By Robbie Broughton
What would your choice of bike be if you were off on an adventure through South America? The Cinelli Hobootleg looks like it would fit the bill while the Surly Long Haul Trucker is a popular choice among many a hardy bike tourer. But Kate Rawles decided to build her own, and it wasn’t steel but bamboo that she used as a material to fashion into her trusty steed.
Her ‘home-grown’ bike was put together from super-tough golden bamboo canes that were cut from a mature clump on a hillside outside Cornwall’s Eden Project in its world renowned Rainforest Biome.
She put her mountain bike together at the Bamboo Bicycle Club in east London before christening it Woody and cycling the length of South America.
She said: “Woody has proved to be an extremely tough and reliable bike, coping with extremes of heat and cold, rain, dryness and altitude. Bamboo is a brilliant material for building bikes. It’s so great that we can say the UK’s first home-grown bike came from right here at Eden.”
Everyone she met was intrigued by the bamboo bike, said Kate. “I love the human-magnet affect that Woody has, and the fact that I was on a biodiversity ride on a bike that used to be a plant!”
Kate added: “I was riding ten, eleven, twelve hours a day and wild camping wherever I got to at nightfall. I’ve never pushed so hard physically in my life, but I think it’s good to reach your limits occasionally – and then keep going."
Eden’s Director of Life Sciences Dr Mike Maunder said: “It was thrilling to welcome Kate and the apparently indestructible Woody back to Eden. Kate has travelled through some of the world's most diverse ecosystems and cultures. We share Kate's sense of urgency and applaud her leadership, we will retain these biological treasures only if we empower people to love life and the forests and grasslands that give us all life.”
Bamboo Bicycle Club Founder James Marr said: “It’s fantastic to see Kate's bike travel over 8,000 miles across South America. It proves the durability of bamboo. It’s clear that any first-time bike builder can create something truly unique that can be used for endurances rides as well as everyday commutes.”
Kate travelled to and from South America by cargo ship as part of an attempt to keep her own environmental footprint as light as possible. She calls her journey The Life Cycle and the aim is to use the adventure story to raise awareness and inspire action on biodiversity loss.
She said: “Biodiversity loss is an issue every bit as important and challenging as climate change but much less well publicised and understood.
“I aim to help change that. We are losing species at a terrifying rate because of deforestation, the loss and degradation of other habitats, climate change, pollution, invasive species, etc.”
Throughout the course of her journey, Kate visited a wide range of biodiversity and nature conservation-related projects, from a school whose entire curriculum is based on turtles to a project aimed at the conservation of the tiny, endangered ‘Titi’ monkeys.
Her previous “adventure plus” journey, a ride from Texas to Alaska exploring climate change, led to an acclaimed book called The Carbon Cycle, shortlisted for the Banff Mountain Festival Adventure Travel Book Award.
After an epic journey of more than 8,000 miles on the UK’s first “home-grown bicycle”, green champion Kate Rawles has brought the bike back to its roots at the Eden Project in Cornwall.
The Eden Project has its own big cycling event, a sportive called the Eden Classic, which takes place on May 13. For more information, go to http://www.edenproject.com/visit/whats-on/eden-classic-sportive-cycling-event