Mar. 14, 2018 -- A Chinese engineer is hoping to draw more attention to an environmentally-friendly mode of transport - bamboo bicycles.
Ren Yao is preparing to take part in a triathlon to be held in Taiwan using one his bamboo bicycles.
The engineer makes the bicycles in a workshop in Chengdu, capital of southwest China's Sichuan Province. He rode a bamboo bicycle to Lhasa, capital of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region in 2016.
"I started in Chengdu, rode over the 5,000-meter-high Balang Mountain pass, crossed the sparsely-populated Hoh Xil plateau before reaching Lhasa," Ren said. "It was a 2,500-kilometer-long journey that took 30 days."
Ren said he was inspired to create bamboo bicycles in 2011, when he was working as a design engineer at a Chengdu company. After three years of trial and error, he successfully completed his first bicycle in 2014.
Bamboo is not only a naturally shock-absorbing material with high tenacity and elasticity, but is also environmentally-friendly compared with traditional materials like steel, aluminum or carbon, he said.
"From the beginning to the finished product, there are basically zero emissions," he said.
A well-made bamboo bicycle can easily bear the weight of an adult. "Bamboo can be as strong as steel," he said.
Currently, all of Ren's bicycles are hand-made, and each one takes about 40 hours to make.
But finding the raw materials has not been easy. Ren said he and his team members searched across the country for suitable bamboo.
"We tested more than 20 types of bamboo and finally decided on a species grown in Guangdong, which has good elasticity and thickness," he said. The raw material is first dried for up to one year, before being treated to resist mold, insects and cracks.
Ren's business has taken advantage of China's recent bike-sharing trend.
China had around 70 bike-sharing brands at the end of 2017, with more than 16 million bicycles on the streets nationwide and 130 million users, according to the Ministry of Transport.
In 2017, the sales figures for Ren's workshop were twice that of 2016.
"Our bicycles have passed the European industrial standards, and have been exported to many countries including the United States, Canada, and the Netherlands," he said. "We also provide a three-year warranty for our products."
Ren hopes more people will try his bamboo bikes, and that the environmentally-friendly mode of transport will make greater contributions to society.