Vo Tan Tan from Hoi An and a bicycle he made with a bamboo frame. Photo by Hoang Son
The son of a bamboo handicraft-making family in Hoi An is now using the wood to make bicycles.
Vo Tan Tan's family, like many others in rural Cam Thanh commune, rely on bamboo to make souvenirs for travelers.
Tan grew up with the sounds of a bamboo workshop ringing in his ears.
He's done a variety of odd jobs in his life, but has always made time to work at least part-time in the bamboo factory.
He worked for an electronics assembly factory in nearby Da Nang for a while before coming back to work for a tourism company in his hometown.
“But whatever I do, I miss making bamboo crafts… I’ve spent my time with bamboo whenever I had free time.”
So he decided to stay at home and see if there was a way to make bamboo his full-time living.
Tan said he loves making things that have practical use instead of just decorations.
The idea for a bamboo bicycle business started when Axel Lakassen, a tourist from the Netherlands, visited the town in late 2011 with the idea of launching a company of bamboo bicycles made in Vietnam. He needed someone with skills, so he hooked up with Tan.
Tan started by making simple frames that are popular all over the world. He joined the bamboo parts with metal parts.
Bamboo-framed bicycles have become a global trend thanks to the wood's effects in vibration damping, crash tolerance, as well as the natural look.
But Tan’s first bikes shook hard on rough roads and he had to experiment with 20 different models before finding a good design.
He now has two functional models, one with a male frame and one with a female frame.
He is working on a third one that will use hemp to bind the bamboo parts together instead of metal. Hemp is an extremely strong fiber popular with ethnic minority communities in the area.
The craftsman plans to produce 20 bamboo bikes this year for sale at between VND5-15 million.
He said Axel Lakassen wants to develop more environmentally products through the bamboo bike start-up and set up a project to create jobs for locals.
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