road to nabs 2013 nick and james of boo bicycles

As if the juxtaposition of thick bamboo tubes connected by glossy carbon fiber wasn’t enough, last year Boo Bicycles introduced a carbon “exogrid” style overwrap for their bamboo tubes. Builder Nick Frey also went with a full carbon seat tube/seat mast design on some bikes, giving one bike in particular a very modern look and feel despite being made of a very old, natural material. Now, he’s mixing the panda food with metals…

Bikerumor: What materials do you build with? Which is your favorite and why? 

Nick: We normally use exclusively bamboo and carbon, and Boo has built a brand around the highest performance bamboo bikes in the world. But we are going out and experimenting at NAHBS this year…we will be showing new bamboo-Ti and bamboo-Al bikes. The bamboo-Ti bike will be called Glissando, and will have a gorgeous split-bamboo top tube that flows seamlessly into the seat stays. It will be a high-design commuter bike, fit for display in a top design studio. The bamboo-Al bike will be called Aluboo, and will be priced at under $1000 for an entry-level fixie! We hope to bring the quality ride and handmade craftsmanship of Boo to a new audience.

Bikerumor: What have you been working in since NAHBS last year?

Nick: Too much…we have perfected our RS- series of race frames, and they have been proven at the highest professional levels of the sport…Skyler Trujillo (raced) his RS-X Disc ‘cross bike at cyclocross World Championships in Louisville. After placing fourth at the U-23 Nationals, he was selected to represent the US at the World Championships. Feedback from pro riders like Skyler and retired professionals Lara Kroepsch and Kelly Fisher-Goodwinn have helped us refine and perfect our RS- frame’s stiffness, handling, and feel.

We have also been creating more and more “FrankenBoos”. These are bikes that do not exist within the line of any larger manufacturer–totally custom designed and built around multiple uses or mixed uses. A Monstercross ‘cross bike that can handle gnarly singletrack, a Tour Divide epic 29er that can be ridden for days, a gravel road bike with disc brakes that can handle some of the coolest roads in Colorado. The list goes on, but our specialty is creating one-off rigs to tackle whatever the customer wants.

Bikerumor: Any killer custom bike builds?

Nick: We have three: the BOOlossal fat bike, the Glissando Boo-Ti townie, and the Aluboo.

The BOOlossal is being built as I type–it’s a collaboration with Black Sheep Bikes in Fort Collins, and will feature a full bamboo-carbon frame with clearance for 4.0 tires, a belt drive, Rohloff rear hub, and Black Sheep’s famous Truss fork in 135 front spacing. (Pics below)






The Glissando is also in the works right now, and is a synthesis of titanium and bamboo. Design has been put first in this townie, with a sweeping split top tube that curves seamlessly into the seat stays. It will feature a subtle, understated build package consisting of a Gates CenterTrack drivetrain, singlespeed with disc brakes, and a Black Sheep handlebar. The focus will be on the gorgeous curves of titanium and bamboo, highlighting the rawness of each material while they performance different functions: the Ti backbone and structure, the bowed bamboo offering compliance. (see CAD sketches)

nahbs 2013 boo bicycles

bamboo bikes boo bicycles

The Aluboo is our largest project: an entry-level bamboo bike that is versatile, extremely high-quality, handmade, and customizable. Aluboo should start at under $1000 for a complete fixie, and will feature the same species of bamboo used in custom Boo bikes retailing for over $5000. We have a site for the project,, and will be launching a Kickstarter campaign for it shortly after NAHBS.

Bikerumor: Did you see anything at NAHBS last year that’s inspired you?

Nick: Black Sheep’s fat bike for sure, and Rob English’s entire stable of crazy steel creations. This NAHBS we are coming out with tons of new concepts and projects, and I think both of those builders inspired us to go out on a limb. When you see other builders pushing the envelope with design concepts, like we have with bamboo as a frame material, it’s inspiring and motivating.

Bikerumor: What are you bringing to the show this year that’ll have every other builder standing slack jawed in awe? 

Nick: We think it will be the Glissando. This is the first bamboo-titanium bike in the world, and it’s our first attempt at a purely design-focused bike with functional benefits stemming from the design. I have always focused Boo on racing performance, and that has helped us overcome bamboo’s reputation as a “novelty” or “green” bike…but the Glissando will take us into a high-end non-racing market that is concerned more about a coherent, beautifully executed design thesis than sheer speed.

Bikerumor: Scenario – A customer commissions you and one other builder to create the ultimate bicycle using the same parameters, same base material and same budget in an Iron Chef style competition. Who would you want to build against that would push you and elevate your game?

Nick: Because so few use bamboo, that’s a tough one! I think the obvious would be Calfee Design. Craig was our original inspiration, and I think we have taken bamboo to a different level in terms of performance. Craig’s details and innovative designs still wow me, from the cable stops integrated into the joints of the frame, to the range of finishes he has offered. We would surely go different directions in an Iron Chef, but we wouldn’t be at the competition in the first place were it not for Craig!


  1. I would not trust my life and limb to some esoteric production techniques done for the sake of being different.

    Bamboo? What is wrong with titanium? Or steel? Or aluminum? Or even straight up carbon fiber?

  2. I’m going to make the world’s first bicycle out of elephant ivory and whale bone. I’ll name my company scrimshaw bicycles. The first model offered will be a tandem recumbent pennyfarthing. I’m looking for two riders to sponsor entry into the red bull rampage on it.

  3. Bikefx – it’s not about seeing, it’s about riding! 🙂

    Sancho – watch any video from and let me know if you still feel that way.

    Mindless – nothing is “wrong” with any frame material, but if you try a Boo you’ll understand why: brilliant ride quality coupled with incredible stiffness and road feel.

    JimmyZ – good luck!

  4. Black Sheep and bamboo….ehhhhrrrrr nausea.

    In my opionion the charm of the bamboo bikes was that they are straight..clean. Regardless of the material image.
    Having these sheepesque arbitrary swinging tubes the bikes lose bigtime.

  5. ask calfee why he stopped using carbon on the bamboo wraps… only uses hemp and other natural fibers.

    he said the life expectancy of the bamboo wrapped in carbon was very low. very different CTEs lead to the tubes rotting out of the joint on high milage bikes over several years.

    how old is the oldest boo and how many miles?

  6. iNo – Calfee uses a different species of bamboo. I’m a hobbyist builder of bamboo frames and I use the same species as Boo does. What you can do is cut down deeper into the skin because of the thicker walls. There, where there’s more lignin and less fiber, the string-cheese-fiber effect of pulling bamboo apart is significantly diminished.

    Bamboo Bike Studio also uses the same species as Boo – they have an excellent track record with their frames as well.

    Do some googling to compare “D. strictus” to “P. nigra”, you will find they’re quite different.

  7. I’ve been riding/racing bamboo since 2009. I own Calfee and Boo road bikes. Got the Calfee first, it has about 15,000 miles on it and I have ridden it up Mt. Washington 2 times, once with a set of wood rimmed wheels. Last February the down tube cracked and Calfee repaired the tube and resprayed the whole frame at no cost. I’ve had the Boo since 2011, it has around 7,000 miles and has been up Mt. Washington 2 times as well. Both bikes have their own personality and are a pleasure to ride. I have the same level of confidence riding either of them that I have had on my steel and aluminum framed bikes in the past. I have raced on down hill sections at speeds approaching 50 miles an hour and have hammered over gravel and dirt roads at race pace, steady, plenty stiff, and very comfy. The Boo is an awesome race bike and I’ve even competed in a few crits with it! Nick, James and the whole Boo team are doing phenomenal stuff with bamboo. Don’t knock it til you try it! Keep up the good work guys, my next ride is gonna be an Aluboo!

  8. iNo is right. If I had to buy a Bamboo bike, I would go for a Calfee. They seem to have more expertise and take the natural materials philosophy further.

  9. Don’t knock it until you’ve ridden it! Bamboo in this case is not used as a novelty material. It’s used in bikes because the tensile strength is greater than steel, and when crashed it doesn’t stay bent (or shatter), but most notable is the smooth, quiet and vibration free ride quality.

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