"It's strong, it's durable, it's cheap"
August 1, 2012 5:38 AM   Subscribe

After reading about someone making a canoe out of cardboard, Izhar Gafni went to his shed and started cutting up old boxes. This eventually led to his absolutely amazing cardboard bike project. posted by quin (30 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
In 20 years, we will long for the day when things were made of sturdy plastic.
posted by DU at 5:46 AM on August 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Similar project previously.
posted by Popular Ethics at 5:49 AM on August 1, 2012

That's a really cool project but I'm skeptical of the $10 figure (which is apparently cost of materials, not cost to build). There are several non-cardboard bits on there that I'm pretty sure would add up to well over $10.

And $60 to $90 is within the range of garbage Wal-Mart bikes that could at least be worked on by a shop.
posted by ghharr at 5:53 AM on August 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Labour costs would kill any kind of low materials cost advantage. Aluminum & steel are pretty damn cheap, paper (and epoxy coatings!) are not going to be much cheaper. On the other hand, if he wants to try, let him try! Maybe a whole bike made of cardboard isn't the future, maybe just cardboard/epoxy frames with traditional components are.

I like the chunky style though. It looks like a cartoon. Fun!
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:57 AM on August 1, 2012

So many questions:

- How does he get the wheels to be perfectly round?
- Do those tires have air in them?
- How durable is durable?
- Can you adjust the saddle height?
- Does it get sent to you in a metal container?
posted by MuffinMan at 6:01 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah sure it's all fine and sturdy until it gets wet in the rain!
posted by Theta States at 6:01 AM on August 1, 2012

How does he get the wheels to be perfectly round?

It was in the video. Bandsaw + sandpaper. You mound the wheel blank on a center and then rotate it through the bandsaw. That gets you very close to perfectly round. Sand any bumps and you are done.
posted by DU at 6:05 AM on August 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

I saw the video. A bandsaw + sandpaper isn't going to get you to perfectly round, surely. It'll get you to something that looks like a wheel. It certainly won't work as on a mass production process.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:08 AM on August 1, 2012

It's a bogstandard woodworking technique and works just fine especially on a mass production basis where they take the time to standardize every step (e.g. not sandpapering by hand, but mounting the wheel on a center near a sander).
posted by DU at 6:13 AM on August 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

I know a young fellow of Shoreham who will be very interested in this.
posted by Segundus at 6:13 AM on August 1, 2012

Here is an interview with Gafni in which he answers a few more questions about his bike.
posted by rongorongo at 6:23 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would totally ride that.
posted by Forktine at 6:27 AM on August 1, 2012

There was a young fellow of Shoreham
Who said without care or decorum
"You may ride, if you like,
"Upon my cardboard bike,
"But if you find faults please ignore 'em!"
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:30 AM on August 1, 2012 [6 favorites]

That saddle looks like ow. Also, little gits will set fire to them.
posted by scruss at 6:36 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

e.g. not sandpapering by hand

Eh? I was questioning how cutting on a bandsaw by hand and sanding by hand get a truly round wheel and you tell me that it especially works when you standardise it and don't do it by hand.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:46 AM on August 1, 2012

Eh? I was questioning how cutting on a bandsaw by hand and sanding by hand get a truly round wheel and you tell me that it especially works when you standardise it and don't do it by hand.

You never said anything about "by hand."
posted by Sys Rq at 7:12 AM on August 1, 2012

posted by MuffinMan at 7:21 AM on August 1, 2012

He inscribed a circle on the cardboard with a big compass like device and just followed the line.

That's not hard if you're skilled with tools. Sure it's not 'perfect' but it's close enough for a low performance wheel.

Following that he wrapped the circumference in a layer of cardboard which would even out some roughness.

The wheel is wrapped in a smooshy layer of rubber tire. The tiny little inconsistencies won't matter very much. The rubber will deform against the road and mask any tiny bumps.
posted by device55 at 7:42 AM on August 1, 2012

Okay he his thinking the bikes will be disposable, lasting two years. I wonder what kind of ride quality you are going to get at the end of its life. Based on that, I'm going to have to side against him on this idea. I don't want a crappy bike that lasts two years and rides like shit for the last year or so. I want a bike that lasts for 20 years and if it costs 10x what a 2 year bike does, then that sounds great for me because it will ride great for 19 years.

I buy the good boots, not the cardboard ones.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:58 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was questioning how cutting on a bandsaw by hand and sanding by hand get a truly round wheel

Sure, but it's really not that hard the way he did it. Point is, it's even easier done in mass quantity.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:29 AM on August 1, 2012

"No one knows how to work with cardboard other than for packaging"

This is non-sense. Cardboard functions just like any cored composit structure. It looks like he's even using the heavy duty stuff that has honeycomb in it instead of just corrugated paper. How to load these panels is well understood. It appears he even oriented the boards the wrong way for almost all of the structures. It would be much stronger and simpler to just make it out of cardboard tubes and use paper to wrap the joints together. But hell, its a neat project and impressive but it bugs me when people claim structural things out of 'wierd' materials are some unknown realm of engineering.
posted by TheJoven at 8:31 AM on August 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

On the impermanence of the bike: if parents could buy a $25 cardboard bike at Wal*Mart for their 5 year old, vs buying an aluminum one and having it clutter up the yard for the next decade because the kid's outgrown it, I'm betting they'd do so. If you sold it as eco-friendly because it was recyclable or compostable, even more so. I serve on the board of a non-profit that refurbs old bikes and gives them away to needy families: Coming up with more small kids bikes frames is easy, middle-class folks are happy to have 'em carted away, and there are a lot of families who don't have bikes for their kids because a few tens of dollars is a lot of money to them.

And on the earlier comments on building wheels: Cut on a bandsaw to a line and sanded by hand, those wheels are likely far rounder than anything you're gonna buy from the sporting goods section, and probably about as round as what you get from a production bike shop bike. Die cut in production they'll be more round than a a high end builder can make out of a traditional rim and spoke arrangement.
posted by straw at 8:38 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

My grandfather used to say, "Sometimes, Johnny, I cannot afford a bargain." This may fall into that category.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:59 AM on August 1, 2012

Yes, $10 sounds wildly optimistic. Cheap, durable bikes are not rocket science. As mentioned, Walmart sells cheap bikes for less than $100, usually with a slew of useless geegaws thrown in to add to the sparkle and move them out the door. The cold hard truth is that the only reason they're disposable is that they're priced to be disposable. Almost nothing about them is any more inherently unworkable or short lived than a higher priced respectable bike.

A $10 cardboard bike is an interesting idea, though. Let's assume it's a reality. This is truly a disposable bike, so much so it's almost not worth even locking up when you ride to the store. Likely unfixable, and very low performance, with a notably short lifespan. It might make sense for bike share fleets or some similar applications.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:59 AM on August 1, 2012

I seriously question the 'eco-friendliness' of this. Once you start soaking cardboard in resin, you have a nasty composite that is next to impossible to recycle. While, it's fun and impressive to have made this bicycle, I fail to see the benefit of making more than one bicycle like this. There has been a trend to build bicycles out of materials that are wildly inappropriate, such as wood, bamboo and paper, with the builder claiming that the material is The Next Great Thing. I politely disagree!

Even for this bike, $10 seems too little; considering that there is resin (resin is very expensive), cables, a chain, a bottom-bracket, rubber for wheels etc. (I couldn't watch the video so maybe he explains how he found pieces in this case).
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 9:23 AM on August 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm still holding out for a pykrete bicycle.
posted by glip at 1:13 PM on August 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

someone left the bike out in the rain. I don't think I can take it 'cause it took so long to make it and I'll never have that much cardboard again.
posted by luvcraft at 10:54 PM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

A cardboard bike is cool and non-intuitive, but my inner five-year-old still craves a cardboard fort defended by cardboard trebuchets from men in cardboard armor with cardboard swords.
posted by Ritchie at 2:15 AM on August 2, 2012

"What I like about it the most. It's made out of cardboard!"
posted by bicyclefish at 9:44 AM on August 2, 2012

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