MyBoo Densu Cross bamboo bike

Could bamboo be the wonder bike frame material we've all been missing out on?

Score

7/10

Pros

  • Quirky looks
  • Ride quality (planted and stable)
  • Ethical merits

Cons

  • Too heavy
  • Cable-actuated brakes
  • Relatively high price

Price as reviewed:

£2,499

  • Full disclosure: Earlier this year, three weeks before I was due to depart on a bike-packing trip across northern Germany, out of the blue I received an email from MyBoo — I company I’d never heard of — asking whether I’d be interested in reviewing their Bamboo bikes.

    “When are you based?” I enquired out of curiosity.

    “Kiel, in Germany,” came the reply.

    It was the very city in which I was intending to end my tour — the coincidence was uncanny — and it would have been churlish not to ask for a loan.

    For the German trip, I rode the firm’s Tano XT touring bike, which served the purpose splendidly. Since getting back, I have been testing this model, the Densu Cross. The first thing to say is that, although this is packaged as a cyclo-cross bike, in reality it’s in a category of its own, more like a do-it-all hybrid. That is to say, you couldn’t use it for true cyclo-cross purposes because it’s simply too heavy — weighing in at a hefty 13kg.

    The standout feature of all MyBoo bikes is the frame, being made from bamboo tubes, and immediately raises the question: is bamboo a suitable material from which to make a bicycle? According to MyBoo, it’s ideal, having more than adequate strength as well as a natural flex that soaks up vibrations. But it’s about more than just practicalities. The bamboo is grown in Ghana, west Africa, where it is dried and then made into frames by local workers — MyBoo employs 15 Ghanaians in the village of Yonso, where the firm also finances social and education projects.

    The bamboo tubes are joined together, and aluminium components fixed in place, using a hard-drying resin, and the bonds are further strengthened by wrapping them in resin-soaked fibres from the sisal plant. These bulbous joints add to the pleasing organic aesthetic — with the exception of the blockish aluminium component where chainstay meets axle, which is frankly ugly. Post-manufacture, the frames are shipped to Germany, where they are varnished, strength-tested, equipped with aluminium forks and turned into finished bikes.

    In terms of strength, the Densu Cross feels rugged and very tough — as well it might, given its weight. Jan Brix from MyBoo told me that some bamboo frames do develop surface cracks as the material ages, which do not undermine strength — they’re merely an aesthetic issue.

    Structural flaws are very rare, and frame failures virtually unheard of. Personally, I love the look and tactility of the material — each frame is unique, with its own organic contours and lumps. The good feeling of knowing it’s sustainable and hand-made also appeals to me. What’s more, the bike is a real head-turner, attracting attention wherever you park up.

    My first ride on the Densu Cross was a 65-mile commute home from the CW office in Hampshire to my home in East Sussex, on mixed terrain including many muddy miles along the Downslink, a disused railway line. I won’t lie, it felt heavy; getting it up to speed requires a level of effort you’d expect on a beefy mountain bike, and climbs are likewise noticeably harder than usual. However, once it was rolling, it felt planted and stable — thanks in part to the 40mm Schwalbe G-One Classic Skin tyres — and the Shimano 105 20-speed setup provided an ample spread of ratios. The position is neutral and the Ergon SMC 4 saddle comfortable; this feels like a bike you could ride a very long way, provided the terrain was flat.

    My biggest gripe, aside from the the hulking weight, was the cable-actuated disc brakes. They were just about adequate but lacked feel and power, needing a very firm squeeze of the lever — which shouldn’t be necessary with discs. The addition of hydraulic brakes would be a major improvement.

    For me, this bike has an identity problem. It doesn’t know what it is. If you wanted a cyclo-cross bike, £2.5k would get you something very lithe and sporty such as the Cannondale SuperX, weighing in at under 9kg — nearly 4kg less. Such a bike would win on almost all counts except novelty looks. Similarly, if you wanted a drop-bar tourer, there are lighter, higher-spec models available at the same budget.

    In essence, this bike will appeal to you only if you fully ascribe to the ethics and philosophy underlying its African bamboo heart. You’ll be buying not merely a functional, practical steed but investing in an idea — a bike material embodying values that go beyond performance.

    Verdict

    The MyBoo Densu Cross is a unique, general-purpose machine whose bamboo frame will divide opinion. Riders sold on the ethical/philanthropic credentials and organic looks will love it; those who prioritise performance will find many lighter, faster options within the same price bracket.

    Details

    Weight: 13.4kg