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Joint design and testing for bamboo bicycles

University of Bristol

This Civil Engineering research project aimed at contributing to the improvement of individual mobility and standards of living in rural African communities in a sustainable and cost-effective manner.

Bamboo-framed bicycles present an opportunity to create a viable local industry that reduces dependency on Chinese and Indian imports and provides an accessible means of transportation. Bamboo is a robust structural material if properly used, native to sub-Saharan Africa.

The Engineers Without Borders at the University of Bristol had tested one such bike in Gambia in 2013 and found a weakness in how frame tubes were connected using raisin soaked hemp.

A literature review was carried out to identify opportunities for avoiding the current joinery technique. In a team of two we designed, built and tested (among many other configurations) a new joint made of locally sourced hardwood timber that could potentially offer a solution.

We tested our bamboo's material properties as well as the final joint performance under various loading scenarios. We used OasysGSA for Finite Element Analysis to find standard bicycle loads on tube connections.

The joint solution was judged successful in structural adequacy, serviceability, accessibility, constructability and cost-effectiveness but can be improved in terms of efficiency and wood selection.

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