With Bamboo Bikes Barcelona, you totally get what you see: Mariona Martinez and Marc Navarra mainly craft their mountain bikes and fixies from panda food. The bikes’ hemp fiber joints are 100% natural, too, while non-compostable steel only comes into play for the pedals, handlebars, and sprocket wheels.
It shouldn’t surprise us that the most sustainable bike concept (ever) takes us beyond Barcelona’s city limits – and all the way to the pine and red rock dotted hills of Cabrils with their stunning views of the Mediterranean to the east and sheer endless dark green mountain ridges to the west. Here, in a small garden shack-turned-workshop, Mariona Martinez and Marc Navarra have successfully brought a very intriguing idea to life: bikes manufactured almost exclusively from Mother Nature’s own supplies.
smart magazine: Mrs. Martinez, Mr. Navarra – bamboo is a naturally growing resource on all continents except for Europe and the Antarctic. What prompted you to explore it as a material for building bikes?
Mariona Martinez: We used to live in Hong Kong for a while, a couple of years ago, and one day we saw a Chinese bamboo bike on the street. What we didn’t know back then was that bamboo frames are fairly common in Asia. We instantly fell in love with the idea and wanted to try it ourselves since it offers the most sustainable ride you can have. So, back home in Barcelona in 2012, we started on our first prototype.
smart magazine: How long did it take to arrive at a working design?
Marc Navarra: To be honest, the first prototype was a disaster. But our seventh attempt offered a solid solution.
smart magazine: So, what are the main advantages of bamboo bikes?
Marc Navarra: The ratio of weight to flexibility is paramount. First of all, bamboo is lighter than steel. It weighs approximately as much as aluminum – the whole frame comes in at around two kilos. But unlike steel or aluminum, bamboo is very flexible. It absorbs the vibrations from riding on the street very well. This is supported and enhanced by the equally flexible hemp fiber joints. Together, these materials are very strong, but enable a very soft and comfortable ride.
smart magazine: What design aspects are important to you?
Mariona Martinez: We like both the natural, ecological as well as the simple side of it. That’s why we decided to build a fixie, a single-speed bike. All we wanted was a really clean and simple bike.
smart magazine: Have professional riders already tested your bike?
Marc Navarra: We took part in the Red Hook Criterium in Barcelona, one of the world’s key races for fixed-gear bikes. Well, we didn’t win, but at least we tried (laughs). I have been riding professional mountain bikes for many years and broken many of those bikes. But I haven’t managed to break a bamboo bike yet.
smart magazine: Well, did you really try?
Marc Navarra: Not really, but I fell with it twice. The first time, I broke my leg, but the bike was still working perfectly. The other time, my legs and the bike frame remained safe, but both of the aluminum wheels bore the brunt of it.
smart magazine: How good is Barcelona in terms of cycling?
Mariona Martinez: Right now, the bike culture is still developing. People are starting to realize the advantages of using cars less in their everyday lives. They notice that short routes are easy to do by bike. Especially riding around the beach areas is simply fantastic. My hope is that in two or three years the city will be a great spot for biking. We chose Barcelona simply because we are both from here. We love the city and are convinced that our bamboo bike makes perfect sense in this area.
smart magazine: How do people usually react when they see your bamboo bike for their first time?
Marc Navarra: They go crazy. Most of them cannot believe their eyes. People ask if they can try it; sometimes they just want to touch it. The majority is surprised and asks – is this really bamboo? There must be steel inside, right? That’s why we ride our bikes every day and never forget to take our business cards with us.
smart magazine: So, any future plans for Bamboo Bikes?
Marc Navarra: First of all, we want to focus on the European market, especially Northern Europe. We are considering packing our caravan and travelling to all these countries to showcase our bike at stores, trade shows, and other places. In the past, Spanish people didn’t invest a lot of money in bikes. Many are afraid of getting it stolen or they simply don’t use it on a daily basis. In Northern Europe, bike culture is very different and seems to be more important.
smart magazine: Final question, how much does a bamboo bike cost?
Mariona Martinez: It’s about 900 Euros. This might sound expensive, but for that you get a completely personalized and unique bike. You can choose the shape, the color, the bamboo and we can adjust the fit and geometry to the customer’s preferences – for rides to the office or sporty workouts. Plus, Bamboo bikes are suitable for any age. We even stock small balance bikes for little kids aged two or three.
All pictures, incl. the header image: Lars Borges