starting off with the ABARI bamboo bike made in nepal


industrial designer and professor lance rake has been building bamboo bicycles for over a decade. his typical method is to join cured bamboo with fiberglass, carbon fiber, and resin wraps. recently, he’s been experimenting with new geometries to achieve the stiffness needed without using resins. 


one of his favorite projects was a bike prototype created in nepal with nripal adhikary and his team at ABARI. they developed a design that used strips of bamboo in opposing curves, leveraging the flexibility of the bamboo to create stiffness where needed. the resulting ABARI bike was easy to fabricate and features basic hardware to join the bamboo.

strength in opposing curves 3
generation II ABARI bicycle – stiff vertically, but compliant laterally



moving on to the cooper barrel stave bike 


using materials like wood and bamboo to build bikes is a century-old practice. these natural elements are relatively light, strong, and easy to work with. but one problem persists: the bicycles are not stiff enough to resist the stresses of pedaling without lamination or adding composite joints. ‘the solution to this problem might lie in the problem itself- using flexibility to create stiffness and strength,’ says rake. 


therefore, what began in kathmandu for lance rake (see more here) as an exploration in bamboo frame geometry with ABARI, was ultimately realized in charred oak and leather to create the cooper barrel stave bike.

strength in opposing curves 4
detail of bolt-together construction



a few years ago, he was visiting a friend in ferndale, california, looking into the possibility of making bamboo bikes there, when he saw a bench that was made from old wine barrel staves. the curves of the steam-bent barrel staves reminded him of the curves on that bamboo ABARI bike. driving back from ferndale he stopped at the jaxon keys winery in hopland, picked up a used wine barrel, and began the barrel stave bike project. 


the process was pretty straightforward: ‘I measured the arc, length, and thickness of a typical stave, and overlaid that shape on top of my favorite city bike geometry in 3D CAD. to lengthen the horizontal staves, I incorporated a splice similar to those used on traditional english longbows, which worked perfectly. metal parts were made from typical bike tubing. I built the first cooper bikes as single-speed with coaster brakes — simple and clean,’ describes rake.

strength in opposing curves 5
gen III fittings



achieving the right stiffness with the cooper  e-bike 


the prototype seemed perfect for wine tasting tours but a bit heavy for longer ones. so, rake redesigned the bike with a bosch mid-drive, a nuvinci CVT drivetrain, stayed fork, disk brakes, and a leather frame bag made in kathmandu.

from there, he revealed the cooper e-bike made from a mix of wine and whiskey barrel staves. the long frame pieces had to curve up and down like before — but also in and out to make space for the battery. once the correct angles were calculated, the staves could be V-spliced together to make sufficiently strong and flexible pieces.

strength in opposing curves 6
tying 2 bamboo strips at the headtube and rear dropouts, and spreading them in the middle



‘the result is a workhorse, powerful, but comfortable and easy ride. the e-bike has changed the biking world. materials that could never be used because they were too heavy — especially natural materials like oak and leather — can now enhance the overall user experience and make riding a bicycle as fun as it was when you were a kid,’  concludes rake. 

strength in opposing curves 9
whiskey barrel bicycle

strength in opposing curves 10
opposing curves to create stiffness

strength in opposing curves 11
the cooper e-bike uses a bosch mid drive, nuvinci CVT drivetrain and disk brakes. the leather trimmed frame bag was made in kathmandu




cooper e-bike handle
cooper e-bike handle
the first ABARI prototype
the first ABARI prototype
lance rake with ABARI in nepal, back in 2016
lance rake with ABARI in nepal, back in 2016

project info:


name: ABARI bamboo bike / cooper barrel stave bike

designs: lance rake & nripal adhikary



designboom has received this project from our DIY submissions feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.


edited by: lea zeitoun | designboom