Adventures in Bamboo pt-2

Adventures in Bamboo pt-2

October 01, 2018

Tuesday afternoon.

I’m sitting in the garden at the Queens Head, cold beer in hand, deciding on a plan of action. Today went pretty much as expected and the rest of the summer is mine, bar a couple of unnecessary ‘consultation’ meetings. And obviously I didn’t pedal my last in the Limehouse Link yesterday, although I’m sure the girl I sat melting next to on the train may have wished I had. Mind you, she was hardly fresh as a daisy either. 

Loosely, I have an agenda for the next twelve weeks;

  • Finish the bamboo frame (scoop out and reinforce the chain stays to allow a wider MTB tyre out back)
  • Build up the bike 
  • Write my business plan
  • Do my Cytech level two technician qualification
  • Launch DVNT Bike Co.
  • Do the BHF London to Brighton off-road ride (on the bamboo bike)

But for the rest of today, there’s beer to be drunk and World Cup football to be watched.

I need sandpaper

...and lots of it. And a couple of paracetamol and some more coffee. I was more enthusiastic about the beer than the football.

Sanding out the scoops in the chain stays wouldn’t be too difficult if it was just the bamboo, but most of the area has already been bound in epoxy-soaked hemp rag, which we used to build the lugs, and that stuff sets hard. I can do some of it with an electric detailing sander, but need to be careful not to go too far, so I do a lot of it by hand. The last thing I need is to go too far, break the joint and end up with a useless bike-shaped lump of bamboo and epoxy/hemp.

The good thing about bamboo being a grass, is that it’s hollow, so once I’ve sanded it out to about half it’s diameter I can roll up some cigarette shapes of epoxy/hemp and pack out the cavities, before re-wrapping the whole thing to bring it back out to about two thirds its original diameter. 

So 33 years after sitting outside in the boatyard, eating my sandwiches and thinking to myself that working with my hands and crafting something tangible from raw materials was what I wanted to do with my life, I’m sat out in the sun, sanding, crafting, shaping. Mind numbing desk work, rapidly fading into the distance. I never dreamed the tangible product in my hands would be a bamboo bicycle as opposed to a wooden boat. Okay, so I’m not sat on a river bank or beach head, but a semi-rural garden is a good start and a huge upgrade on a bland corporate office in London. And as I said before, this isn’t my life story, it’s just the current chapter. You always need something to aim for.

Joints wrapped.

Lugs re-made and left overnight to fully harden. Time for more sandpaper. At this point it’s up to you how much sanding you want to do and how far up the scale of grit you want to go. The more sandpaper and elbow grease you invest here, the smoother the joints look. Luckily for me, I had already elected to go for a very raw look to my frame, so this sanding session was more functional than aesthetic. Nevertheless, I didn’t want it to look like a total dogs dinner. This is after all, a craft.

Chain stays rebuilt and finished, and it becomes clear I’m never going to get a 29” x 2.25 tyre in there. I should have built them a bit longer and created a wider ‘V’ at the yoke. Not to worry, I’ll put a 2.0” XC race tyre on the rear. For the L2B ride, it should actually give me some extra speed anyway. Next job, realign the dropouts. Something must have gone slightly awry during the build and they are not perfectly square. Left unchanged, the wheel won’t track in line with the front triangle. Apart from setting me on a course of having to constantly steer right in order to go in a straight line, the brakes will never balance and the gears will never shift smoothly. The chain line will always be off, resulting in shorter than average chain and rear cassette life. Training for and then doing the 75 mile ride to Brighton wouldn’t be a lot of fun.

I re-drilled the dropout mounts and packed out the holes with epoxy putty, sanded them back down (this was a mistake, as we will find later) and refitted the bolts.

Time elapsed, two weeks. Seems like a long time for a relatively simple set of tasks, but bike riding, dog walking, gardening, World Cup-watching pub commitments, etc, all take their toll. How I ever had time for a 9-5 job I’ve no idea.

Frame finally complete, time to do the build up.

Let the real problems commence…

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