There are many benefits to swapping out steel or carbon frames for bamboo on a push bike. The first is that it’s lighter, which is helpful for speed and physically lifting the bike around. The second is that it's an incredibly strong material, used for construction in parts of Asia. The third? It grows quickly and doesn’t need much water.
“Bamboo has a lot of flex in the bike, which makes it a really nice ride. It’s far stronger than steel and [the bamboo frames are] wrapped in a vegetable epoxy so it’s really, really sturdy,” says Wyld Bikes co-founder Natalie Simmons. “It’s a bike for life. It’ll hold. It’ll keep its shape. It won’t rust. We really want to break that cycle of disposable goods,” she tells Broadsheet.
Wyld Bikes is a new Australian company founded on the belief that all businesses should have a positive impact. Simmons isn’t a cycling nut – you won’t find her sipping espressos in Lycra on the weekends – but she is immensely focused on creating businesses that have purpose.
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Each Wyld bike is handmade in Ghana in partnership with Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative (GBBI). The social enterprise employs women who are disadvantaged in some way, either through domestic violence or poverty. The frames are then shipped (and carbon offset) to Australia where bikes are assembled in various local social enterprises, including ones that employ underprivileged Australians, such as those living with disability who face underemployment.
“The creation of each Wyld bike helps to lift women in Ghana out of poverty and supports career pathways for disadvantaged Australians,” says Simmons. “We give them a safe place to work, a skill, we pay above living wage, and for each bamboo bike that we produce, 10 seedlings are planted in its place to stop the erosion of fertile land in West Africa.”
Wyld – which stands for “What You Love Doing” – currently has two bikes in two different colours and sizes. There’s a men’s frame, called Archi, and a women’s frame, called Luca, which come in tan or black. Plus, there are two size options. Prices start from $2000 for a nine-gear bike to $2100 for 11 gear settings.
“I’m very vertically challenged,” says Simmons, laughing. “So I can’t ride the normal size and need a more petite frame.”
Wyld has plans to add a BMX style to the range, too. “We’ve got one up in Brisbane and every time [co-founder] Simon [Doble] rides it around Brisbane people stop him in the street. It’s a very cool little bike.”
The company is wholly owned by Barefoot Citizens, which Doble and Simmons created in order to develop more sustainably minded businesses. “I believe businesses have a responsibility to be ethical and I think all businesses can be purposeful and create positive impact, while growing bottom-line dollars and having good returns,” Simmons says.
Wyld has collaborated with another business-for-good, Citizen Wolf, an ethically accredited T-shirt company in Sydney, to create its merch. “They’re manufacturing all of our T-shirts. We believe fast fashion is one of the biggest crimes against the planet,” she says. T-shirts, tote bags and caps are all coming to the website soon. Wyld’s aim is to keep its supply chain short and make as much here as possible.
With lockdowns in some of Australia’s cities this year, Simmons hopes people are looking for new ways to honour their values and think about new ways to commute or be active that don’t harm the environment.
“Last year, bike sales went up 990 per cent globally, and that doesn’t seem to be slowing down,” says Simmons. “Post-Covid, people realise they want to be healthier, that the planet does matter, and they don’t want to be catching public transport, so all of those things have created this movement towards people wanting to buy from responsible brands, and to do something better and bigger than themselves.
“We truly believe that everything we do should create a positive impact for the people that are working with us.”
Wyld Bikes offers shipping across Australia, which is carbon offset.