Friends, have you ever heard of bamboo bicycles? Do you have one?
Do you know that Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation (STIDC) plans to start the commercial production of made-in-Sarawak bamboo bicycles in January next year?
The big plan coincides with the 50th anniversary of the corporation.
STIDC general manager, Datuk Hashim Bojet said that the corporation would cooperate with Brook and Breeze from China to produce the bicycles.
At the closing of a Bamboo Bike Training of Trainer programme in Kuching recently, he revealed that STIDC now had 15 skilled trainees who had already produced four bamboo bicycles during their three-month training.
The trainees received hybrid and physical training from Brook and Breeze, a company in Shanghai, China.
Hashim said that all the trainees would continue to produce at least 15 bicycles until the end of 2022. The move was to ensure STIDC’s competency in manufacturing the products.
Hashim added that the corporation would cooperate with SIRIM Berhad for its approval and competency certification.
He said the bicycles would be sold locally and in other countries. For the export market, they would be priced between USD 1000-USD3000 each. The prices for the local market would be looked into soon.
I first learnt of bamboo bicycles in June this year when Indonesian President, Joko Widodo presented new Australian Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese with a bamboo bike during the latter’s visit to Indonesia.
The two-wheeler that Albanese received was the Spedagi model crafted by 54-year-old designer Singgih Susilo Kartono in a small village in Central Java.
Kartono utilises his sustainable bike craftsmanship to bring jobs to locals and demonstrate to Indonesian villagers how they can make use of the environment around them.
The model, named after the Indonesian words “sepeda” for bicycle and “pagi” for morning, is built by a team of 15 employees at a workshop in Kartono’s village in Java.
The workers cut fast-growing bamboo stalks, coat them with preservatives before drying them. After that, the stalks are laminated before they are combined with other parts to assemble the sturdy bike frame.
Agence France-Presse (AFP), a French private international news agency, says that according to studies, pound for pound, bamboo is a strong as steel when used in lightweight structures and that its high tensile strength makes it a worthy and environmentally friendly substitute.
Indonesia’s Spedagi bamboo bike can take a week of intricate work to assemble and fetches up to 15 million rupiah (USS1,000). Some have been sold as far as Japan.
Besides Indonesia, bamboo bikes are being made in other places where the plant is rarely found, such as northern Europe.
Do you know that bamboo bikes were first patented in England by the Bamboo Cycle Company and introduced to the general public on April 26, 1894?
Wikipedia describes bamboo bicycles as “pedal-and-chain-driven, human powered, single-track vehicles that have two wheels attached to a bamboo frame.”
It says a US patent was applied for in 1895 by August Oberg and Andrew Gustafso, and granted in 1896. However, with the development of tougher industrial metals, such as steel and aluminum, large scale- usage of bamboo to build bicycles never happened.
Although bicycles are widely used in both rural and urban areas, bamboo bicycles are not widely used. However, bamboo is being used again for high-end racing and touring bicycles with the advent of the Green movement.
A Bamboo Bike Project initiated by engineers at Columbia University made bamboo bikes from 2007 to 2011 with the aim of providing low cost bikes for Africans in rural areas and stimulating local bike building industries.
As of 2015, over 1000 bamboo bikes produced by the Ghana Bamboo Bike Initiative had been sold in Ghana, Europe and the United States. As of 2016, bamboo bikes had also been made in Bangladesh.
In 2014, a Dutch company began organising tours in Vietnam on locally built bamboo bicycles. The company expanded to Thailand in 2015 and to Myanmar in 2018.
Thumbs up to STIDC for the Sarawak bamboo bike project which can help address climate change and create jobs for locals.
No doubt, the project comes as a pleasant surprise to many Sarawakians who are more familiar with the bamboo musical instruments than bamboo bikes.
Nevertheless, since bamboo grows abundantly in the forests of Sarawak, the state can definitely produce lots of bamboo bikes for export and for the local market.
What will the name of the bamboo bike from Sarawak?
It has not been decided yet.
STIDC general manager, Hashim said it would be named after an engagement with Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg later,
Okay, until then, I will keeping my ears open for the next big story on these bikes.
The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune.