Bringing Bamboo to the Masses
After seeing production use under the likes of Boo Bicycles, Calfee Design and a handful of other custom builders for years now, bamboo has more than established itself as a viable bike-building material. Affordable, however, has never been a descriptor of the finished products.
Fully-custom, built-and-sized to order, bamboo has traditionally been a strictly high-dollar affair.
With Aluboo, however, a company formed at the behest of Boo Bicycle pioneers Nick Frey and James Wolf as well as Drew Haugen, the trio looks to completely uproot the the traditional bamboo status quo.
By moving to small-batch production in a run of standard sizes instead of one-off builds, Aluboo looks to bring the price of a bamboo steed down into the realm of eminently affordable.
Why? Because according to master craftsman and Aluboo head builder (and bamboo expert extraordinaire) Wolf, everyone deserves to experience the sublime ride qualities of bamboo.
“The vibration just disappeared,” Wolf said as he described his first riding experience on a bamboo bike to me at this year’s North American Handmade Bicycle Show in Denver, Colorado. “It’s like the road got replaced last night.”
And while a man of a somewhat bombastic nature, there’s more than enough reason to lend credence to his claim. As man who’s spent a good portion of his life in Vietnam, Wolf has spent over 20 years working with the material in a countless number of applications including homebuilding, furniture, and really just about anything you can think of.
He even cultivates his own bamboo plantation to ensure the highest level of control over the material.
His experiment with bamboo as a bike-building material began in 2008 however, and several months later, was building bikes worthy of a win at the Miami Vuelta under Boo Bicycles co-founder Nick Frey.
Now, five years later, Aluboo looks to capitalize on the success of Boo Bicycles’ high-end handmade, custom-built bamboo and carbon-fiber race bikes and create a lineup of accessible and affordable bikes, that sacrifice little in the way of performance, while maximizing versatility
By switching to aluminum as a way to connect the hand-selected bamboo tubes, manufacturing (and material) costs are greatly lowered, and by using an ingenious assortment of interchangeable CNC’d aluminum dropouts, Aluboo is able to offer three different frame configurations—all at a price similar to a high-end all-alunimum frameset.
And, according to Aluboo co-founder and CEO Drew haugen, the ride quality and weight of the Aluboo frameset is nearly identical to that of the high-end custom Boo Cycles bamboo and carbon fiber frame.
Available in a standard road configuration, the Aluboo also can be rigged up in cyclocross guise, or as a singlespeed townie with mechanical disc brakes—all using the same frame. Just switch out your dropouts and anyone can repurpose the Aluboo on a whim.
Via the interchangeable dropouts, riders can run:
— 120mm spacing (track, single-speed, or fixed-gear setup)
— 130mm spacing (road/urban/cyclocross setup)
— 135mm spacing (internally-geared hub setup)
— Derailleur hanger, or no hanger
A breakable dropout enables the use of a belt-drive configuration as well.
For braking, users have the choice between a rear disc mount (via, you guessed it, an interchangeable dropout) cantilever studs, or a standard road caliper—all on the same frame.
Continuing the versatility trend, the Aluboo frame features clearance for up to 40c tires, as well as rack and fender mounts.
To keep things looking clean from configuration to configuration, the cable guides for the derailleurs and rear brake are all removable.
For the men behind Aluboo, the move from bespoke builders to small-scale manufacturer is a big one. So, to raise the money needed for the first run of production bikes, Aluboo has launched a Kickstarter campaign, which, at the time of writing has nearly been entirely funded just two days into the initiative.
Retail pricing has yet to be set, but Aluboo is offering special earlybird rates via its Kickstarter campaign—$695 for an Aluboo frameset with your choice of custom paint, and $1,395 for a complete Aluboo R3 road bike.
Available in four different sizes—XS, S, M and L—Haugen predicts the sizing will meet 90-95 percent of rider’s needs, with the size large fitting riders up to 6′ 3″.