Cyclist rides 'eye-catching' bamboo bike in 3,000-mile UK tour

Kate Strong, holder of three world records, says she plans to stick with bamboo for a while

Kate Strong's bamboo bike
(Image credit: Kate Strong)

A Welsh cyclist has embarked on a 3,000-mile trip around the UK riding a road bike made from bamboo. 

Kate Strong, a 44-year-old performance coach, set off on Monday on a 90-day tour of the country, during which she will visit environmental projects, raising awareness of the climate crisis

Already, she says, her bike is turning heads. “It’s a good business card,” she tells Cycling Weekly from a café outside Bury St Edmunds. “I’m getting into a lot more conversations with people purely because the bike is eye-catching.”

For Strong, who has been riding a bamboo bike for over two years, the material serves as part of a wider metaphor about climate action. “It’s a way of saying that we need to stop just doing a little bit. We need to take the time to go all the way back to zero and build up from there,” she says. 

“My efficiency output is exactly the same, but the frame actually locks carbon into it. The frame’s carbon positive.” 

Bamboo is considered to be one of the most eco-friendly and sustainable building materials in the world. It grows quickly, is naturally renewable, and absorbs carbon both above and below the ground.

Kate Strong's bamboo bike

Strong is carrying 30kg in bags on her bamboo bike frame. 

(Image credit: Kate Strong)

Strong’s introduction to bamboo bikes came when she bought a build-your-own kit from UK-based company Bamboo Bicycle Club

“Honestly, I didn’t even notice the difference,” she says, when asked about the ride quality. “I think I'm going to be staying with bamboo for as long as possible now. The kits, for example, cost £500 for a frame, so it’s still competitive and good fun. I got to make a bike. Not many people can say that.”

That first bamboo bike, however, is “unrideable” for her current 3,000-mile epic. 

“Where the triangle bits join, if you can imagine what the frame looks like, I dipped hemp fabric in resin and bound it together,” Strong explains. “As you can imagine, there was a lot more tolerance for the frame to slip, which is exactly what happens. Where the wheel fits, it just slips by one or two degrees, which meant it wasn’t perfectly 90 degrees. Over 3,000 miles. I just couldn’t risk having my wheel not true.” 

Kate Strong's bamboo bike

(Image credit: Kate Strong)

Instead, she is riding a different, custom bamboo frame, put together by professional mechanics, and reinforced with steel joints. She has also added an 11-speed Shimano drivetrain and her trusty Adamo saddle, the same one she has been using for 14 years. 

A former triathlon champion, Strong is no stranger to endurance cycling challenges. “Two years ago, I broke three static bike world records for the furthest distance [by a female] in one, 12 and 24 hours,” she explains. “In the 24 hours, I cycled 433.09 miles.” 

Time, however, is not of the essence in her current trip. Strong will ride an average of 33 miles a day until the start of September, allowing her time to stop by sustainability projects as she traces the circumference of the country. Already, she has planned a visit to a bug farm, and is looking forward to doing some 'trash-free trails' with mountain bikers later this summer. 

You can follow Strong’s journey on her Instagram page.

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Tom Davidson
News and Features Writer

Tom joined Cycling Weekly as a news and features writer in the summer of 2022, having previously contributed as a freelancer. He is the host of The TT Podcast, which covers both the men's and women's pelotons and has featured a number of prominent British riders. 

An enthusiastic cyclist himself, Tom likes it most when the road goes uphill and actively seeks out double-figure gradients on his rides. 

He's also fluent in French and Spanish and holds a master's degree in International Journalism.