Bamboo, Flax, Magnesium, Steel. An Introduction into Alternative Bicycle Materials
When choosing a bike on the mainstream bicycle market, there are three main options when it comes to your choice of frame. Although every component of a bike can be changed, the frame remains the constant of the bike - so choosing the right material is important. There’s the carbon fibre option, aluminium alloy, or steel. However there are some who are pushing the boundaries of what a bike can be made of.

Temple Cycles Reynolds 725 steel frameClose up detail of our Adventure Disc frame made from Reynolds 725 heat treated steel


Over the past couple of years there has been a rise in the popularity of bamboo bicycles. They have a high strength to weight ratio, and absorb the shocks of the road to give a comfortable ride. There are even some companies that will send you a kit to build a bike yourself in a day or two! A big attraction of these bicycles is that the bamboo is very sustainable material to build from - however the epoxy resin which binds the bamboo together to form the frame may be a non-recyclable material, although there are some eco-friendly options. Another problem with the bamboo bikes is that any imperfection or compromise in the bamboo itself may cause problems when stress is put on the frame while riding.  

bamboo bicycle frameBamboo frame from Simple Bikes - Made from bamboo, hemp twine and epoxy resin


Some people have turned their attention to a different plant: Flax is usually used as the basis for linen or linoleum, however flax frames have also been manufactured, notably by Johan Museeuw’s company - which produce handmade flax racing bikes from Belgium. Schwinn was the first company to mass-produce flax bikes - a beautiful cruiser bike with warm wooden colours called the Vestige. These bikes have been made either entirely of flax or using the flax fibres mixed with up to 80% carbon. The resin which binds these fibres together is biodegradable according to Schwinn. 


schein flax frame bicycle

Schwinn's flax frame bicycle


Recently magnesium has been making an entrance into the world of cycling with a new ‘super magnesium’ alloy being brought to market, its strengths being that it is cheaper than carbon fibre and lighter than aluminium - it is also fully recyclable unlike carbon fibre - which is energy intensive to recycle and cannot be made into another bike. Aluminium can be recycled but cannot be made into another bike frame as the metal is degraded. As well as being recyclable it is extremely abundant and will biodegrade over time. This does however bring the weakness that magnesium bikes are prone to corrosion, especially if you’re riding your bike in rainy British winters! 


super magnesium bicycle frame Allite

Super Magnesium frame by Allite


All of Temple’s bikes are made from high quality Reynolds steel as it is lightweight, comfortable and sturdy - ideal for coping with anywhere your bike might bring you. Another benefit of steel is that it can be recycled endlessly and has less of a carbon footprint for its production compared to aluminium and carbon. 

Of course if you’re being super eco-friendly, you could always build a bike out of an old washing machine and then go on to break the world hour record on it, following in the footsteps of Graeme Obree and his ‘old faithful’ bicycle!


Graeme Obree

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