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The Alabamboo Bike Story - Pt. I

In 2009, inspired by the bike culture in Copenhagen and Amsterdam, a small group of young designers in my program called Project M conceived and launched a new bicycle collective called Nada Bike. Nada is a community of people who believe that sometimes simple is best and that "less is more." Less cars, less gas, less smog, less paint, less gears, less lycra, less fat. More independence, more health, more freedom, more sustainability, more DIY, more fun.

For $100 (plus shipping) you got a membership card that looked remarkably like the world's simplest bike frame. Because that's what it was. An unpainted fixed-gear or single-speed bike frame. You build it up the way you want. With parts you have in the garage or from a garage sale. Or fancy ones you buy. No logo, no marketing, no profit. Just a simple "Do It Yourself" bike for a community of people with a common set of values and interests.


We ordered an initial shipment of 120 steel frames, made in Taiwan, set up a website and launched Nada Bike. Bike Snob NYC did us a favor by posting "worst bike site ever" and members started signing up, quickly depleting our supply of steel frames. Luckily, right before we re-ordered more steel frames we connected with Marty Odlin, one of the founders of Bamboo Bike Studio in Brooklyn. BBS was running workshops teaching people about sustainability while building their own bamboo bike in a weekend. Inspired and helped by Marty, we switched our focus from steel shipped from Taiwan to bamboo grown and fabricated into bike frames in Greensboro, Alabama, where we have a Project M Lab.

The Black Belt of Alabama happens to have ideal conditions for growing bamboo. In fact, we were able to harvest enough to build our initial prototypes from wild forests nearby. We learned that bamboo is a miracle plant that grows very quickly without pesticides, water or re-planting. It also yields the largest biomass per acre and has the most carbon sequestration while growing. We've been told that the US is the largest importer of bamboo in the world, mostly from China, and grows hardly any.


Fatefully, we then met a terrific woman named Marsha Folsom, wife of then Alabama Lt. Governor, Jim Folsom. Marsha was heading up an initiative to get bamboo grown as an agricultural crop in Alabama in partnership with Jackie Heinricher from Booshoot. Booshoot is a company based in Washington that has developed technology to produce bamboo tissue culture for growing bamboo, since it's impossible to grow from seed. We branded this initiative "Alabamboo" hoping to make Alabama mean bamboo like Florida means oranges, Idaho means potatoes or Maine means lobsters.

It's been fascinating watching things organically present themselves and align around an authentic desire to do meaningful things that help shape a positive future. The latest addition is a cross-country Alabamboo bike adventure this summer. Stay tuned.


By John Bielenberg


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Reader Comments (14)

This is so hot. Can't wait to see where it goes next.

January 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJeff

Oh HECK yeah! So excited that this is just Part 1.
Staying tuned.

January 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNicole Lavelle

Can you imagine making a bike out of the hollow stem of grass....oh, I mean Bamboo! Pure genius!
This so requires a song/ballad to be written in it's honor. I hear a banjo! Ha.


January 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterIN-B-TWEEN

What about supporting USA made bike frame builders? Or making a connection with your local bike shop? Just saying...

January 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

So what weight will they support? Awesome awesome concept...

January 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterlarger size

I'm still "hearing" a song for this!


January 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterIN-B-TWEEN

There is a bike coop here in Atlanta that opens it's doors and shop to the public so that anyone can have access to their bike repair tools - they also have a large assembly of parts that are available for a nominal donation - I'm rebuilding an old Raleigh frame I have from the 1970s - they are called Sopo Bikes and here is their website at


January 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRussell Kaye

I am sorry, this is terrible idea.
it's too expensive for common people to participate. Target audience might be rich hipsters or city people trying to be green
This frame is ship all the way from Taiwan. I mean. I am from Taiwan and that is very far from US
This only increase greenhouse gas emission.... ....

February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLori

am I mistaken or is Lori incorrect. I read the FULL article and they no longer "ship all the way from Taiwan". Read people. Read. It's good for you.

March 24, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjenberry

Bamboo bikes! I've heard of, and love, bamboo buildings, bamboo flooring and bamboo clothing fabrics, but bikes?! This is genius, can't wait to hear more :)

March 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDisbodient Child

It only gets better wearing bamboo fabric while riding a bamboo bike: double cool.

March 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterScott Smith

Just seen one in VITRA showroom. EUR 4500 :)

March 29, 2011 | Unregistered Commentereriks

I think it`s a cool project. But I would like to express myself. This is not a new idea. And it is very common in the design world this sort of thing. Someone gets an idea exists, not quoting the actual author makes a good layout and gain status of genius. Flavio Deslandes, bamboocicleta Brazilian designer working on since 2002. ( And I think at least should be cited as the creator of authentic biciclketa bamboo.
You should take a look.

March 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTomas Faria

Totally agree that when possible people should be given credit for their ideas...AND

1. This is a story about much more than bamboo bikes... its a story about social innovation
2. Who knows ... maybe they didnt know about Flavio Deslandes... so its great his name is now available to collaborate with :-)

September 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBernard Mohr

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