Rafie Llego and the Tale of the Bamboo Bike
Underneath the rays of a tropical sun, Rafie Llego rustles through the thick brush of a kawayan tinik forest searching for the perfect piece of bamboo. He’s looking for a shoot that’s just the right diameter and length—a piece that’s pliable, but sturdy, to serve as the frame for a bike.
A bike made out of bamboo? Impossible, you say. Well, Rafie is not only an artist, craftsman, and scholar, he’s also a triathlete, so he knows that Anything is Possible.
Llego, 22, lives in San Francisco in the province of Agusan del Sur in the Philippines. The tropical rainforest climate that he calls home consists of vast marshland and dense forest. This fertile land is ideal for growing rice, corn, bananas, and coconuts. In fact, the name Agusan del Sur comes from “agasan,” meaning “where the water flows.”
Another crop that grows in abundance is kawayan tinik, one of six species of bamboo that’s prevalent in the Philippines and best suited for the construction of furniture, buildings, and, in Llego’s case, bikes. An arborescent bamboo, it grows in large clumps extending 10-25 meters tall with spiny branches at the base. It’s a flexible, but strong, bamboo that’s ideal for constructing a stiff, but responsive, bike chassis.
“The type of bamboo I frequently use is abundant where I live,” Llego says. “It’s a kind of bamboo that has thorns, and it’s the most difficult bamboo to harvest.”