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Eco-friendliness at its best: Vietnam man builds bikes from bamboo

Saturday, January 23, 2016, 11:34 GMT+7

An engineer in the Hoi An Ancient Town in the central province of Quang Nam has made biking even more environmentally friendly with his one of a kind bicycles mostly made from bamboo.

Vo Tan Tan, whose father is a seasoned bamboo carpenter, has a great love for the wood material since a very young age.

“I would try to use bamboo to make anything, from the tea pot and cups, dishes to furniture,” the 38-year-old told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.

Tan came up with the idea of making a bamboo bicycle after the managers of Hoi An began banning motorbikes from entering the ancient town.

“A bamboo bike is way more eco-friendly than those made from steel, don’t you think?” he said.

But it is not really easy to materialize the idea.

The very first prototype was both ugly looking and unusable, he recalled.

“It could only be used as decoration as all components would fall apart when you were riding,” he said.

After dozens of failed attempts, Tan finally figured out the structure for the frame to be able to better withstand weights.

But what’s more important is a special kind of glue he invented to stick all the bamboo components together.

Tan would not reveal the secret behind what he called “[my] special composite material,” but was willing to illustrate how effective the glue is.

He asked the Tuoi Tre correspondent to sit on the back seat of a newly made bike, whose frame and handlerbars are entirely made of bamboo, and rode him for a few rounds. The bike worked perfectly.

“The bamboo bikes might look like toys, but they are capable of carrying even the [big and heavy] Westerners,” he proudly said.

Tan now runs a manufacturing facility near the Cua Dai Bridge in Hoi An, where bamboo frames, tools and complete products fill the venue.

But the prices of the special bikes may be a bit shocking.

The bike costs from VND10 million to VND40 million (US$446-$1,786), and a customized one can fetch over VND100 million ($4,464), he revealed.

“Most of my customers are from developed countries in the EU and Australia, who are willing to pay big for products that look great, unique and eco-friendly,” he said.

Tan said he can make around 50 bamboo bikes a year, meeting only a very small portion of the huge demand for the environmentally friendly products.

He therefore has plans to increase production, as well as making more types of bike, including off-road bicycles or special ones for children and people with disability.

The unique artistic but practical products are capturing attention of a number of visitors, both local and international, to the province’s famous tourism destination.

“The bamboo bikes are very eco-friendly, therefore suitable products for Hoi An, which seeks to develop green tourism,” said Dinh Hai, director of the Quang Nam Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

“These are potential products that help diversify tourism products for Hoi An.”

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