semester bike: sustainably built to drive a positive change semester bike: sustainably built to drive a positive change
aug 11, 2013

semester bike: sustainably built to drive a positive change

semester bike: sustainably built to drive a positive change
all images courtesy of makelab and HERObike




the mission of the ‘semester bicycle’, developed in partnership with american companies makelab and HERObike, is not only to create a sustainable product using bamboo, but also create new jobs in an area of need. the project is located in the town of greensboro, albama, where the bamboo is grown directly behind the workshop. each bike is assembled by people from the community with the help of HERO. the products are created using locally sourced materials – the bikes feature a composite bamboo and steel frame, composed of a carbon fiber core and a hexagonal bamboo skin with durable laminated coating. the ‘semester bike’ is consistent in size, strength, and performance. the hexagonal ‘hextube’ tubes are lined with natural bamboo fibers, which run parallel along its length. carbon fiber and FRP skins are laid at 45° to create torsional rigidity that protects the bamboo, the result is incredibly strong and lightweight. the ‘rear triangle’ of the bike is made from powder coated steel, providing overall lateral stiffness and durability on all bearing surfaces. semester bicycles come in two models and are available in three standard sizes, which can be pre-ordered on the project’s kickstarter site. the project supports a better life for local families and represents a leap forward in sustainable manufacturing and design.




‘semester bike’
video courtesy of ben selden powell



the bike features porteur handlebars with custom woven cotton grips, twine wrapping and cork endplugs



the semester citybike features handwoven bamboo fenders and a brooks B-17 saddle



each bike is assembled by people from the community with the help of HERO



the semester bikes are created using locally sourced materials



structural bamboo hex tubes that deliver a strong, vibration dampening ride for our newest model of bamboo bike



a bamboo core is skinned on the inside with carbon fiber and covered with a durable glass/epoxy lamination



each bike is environmentally friendly, built from local bamboo grown without irrigation, pesticides or chemicals



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.

  • What an amazing project.
    A good and useful product which is also Environment friendly and creating jobs.

    Librus Studio says:
  • Clever tube design, but I still have to call Greenwashing. The only remotely “sustainable” parts of this bike are the three bamboo tubes, and even those are lined with carbon fiber and glued to steel — meaning that unlike a traditional all-steel frame, this frame can’t be (feasibly) recycled. The rest of the frameset and components — which is the vast majority of the bike’s environmental footprint — is the same stuff as a regular bike. (No wonder they painted the rest of it black.)

    I love green and US/local-made products as much as the next guy (probably more), and I do think the bamboo/carbon combo is clever. But people shouldn’t be deceived that this is appreciably greener than a regular bike. People would do the planet and local economy a bigger favor by paying their local bike shop to fix up an old/craigslist/junkyard bike. Then take the many hundreds of dollars they save over buying this and donate it to a job-training organization — or better yet, buy American-made green products.

    Mark says:
  • Exactly what is “sustainable” about this bike? Powder coated steel, standard wheels and tires, pedals, chain… Even the parts that use bamboo are structurally made from carbon fiber and fiberglass – both come from industrialized chemical processes. I don’t think we’re going to save the planet on this one, guys.

    AllenC says:
  • It is not sustainable for its material use and production techniques! Bamboo usage and local job production makes it sustainable!

    satish says:
  • By the way, sustainable is too broad a term to associate with any object! walking or having no bicycle is more sustainable, but we cannot achieve distances comfortably with walking! If this bicycle works with less maintenance for 20+ years then it is sustainable!! or close to it!

    satish says:

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