The Semester Commuter is a single-speed bike with an innovative HexTube bamboo frame.

The Semester CityBike adds an 8-speed internal hub, woven bamboo fenders, a Brooks saddle, and racks to the basic Commuter model.

Made with locally grown bamboo, the HexTube frame is paired with a black powder-coated front fork and rear triangle.

Handwoven bamboo fenders made by HEROBike fit most full-size bikes.

Structural bamboo HexTubes are lined with carbon fiber and sealed with a glass epoxy, resulting in a strong and lightweight frame.

The bamboo HexTube frame joins seamlessly with the powder-coated steel components.

The Semester Bikes and parts are made with locally grown bamboo, creating jobs for the community.

Kickstarting: An Innovative Bamboo Bike, Designed To Create Jobs In Alabama

HEROBike is spurring economic development in its hometown of Greensboro and bringing a two-wheeled piece of Alabama bamboo to you.

A cash-poor Black Belt town in Alabama is an unlikely birthplace for an inventive new bike technology. But that’s exactly what it became, when an enterprising nonprofit joined forces with a ragtag group of bike enthusiasts and designers.

Recently unveiled as a Kickstarter campaign, the team’s elegant, streamlined Semester Bicycle is much more than a bike; it’s a two-wheel vehicle for economic development.

"What we did initially was fix up old bikes for the community, which we’ve subsequently transitioned into a high-school skills-building shop class," explains Pam Dorr of nonprofit HERO, short for Hale Empowerment & Revitalization Organization, referring to Hale County, Alabama. Focused primarily on housing and job creation, the nonprofit has incubated half a dozen enterprises, from a pie shop to a rag cleaning business for local medical labs.

After launching HEROBike, the organization then started experimenting with locally harvested bamboo. Through a partnership with Bamboo Bike Studio, HEROBike began offering a variety of DIY kits, ranging in price from $299 for just the bamboo to $699 for all the materials and tools necessary to build a bamboo bike frame. When asked how many kits have been distributed, Dorr said, "Well, we shipped kits to seven countries in just the last week, to give you some idea. More importantly, for every bike we sell, we’re a step closer to another job."

But HEROBike’s big breakthrough—the focus of its Kickstarter campaign—came with the invention of a bike frame comprised of structural bamboo "HexTubes," made from flat strips of bamboo that are lined with carbon fiber and then laminated with a glass epoxy. (The rear triangle, lugs, and fork of the bike are powder-coated steel.) The tubes make for a sleek frame that’s lightweight and vibration-absorbing, while doing away with the aesthetically unappealing ribs found on whole pieces of bamboo. And at just four and a quarter pounds, a medium size frame weighs little more than a MacBook Pro.

How local and environmentally friendly is HEROBike’s crop of bamboo? It’s grown "without irrigation, pesticides, or chemicals, right outside our workshop," according to the group. To be sure, there are other bamboo bikes, including kits and full bikes that HEROBike produces, but this new technology is poised to enable mass production, a level of consistency, and an ultra clean aesthetic never seen before.

"It’s stylish and distinct from a design standpoint," explains Dorr, who, before visiting Greensboro years ago and deciding to stay, spent nearly two decades in the apparel manufacturing world, working for companies such as Esprit, Victoria’s Secret, and BabyGap in product development and management.

HEROBike is offering two versions of what it calls the Semester Bicycle series: the Commuter, its take on a standard single-speed messenger bike, for $799; and the CityBike, complete with woven bamboo fenders as well as front and rear racks, for $1,299.

"The whole community of Greensboro is rallying around this and excited to see the bike succeed," explains Dorr. "We’re replacing a shuttered business and helping to bring life back to Main Street."

You can get your own bamboo bike—or just the frame, fenders, or some classy apparel—by backing HEROBike’s Kickstarter campaign now through August 29.

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4 Comments

  • Katherine Derengowski

    We saw your product feature on TV, and I would like to suggest (actually beg) you to consider creating and making a walker made of bamboo.  With an aging population I believe that there would be a HUGE market for a walker that is actually attractive.  Aesthetic rather than pathetic!  I picture something that does not look institutional, but is structurally sound, with perhaps upholstery fabric for seat and pocket storage.  If you think that this is just an issue of vanity...YES,  consider the money that people spend annually on eyeglasses, wanting to look attractive and in fashion.  Thank God, I do not need a walker at this point in my life, but I live in a retirement community, and I am SURE that you would have a strong customer base.  I offer this idea without any desire for compensation--and if you take me up on it, if I DO ever need a walker, and you make an attractive one, I will be your first customer.  kthderengowski@gmail.com

  • ZanzibarJoe

    Impressive story and the video even includes actor/narrator and Zen Buddhist Peter Coyote.(E.T., Legend of Billy Jean, Erin Brockovich/Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, National Geographic documentaries, etc.).  Design-wise, the bike is pleasing to look at and should be a hit with green advocates.  The "S" logo on the front  neck makes me think of Schwinn, but maybe that's a good thing.  The price is a bit hard to swallow, but it's American made and hopefully, that won't hurt them too much.  Good innovation and design can overcome such drawbacks.  Just look how hugely successful Viking appliances are, and they're made in the "cash-poor Black Belt town" of Greenwood, Mississippi. I hope, too, that Herobike is equally successful.

  • Benjamin James Riddle

    Awesome story! Aside from the clean design, my favorite part about this project is the potential for mass production. The Semester could be a trojan horse for introducing a new breed of sustainable manufacturing to the rural South.