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The retro appeal of eco-friendly cycle 'Bambusa'

Godrej's latest innovation, the Bambusa, has retro appeal and glides like a boat. But, is it worth shelling out Rs 40K for?

The stray dogs growl and passers-by give us a long look as Bertram Fonseca peddles around a Bambusa on the worn-out cycling track at Bandra's Carter Road. Fonseca, a rare combination of school teacher, offbeat travel organiser and cyclist, has been sought out by us to test ride this new bicycle that comes from the factory of Lawkim Motors, part of Godrej and Boyce, at Shirwal, Satara. The Bambusa, as the name suggests, has a unique bamboo frame. Under prototyping since 2013, the Bambusa was launched on May 1 on www.fueladream. com, where 25 limited edition pieces are available.

The frame is constructed out of Pseudo-Oxytenanthera Stocksii, a species that grows in a village near the factory. The idea was sparked off, says Akash Ujawane, product head at Lawkim, when Executive Director Vijay Crishna met two cross-continent cyclists in the Antarctic who were using bamboo cycles designed by Craig Calfee. Having endured 33,000 km across the Americas and a variety of climates, the bamboo cycles sparked off an idea for Crishna to deliver alternative product from the metal-heavy line that is expectable from Godrej. Lawkim workers now cycle to the factory from their villages on the Bambusa, we are told.

Fonseca lifts the Bambusa to test its weight.
Fonseca lifts the Bambusa to test its weight.

So, should you get excited by the handcrafted Bambusa? Fonseca restrainedly marvels at the vintage appeal that accompanies the cycle due to the woody frame and the leather saddle and grips. There is a retro style bell on the handlebar.

"The seat has springs, a feature you don't find in modern bikes these days. This is more common in the dabbawalla cycles (like Atlas) and gives more shock absorption," says Fonseca.

Next, a look at the hybrid tyres, relatively less spiked than other bicycles that are meant for hardcore off-roading. He concludes that the Bambusa is meant for roads, urban and rural. This is not the kind of gear that you should be sporting off the beaten track. Fonseca, whose longest cross-country trip on wheels has been Mumbai to Kochi, says that this could easily serve such a trip.

The bamboo and metal joints.
The bamboo and metal joints.

The central diamond frame of the bicycle is made of bamboo, with aluminium alloy joints reinforced by jute wire. The bicycle is light, as light as regular mountain bikes and bamboo, famous for its durability, should do the trick. The model Fonseca tried out has 27 gears and the one for sale has 24. He is happy with the disc brakes (most cycles come with calliper brakes) and the lightweight frame (anywhere between 9 kg to 12 kg).

A quick spin around the Carter Road stretch reveals that the cycle has good ergonomics. "The moustache handlebar is a rarity in cycles these days. It doesn't strain your wrists," says Fonseca. Available at R39,999 (for early birds), Fonseca says he would consider buying one. "Beginners may not think of owning this, but experienced cyclists will," he says, adding, "It's beautiful that each piece is customised. You won't get two cycles with the same kind of markings on the bamboo."

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