Bamboo is an unconventional material to build a bike from, but it has become an increasingly popular option as more and more riders discover the unique ride quality that it offers. We built this bamboo Calfee Design frame for a customer who enjoys long organized rides like the Seattle to Portland event along with exploring back roads around his home near Seattle. He also planned to use the bike for his daily transportation needs, so it was designed as a sturdy road bike/light duty touring bike. All the components needed to stand up to heavy mileage, rough roads, and the Pacific Northwest’s infamously damp climate. The Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14 internal gear hub combined with a Gates Carbon Drive belt system provides a drivetrain that is nearly impervious to the elements, and the Schmidt dynamo hub-powered lights provide worry-free night time vision.
When this customer first came across the idea of a bamboo bike, he was drawn to the natural look of the organic frame material. After doing more research, he learned about bamboo’s inherent compliance and vibration damping capabilities. Bamboo does a great job of taking the harshness out of rougher roads to reduce rider fatigue and give an incredibly smooth ride. As one of the first builders to begin experimenting with Bamboo for a frame tubing material, Calfee has developed techniques to keep the bike stiff at the bottom bracket, head tube, and other tube joints for efficient power transfer and to preserve frame alignment. The bamboo tubes are joined using resin-soaked hemp fiber which is wrapped around the tube junctions. Tightly winding many layers of the fiber creates a joint strong enough to withstand the demands of long, rough roads and even trails. Although bamboo frames typically end up weighing more than metal frames, the unique aesthetic and ride quality make them perfect choice for certain riders.
While the frame was being hand crafted in Santa Cruz, we worked on assembling a superb collection of components that would fit perfectly with this customer’s needs. We began by building up a set of custom wheels. Since this bike was intended to be ridden primarily on the road, this customer wanted a fairly light wheelset to maintain the feel of a traditional road bike. We chose Velocity’s A23 rims, which were one of the first offerings in the now popular wide & light road rim category. Using Sapim Race spokes and brass nipples, we laced the A23s to a Schmidt SON28 dynamo front hub and a Rohloff 14 speed internal gear hub in the rear. Once they were complete, both wheels were mounted with 25mm Continental Grand Prix 4 Season tires.
Behind the frame, the Rohloff SPEEDHUB was the next most important detail for this project due its reliability and all-weather capability. In Seattle's extremely wet climate, dealing with derailleurs that frequently become clogged with grit from dirty road water requires ongoing maintenance. Damp conditions also reduce the lifespan of conventional drivetrain parts because the moisture pulls chain lubricant off the chain faster and road contaminants provide an abrasive that accelerates wear. Rust is also a common consern. The SPEEDHUB, addresses these issues by putting the bearings and shifting components inside the sealed hub shell where they are lubricated by an oil bath. Shifting performance remains consistent, regardless of road conditions. The Gates Belt Drive system further addresses these issues with its metal-free construction, no internal moving parts, and rust-free sprockets (stainless steel rear/anodized aluminum front). The lifespan of the belt is at least twice as long as a conventional chain, with the difference in lifespan increasing in wet and dirty conditions. This frame offers Rohloff-specific cable routing and an eccentric bottom bracket to provide tension for a Gates Belt Drive.
The dynamo front hub powers front and rear lights and a (future) USB charging device, allowing our customer to get home safely from his rides if he stays out past sunset and/or keep a phone or gps device running. With a dynamo providing power, you eliminate the worry of batteries running out of juice.
Comfort was another important consideration for this customer, so we hand picked a variety of components that would provide a pain-free ride: the Salsa Cowbell handlebars flare out slightly at the ends of the drops, Lizard Skins DSP bar tape is far thicker than standard cork bar tape to provide additional dampening, and the Selle Anatomica Titanico X saddle provides a pre-softened ride quality out of the box thanks to the multi-layered leather design with a perineum cut-out.
Final details include mounting the Rohloff twist shifter on the bar end using a Hubbub adapter, a removable kickstand to provide additional bike parking options, and removable fenders.
Our customer was quite satisfied with the result when the bike arrived at his doorstep. He told us he was looking forward to years of maintenance-free rides year round. If this type of bike would work well for your riding style, please contact us to talk about building a similar bike of your own.
• Frame: Calfee Design custom bamboo
• Fork: Independent Fabrication custom carbon
• Headset: Hope threadless
• Stem: Thompson X4
• Handlebar: Salsa Cowbell
• Shifter: Rohloff with hubbub adapter
• Grips/tape: Lizard Skins DSP
• Seat post: Thompson Elite
• Saddle: Selle Anatomica Titanico X
• Seat Clamp: Calfee
• Front Hub: Schmidt SON28
• Rear hub: Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14
• Spokes: Sapim Race
• Nipples: Sapim Brass
• Rims: Velocity A23
• Tires: Continental Grand Prix
• Cranks: Middleburn RS7
• Pedals: Shimano A530 SPD
• Bottom Bracket: SKF Square Taper
• Chain ring: Gates Carbon Drive
• Rear Sprocket: Gates Carbon Drive
• Chain: Gates Carbon Drive
• Brakes & Levers: Avid BB7 brakes, Can Creek Drop-V Levers
• Rotors: Magura Storm
• Extras: Schmidt Edelux II head light, Busch and Mueller Secula tail light, SKS Race Blade Long Fenders