Boo Bicycles was founded in 2009 when professional road racer and mechanical engineer Nick Frey contacted James Wolf, an industrial designer who specializes in bamboo fabrication, about building bicycles from bamboo. The two set out to craft high-performance bicycles using a combination of natural bamboo and synthetic carbon fiber to provide riders with a comfortable, durable and unique frame option.
Creating a high-end bicycle frame from bamboo takes time, precision and extensive knowledge. Frey and Wolf choose hand-cut, organically grown bamboo for the main tubes, and frame lugs are finished utilizing a carbon wrapping technique. This creates a stiff frame while capitalizing on bamboo’s vibration dampening qualities. Fabricating a mountain bike from bamboo offers unique challenges—tire clearance and disc brake mounts, to name a few—and using carbon lugs offers a solution.
The bike appears well-constructed, and the distinct contrast between bamboo and carbon makes it look unique. Our test bike is an elegant-looking machine, and paired with a 1x10 and ENVE carbon wheels, the Boo 29er is like a lean gazelle.
With this race build, the Boo 29er rode like just that, a race bike. With its carbon lugs and bamboo main tubes, it had a similar feel to a full carbon hardtail. Ride quality was stiff with a hint of forgiveness but overall was fast and responsive. “We designed Boo bikes to perform with the top carbon wunder-bikes in the world in terms of pure stiffness and acceleration and climbing,” Frey said. “I know ours competes head-to-head in terms of all-out race performance.” At a slender 21.6 pounds, the Boo can compete with most other race hardtails in its price range, while its uniqueness really shines.
Descending on the Boo was fast and fun. Line choice was key, of course, but the bike quickly went where it was pointed with no hesitation. A nice short 3.5-inch headtube kept the front end of this 29er low while also stiffening up the front end, but this can be manipulated in the custom ordering process for one’s specific needs.
Boo will build any style of bike, whether it is a road, mountain or ’cross bike. Full custom geometry paired with bamboo is what makes Boo unique. There are few builders willing to work with nontraditional materials when fabricating custom bicycles. But with Frey’s Princeton engineering degree and Wolf’s industrial design education, Boo’s team has the knowledge and ability to meet any rider’s needs.
Adopting new technology is an important aspect of the bike industry, and Boo makes sure to keep up by offering options such as tapered headtubes, pressfit bottom brackets and a variety of dropout options. “Often I’ll put a frame off until a specific new part is ready from another company, so we can integrate it into the frame design,” Wolf said. “If a customer has any question about what’s possible, the answer is ‘yes!’”
With Frey’s background as a professional road racer—he is still racing today for Team Jamis/Sutter Home—Frey has a very good understanding of what racers are looking for in a bike, and Boo’s designs meet those needs. Not surprisingly, Boo’s bikes are already seeing success on the race circuit: Tyler Wren won the 2011 Crusher in the Tushar road/dirt race in northern Utah on a Boo ‘cross bike.
Not only does Boo build fast bikes, they do so with a fresh perspective. Applying renewable resources to high-end race bikes is a disregarded concept to most bike manufacturers, but Boo creates an impressive partnership between sustainability and technology. This bike is truly a rocket. –J. Carr