Ugandan business banks on bamboo bikes

UGANDA (REUTERS) – In his workshop in Uganda’s capital Kampala, Noordin Kasoma is busy building bike frames.

But rather than the usual carbon fibre or metal, these frames are made from bamboo, a material Kasoma says is both cheap and tough.

“Bamboo is flexible; due to that flexibility it gives that kind of shock absorbing property when you’re riding especially off-road. The bamboo itself tries to absorb the shocks,” said Kasoma.

In Uganda, bamboo is plentiful, fast-growing and can be used sustainably. To make it safe, it is dried for several months and treated with insecticide.

Kasoma takes broken steel bikes, replaces the frames and sells them on – providing a cheaper alternative to imported high-quality bikes.

Bamboo frames are relatively well known in the cycling world, and are a niche and expensive product in the US and Europe.

But Kasoma’s Boogaali brand comes with a special Ugandan twist.

The joints are reinforced with bark cloth, a traditional clothing material harvested from the inner bark of the Mutuba tree.

Kasoma’s bikes, which retail at between US$350 (S$472) and US$450, have been sold to cyclists across East Africa and used at tournaments.

He says the bikes are proving so popular, he wants to step up a gear and expand his factory.

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