If 2019 was the year of downcountry bikes and 2020 was the year of mullets, 2021 looks set to be the year of high pivot suspension bikes. We've already seen new models from Forbidden
and, if recent spy shots are anything to go by
, bigger brands are planning on releasing some of their own soon. Joining them all is Earthbound Bikes, who are bringing their own twist on the design, bamboo.
Bamboo bikes aren't uncommon but they generally occupy a niche of hardtails, touring bikes and road bikes. This model caught our eye as it's easily the most progressive we've ever seen from bamboo and looks far from the novelty bamboo bikes we're used to.
Frame material: Bamboo and carbonTravel:
151mm (160mm fork)Intended Use:
29" front and rearHead tube angle:
N/AMore info: @earthbound_bikes
The bike was built by Jason O'Nions, who doesn't have a bike building background but more than makes up for it with a lifelong passion for bikes and a 'tinkerer's mentality'. He has been building bamboo bikes since 2010 using relatively simple methods but was inspired to push himself after watching a YouTube video from Cobra Framebuilding
that pushed him to learn CAD and 3D printing. He built himself a hardcore hardtail last year
and the next logical step from there was to step into the world of full suspension.
So, why bamboo? It may seem like an unusual material to build a mountain bike from, but Jason actually argues that bamboo is nature's carbon fiber. It's a composite material with natural fibers embedded in a resin-like material and refined over millions of years of evolution. Jason is also eager to harness the damping qualities of the material too. He first tried the material out of curiosity on a road bike and said it felt like the road had been freshly tarmacked. He says, "I find the vibration damping and slight flex allows you to go faster and push a little harder than usual with more grip and less fatigue - particularly, way less arm pump."
The bike is built from two main components, bamboo tubes and carbon lugs. Most carbon we're used to seeing in mountain biking comes out of a mold, but Jason has actually built this entire bike by hand. He explains, "The tubes are mitred and tacked together, then the lug is built up by hand by wrapping carbon fiber using a 'wet layup' technique. Basically, you take dry carbon fiber, wet it up with resin, and then apply it to the joint. It's quite a messy and awkward approach which takes a lot of time but is necessary." Once each lug has been built and cured hard, it is then sanded by hand for several hours until it's uniform and smooth enough for a clearcoat.
As Jason doesn't have a workshop or much equipment, he had to use as many off-the-shelf parts as possible to complete the bike. For example, the swing link that drives the shock is from a Stanton Switch9er FS, the Idler is from a Druid and the main pivot is a bottom bracket. The complete project took around three months to complete with around 50 hours alone dedicated to building the bike.
Jason took a lot of inspiration from the Forbidden Druid for this bike although it may not exactly show in the design. He says, "I've probably read every review of that bike since it came onto the scene and heard great testimony from riders, the typical comment is always that bike feels like it has more travel than it does and carries speed over rocks really well. I knew I needed to try and make a high pivot bike."
He said he sees the idler pulley on a design like this as an advantage as it allows him to tune the anti-squat. He admits he took a bit of a risk putting it at 160% but is happy with the result, saying, "When you need to put some power down the chassis doesn't bob at all, despite running the shock quite plush! Whereas I think if you had such a high value on a conventional design, you'd end up with too much pedal kickback."
For now, Jason is going to be just riding this bike for himself and doesn't have any plans to sell them to the public. With the amount of work it takes and with the fact it's a bit MacGyvered means it would end up being more trouble than it's worth at this moment in time. He says that if there ever were to be a V2 of the bike he'd try to shed some weight and make it a bit slacker and longer.
Jason's next project is most likely to be a balance bike as he has just become a new dad, however, if you're in the market for something simple like a road or gravel bike, Jason welcomes you to get in touch.
A copper candy finish looks great on the carbon lugs.