Combining the old and the new can sometimes add up to true innovation. It happened in a Kampala bike workshop. Ugandan Noordin Kasoma found a way to recycle damaged steel bikes, replacing frames with bamboo ones and selling them on the market. The bamboo-frame bikes his company Boogaali Bikes makes are strong, light, durable, sustainable and comfortable to ride on.
Noordin Kasoma learned to make bikes after training with American bike frame designer and manufacturer, Craig Calfee, and watching tutorials on the internet. Kasoma’s dream was to build bikes that are cheaper and tougher than conventional brands available locally and that would be an affordable alternative to the expensive carbon frames that cyclists import from Europe and the US.
With Boogaali Bikes, Kasoma even invented the perfect brand name for his product, that appeals both locally and internationally: Boogaali derives from ‘’bamboo’’ and ‘’gaali’’. In Lugandan language, gaali means bicycle. So, boogaali means: bamboo bikes.
Passion for bamboo
Kasoma Noordin has a passion for bamboo. “It helps make riding – especially on the off-road – really comfortable. Bamboo is flexible; due to that flexibility it gives that kind of shock absorbing property when you’re riding especially off-road. The bamboo itself tries to absorb the shocks that you are passing through other than steel or aluminium.” Kasoma insists that bamboo may be nature's perfect plant. “It can be used to create a wide variety of functional and beautiful products. It is all natural and easily renewable. When crafted into a bicycle, it helps promote an environmentally friendly and healthy lifestyle.”
Adding to the high level of sustainability of his products, Kasoma uses a traditional clothing material – bark cloth – to make strong joints. The clothing material is harvested from the inner part of the locally-found Mutuba tree. The bark cloth is dipped in resin and enwrapped around the joints, then sanded down to give the joint a shiny look.
Boogaali bamboo bicycle frames are hand-crafted, one at a time to customers’ exact specifications. Noordin: “We build road, adventure, gravel and mountain Bike frames that exceed customers’ expectations in terms of quality and performance. Our frames are not only beautiful, they provide an exceptional quality of ride that has amazing vibration dampening characteristics and incredible durability.” After manufacturing his first bikes by hand, the product has become a true success, selling at prices of 350 to 450 dollars.
Today, Boogaali Bikes even ships its products to customers in Europe and the US. The company’s website is now up and running, featuring proud sales texts such as: “At Boogaali Bicycles Limited, we aim to bring the potential of bamboo to a higher level. Each one of our handcrafted bicycle frames is a beautiful, unique, highly functional work of art that is guaranteed to move you - heart and soul.”
Tried and tested
The bikes have been tried and tested in difficult circumstances. As Brad Harrison, a participant of the ‘Ride for Hope Lake Victoria’ claims: “In 2017, a team of 24 riders left Kampala for a 900km ride around Lake Victoria on handcrafted Boogaali gravel bikes. Our Boogaali frames handled dirt, gravel, rocks, pavement (and potholes) without a single breakdown. Kasoma and his team did an amazing job having all 26 frames that we ordered ready on time. I continue to ride my Boogaali frame on a daily basis!”
Noordin Kasoma is making big steps forward. He embraced the local cycling community. Cyclists that navigate local roads on (partly) bamboo bicicles are now a common sight in Uganda. Kasoma is thinking about ways to expand his factory and promote bicycle tourism in the country. His business may already be in best spot on the continent, as cycling is already a popular activity in Ugunda, is a popular African tourist destination.
ATTENTION, CONTACT INFO:
Noordin Kasoma, Kasoma@boogaalibikes.com