California-based Calfee Design has been manufacturing and selling its own bamboo bikes from its California studios since 2005, but a trip to Africa inspired founder Craig Calfee to promote the concept in Africa.
“I’d been going to Africa for years since the early ’80s, and what people really want and need over there is jobs, it’s not handouts,” – Calfee.
In 2008, through an initiative called Bamboosero, Calfee set up two bike-building groups in Ghana—one in the capital, Accra, and one in Abompe. Both groups now build frames for several bike designs using locally sourced bamboo; they then ship those frames back to Calfee’s shop, where the US team adds wheels and hardware before sending them on to distributors.
One particular bicycle Calfee hopes will catch on in a big way is the cargo bike. Stretched long and with an extended rear integrated rack and a bamboo reinforced rear wheel, it’s capable of hauling up to 420 pounds on its back end.
The Ghanaian entrepreneurs earn about USD 150 for every frame they build, while the finished bikes are sold in United States for about USD 950 each.
As of December, Calfee has sold 28 Bamboosero bikes and sent six back to Ghana, where they’re ridden by locals and tourists. Calfee, in true bicycle salesman form, says that the best way to get more people building and riding bamboo bikes in Africa is to buy a Bamboosero bike in America.