are currently building by hand in a workshop in Zurich-Oerlikon are designed to cost less than CHF 500. The first test models have already been sold.

“The price is what sets us apart from the other bamboo bicycles on the market. Right now you’d have to spend at least 1,200 francs on that kind of bike. Some of them even cost over 3,000 francs and they’re real collector’s items,” says Klein.

Bamboo was Taubner’s idea. His mother is Chinese, and she put him in contact with bamboo suppliers in her home country. In China, bamboo is a sought-after building material. In Europe, however, it isn’t used much.

The three students are planning to launch a Kickstarter model in mid-September and promote the campaign in several European cities, including bike-friendly Amsterdam and Copenhagen.


Photo credit: Thomas Johansen, flickr/Creative Commons

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