Prestige Cycles, the best bike shop in Brighton and Hove, now stock BOO Bicycles — makers of some of the world’s finest bamboo bikes. Although they share the floor of Prestige with the likes of Baum, Mosaic, Yeti, Cannondale and Passoni, the Boo Bicycles are surely the most interesting.
Bamboo was used as a frame material for some of the earliest bike frames. A US patent for a bamboo frame was granted in 1896, and today their construction has evolved to make them comparable to steel, titanium and carbon fibre.
Bamboo, like carbon fibre, is a composite material, which means that it is composed of multiple substances which combine to make another unique material. In bamboo’s case, the substances are lignin, the fleshy material that contains the vascular bundles which carries water and nutrients.
Boo Bicycles are based in Fort Collins, Colorado, but their bamboo is grown in Vietnam, where they also make the frames. There’s about 1,400 species of bamboo, but one in particular is used to make a Boo: Tam Vong, also called Iron Bamboo, which has a tensile strength that rivals steel.
The Boo SL series of frames are a bespoke design, tailored for an individual’s geometry and made-to-order. Each frame takes around 40-50 hours to make, and the finishing is superb, with each pole bonded together with the other composite material: carbon fibre.
James Wolf is the Head of Production at Boo. He resides in Vietnam, where he selects each pole of bamboo at their plantation for each section of the frame. After curing, they are cut to length and shaped and sanded, both inside and out, and mitred to fit.
Once the frame has been bonded together with ribbons of unidirectional carbon fiber, it is then clear coated with automotive spray which seals it against moisture. A bamboo bike offers a ride quality completely unlike titanium, steel or carbon.
Because bamboo is a natural unidirectional composite, meaning that all the fibres run the same way along the tube, it absorbs micro vibrations excellently. Yet when a greater force is applied, it resists, making for a very responsive ride under extreme pedalling.
It’s also an ideal material for cyclocross and MTB frames, as it has the same ‘flickability’ that steel has. And it won’t dent or shatter if you fly into a tree. As expected, Prestige Cycles built this Boo up to a high standard, including custom paint to match the orange Chris King hubs and headset.
A Shimano Di2 groupset keeps everything shifting smoothly, topped with a Thomson finishing kit, and hydraulic disc brakes slow it all down. The RS-R is the flagship road model of the range, but their CX, MTB and Gravel Race bikes are worth a look too.
Prestige Cycles are the sole distributor of Boo Bicycles in the UK, another reason for a trip to Brighton.