Bamboo Bicycle


Prerequisites: None

Load: 9 A.M. - 5 P.M. on Jan. 17 and 18;   9 A.M. - 1 P.M. on Jan. 19 and 20 (Two 4-hour sessions plus two full-day sessions over one week)

Time Outside Class: None

Special Instructions: Wear comfortable clothes that can get dirty.


What is a bicycle? 

A daily transportation tool? A sport? A recreation? A machine? A livlihood? A status symbol?

The bicycle has fascinated people for over a century because it is such an accessible piece of a technology. Unlike other technologies, one glance at the bike frame invites its user to consider exactly how it works and how it might be altered. Due this characteristics the bicycle has become the object of fascination for inventors, for theorists, DIYers, and just about anyone who likes to think and do.

For us, the ability to design and make a bicycle is more than a fabrication skill. It is the embodied practice of Amatyr Sen's capability approach- the idea that one not only has bicycle's mobility function but has the capacity to choose how and when to apply this function:

"How much a bicycle contributes to a person's mobility depends on that person's physical condition (a personal conversion factor), the social mores including whether women are socially allowed to ride a bicycle (a social conversion factor), and the available of decent roads or bike paths (an environmental conversion factor)." - Amatyr Sen, 2011

Keeping in mind that a piece of technology is only as good as those who are empowered to choose to use it, we will be building bamboo bicycles to reflect on how the process affect one’s understanding and ownership over the bicycle.

What is a bamboo bicycle?

At its core a bamboo bicycles is just another bicycle. However, we believe it’s special because making a bamboo frame is an accessible and fun experience regardless of ones skill level. In addition to this bamboo frames are: 1) light (~1.7kg depending on the size of the frame); 2) vibration dampening; and 3) simply beautiful. The first bamboo bicycles was made in the 1890s, and in the past 10 years more and more people have been exploring how to use this material to make unique and personalized bicycles.

The course instructor, David Wang, has taught over 200 people to make their own bamboo bicycles in 2-day workshops in Beijing (Bamboo Bicycles Beijing). After arriving at MIT as a student in Urban Studies, David is very excited to work across the MIT community to explore the potential of bamboo bicycles as method for building community and empowering young people.