Sangay Lhamo

As part of the Desuung Skilling Programme (DSP), a group of skilled de-suups recently crafted an eco-friendly and lightweight bicycle made from bamboo in Thimphu. 

The process of creating these bamboo bicycles requires craftsmanship and attention. 

To ensure the durability of the bamboo, only matured bamboo is carefully harvested and then dried using a smoking method to maintain its strength. The cut bamboo is measured to match the size of a standard bicycle frame. 

The parts are then assembled and wrapped in carbon fibre using adhesive glue, resin, and a hardener. 

Choki Dorji, an instructor of making bamboo bicycles said, “We were initially focused on skilling ourselves for repairing normal bikes, but after discovering bamboo bicycles, we saw an opportunity to create something innovative.”

Bamboo, he said, is abundantly available in Bhutan, making it a cost-effective and environmental-friendly alternative to aluminum frames. 

Zimpon Wom Sonam Thinley, the founder of this venture, invited an Indian pilot captain, Shashi Shekhar, renowned for his expertise in bamboo bicycle design, to share his knowledge and techniques with the team. 

The products have a 10-year warranty. They are confident about the repair works too. 

Although relatively new, bamboo bicycles have a market in Thailand, with an order of 20 bamboo bicycles from a customer in Thailand. 

The ongoing production for the Gyalsung project aims to provide each gyalsung with a bamboo bicycle. 

Despite the initial skepticism, the team has taken measures to prove the durability and reliability of their creation. They conducted tests, including throwing the bicycles down a two-story building, demonstrating the sturdiness and strength of their bamboo frames. 

The bicycles can carry more than 100kg, making them suitable for a variety of users.

However, the team spent so much time and resources due to lack of some of the necessary materials and components. 

Harvesting mature bamboo depends on the right season and the availability of suitable bamboo. Gaining trust and confidence from potential customers also remains a challenge. 

“We understand people’s concerns, but we have put our bamboo bicycles to the test, and they have exceeded expectations,” Choki Dorji said. “With time and exposure, we believe that more people will embrace the potential and benefits of bamboo bicycles.”

The team is using social media platforms to market their product. They are also planning to target tourists in Bhutan, providing them with an opportunity to explore the beautiful landscapes of the country on eco-friendly bamboo bicycles.

The team currently has five instructors and nine de-suups who are undergoing training in the craft.