Bamboo, Bikes, and Business Class

In a place where bamboo is plentiful but personal transportation can be scarce, there’s a bike company creating amazing things from the local land. Semester at Sea business and marketing students took a trip to Bamboosero to see how innovative Ghanaians are crafting strong, stylish, and sustainable bicycles from a plant that grows wild in the developing world.

Founder Craig Calfee crafted his first bamboo bicycle in 1995 and he’s been building his idea into an international business ever since. Bamboosero now creates road, city, and mountain bike models and has producers in Zambia, New Zealand, The Philippines, and Uganda.

The novel building supply isn’t just for a good cause—Bamboosero creates stunningly smooth bikes as well. Bamboo is strong, yet pliable, and can be worked into place without power tools, meaning mechanics can create a new bike frame without even needing electricity. The natural qualities of the local renewable resource make frames that are comfortable, sustainable, shock-absorbing and load-bearing rust-proof street machines.

Wisdom Toxia in his Accra bike shop | Student photo: Chris Moore, CU-Boulder

Business and marketing students headed into Accra last week to see Wisdom Toxia’s bike shop, where the Bamboosero project began. Wisdom, one of three producers in Ghana, has been tinkering with mechanics since age 10. In fact, his early wood-steel hybrid bike now resides at Ghana’s Museum of Science and Technology. Wisdom currently works from a one-room building surrounded by stacks of spare parts, but he invited students to pack inside his small shop and witness how local resources in West Africa fuel a global bicycle market.

The firsthand look at the bicycle business was doubly appealing to Bailey Gerber, a business management student from the cycle-loving city of Bloomington, Indiana.  “I think the Bamboosero mission is really interesting,” she explained. “I wanted to learn about the construction and see the workshop, and, coming from Indiana University, we care a lot about bicycles and bicycle races.” Students have a selection of field programs for each class, but Gerber wanted to see where the supply chain started. “I chose this trip because I was interested in how such a high-end product could come from such a humble beginning,” she said.

Tough, sturdy plants makes tough, sturdy bikes. By creating a global market for sustainable bikes, Bamboosero has balanced quality products and community programs. Additionally, the company provides a perfect destination for Semester at Sea students to experience an innovative and international business model in action.

Nick Georghita, a finance student from The College of William & Mary, takes a test drive on the red-dirt streets of suburban Accra.

Click here to learn more about Bamboosero.

This article was reprinted with permission from the Institute for Shipboard Education. The original post may be found here.

About International W&M

The Reves Center for International Studies promotes, develops, and supports the global dimensions of learning, teaching, research, and community engagement at the College of William & Mary
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