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Wooden bicycle goes against grain

June 23, 2007

Re "Bamboo bike quite the offshoot," June 18

Third World citizens building their own bicycles out of bamboo? Reality check needed here. The frame represents a very small fraction of the cost of a basic bicycle. Even if an average Ghanaian manages, with great effort, to cobble up a bike frame from bamboo, that bike is still going to need manufactured rims, spokes, hubs, chain, bottom bracket, cranks, pedal axles, front sprockets, rear gear cluster, derailleurs, seat post, seat, brakes, cables, levers and more. And even the bamboo frame will need manufactured metal inserts at the steering head, bottom bracket and axles.

You can buy a very serviceable, ridable and durable adult-sized 18-speed mountain bike at Wal-Mart for $52. Which means that the actual cost to manufacture it is a good bit less.

With the $25,000 he used to research his "bamboo bike for Ghana" idea, Craig Calfee could have simply bought hundreds of steel bicycles and sent them to Ghana. Then the people who need them would have them today. And the time the Ghanaians save by not carving a bike frame out of bamboo could be used for other worthy activities -- like feeding their families.

DEXTER FORD

Manhattan Beach

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