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UEL to take part in world’s first bamboo bike-making challenge before live audience 

A world first at the Design Museum

Architects trained by the University of East London (UEL), bicycle designers and current UEL students will combine 3D print technology with bamboo sourced from the Eden Project to design and produce a bamboo road bicycle – all in front of a live audience.

The unique bike-making event – the “Future Bike Live Challenge’ – will take place at London’s Design Museum on April 9-10 as part of the museum’s Cycle Revolution exhibition.

The event is a joint initiative by bike-makers Bamboo Bicycle Club, Studio Bark architects, who include three UEL architecture graduates among their number, and current UEL architecture students. It is understood to be the first time such a live bike-making 'show' has ever been attempted.

Bespoke bicycle are seen as the pinnacle of quality and comfort in the cycling community, and using 3D printers and bamboo adds an environmentally friendly and innovative twist to the process. 

“Bamboo is notoriously difficult to piece together,” says Bamboo Bicycle Club founder, James Marr. “So we will use the 3D printers to create bespoke joints to link the pieces of bamboo together to make a unique frame.

“In terms of sustainability, bamboo is incredibly fast-growing and strong, so designers are looking to use it as an alternative hardwoods.” 

Until now, bamboo has been an untapped bicycle material.

“It ensures a quality ride and has good dampening capacity, absorbing the stresses and strains of riding on roads and uneven tracks,” said James.

Not content with designing and making the bike, the team will also ‘live-build’ a workshop from wood and bamboo as part of the challenge. 

“The craft of bike-making is as much about the space you work in as the bike making itself,” said Studio Bark founder and UEL tutor, Wilf Meynell.

“As a designer and tutor, it is a great way to share our passion for sustainable materials in combination with high-tech systems. This project will also give the students a unique hands-on experience within the construction industry.”

Jamal Mahmood, a fourth-year UEL architecture student and part of the workshop design team, says that sustainability and innovation are core parts of his training at university.  

“We were previously briefed by our tutors to design a timber structure for Hackney City Farm,” he said. “So when this opportunity came up, I was keen to get involved. Sustainability is a core part of our training at UEL, and this is a unique project to be involved in.”