Fancy riding a bamboo bike?

Think Bastar, and the images that come to mind are forests, tribals and Maoist rebels.

But, like many other conflict regions in India, a tiny revolution is taking place in this Chhattisgarh district.

People in the community are taking to Bambooka, a bicycle completely made from bamboo.

A year ago, 30-year-old Asif Khan launched his start-up in the region called Naturescapes, which is all about crafts innovation. It started making bamboo utensils, which are popular, and has since branched into perfecting the bamboo bike.

"There is much more to the project than just commerce," he said. "Several students from the region have studied fine arts, but there are not enough employment opportunities for them. That is where we come in."

The bicycle, which was displayed at the recent National Tribal Dance Festival in Raipur, the capital city of Chhattisgarh, had a long gestation period as Mr Khan wanted to set high standards.

"For around four months, we worked with our designers and artisans, but found that the geometry, ride quality and experience were not up to the mark," he said. "We contacted the Bamboo Club of Britain but their consultancy charges and training were too expensive.

"Finally we got in touch with Mumbai-based Captain Shashishekhar Pathak, a retired Indian Air Force pilot who makes custom-made bicycles from bamboo called Bamboochi. He advised us to start from scratch and guided us all the way through WhatsApp. Following his instructions, we realised we could make a bike that could carry a payload of 100kg."

The manufacturing cost of Naturescapes' bike comes to nearly Rs20,000 ($365). It is a bit high but Mr Khan believes the price is worthy because his company uses four materials to make the bike - bamboo, jute, wrought iron and bell metal.

"We call it Dokra art," he said. "We make mud guards out of wrought iron and jute is used to make the seat covers. Bell metal has been used to fix wires for the handbrake.

"The bamboo bike boasts an excellent shock-absorbing property. When you ride a normal metal bike, the vibrations from shocks and bumps are directly transferred to the rider. Precisely why almost all cyclists suffer from knee and back problems."

The bike has 60 per cent bamboo components and weighs 8.5kg, at least 10kg less than a normal bicycle. "If I am able to get good orders, I will have a good profit and this will help generate job opportunities for people in my district," said Mr Khan.

Indo-Asian News Service


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