Bamboo bike diplomacy between Indonesia and Australia

Bamboo bike diplomacy between Indonesia and Australia

EBF Appreciates Jokowi’s Gift of a Spedagi Bamboo Bike to Australian PM

The Environmental Bamboo Foundation (EBF) appreciates President Jokowi’s gesture to invite Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to ride a bicycle and gift him a Spedagi bamboo bicycle during the meeting of the two leaders of the countries Monday (6/1) at the State Palace, Bogor.

“Mr. President has started diplomacy on bamboo bicycles. The gift of bamboo bicycles shows that the President is supportive of the community-based bamboo industry and products made in Indonesia by using them as a tool of diplomacy,” said EBF Executive Director, Monica Tanuhandaru.

EBF is a non-profit organization that since 1993 has studied and showcased bamboo as a social, ecological and economic solution for indigenous and local communities. Together with the local government and rural communities, EBF is currently intensively developing village-based bamboo industry and bamboo agroforestry villages in NTT. EBF has also started initiating the program in the provinces of Bali, East Java, West Kalimantan, and Central Kalimantan.


Currently, EBF is collaborating with Spedagi, the name of the bamboo bicycle designed, produced and developed by Singgih Kartono, a product designer who has won several international awards. Later, the result of this collaboration will produce a bamboo bicycle made of bamboo planted by the community in Flores, NTT.

In 2021, EBF assisted 388 ‘Bamboo Mamas’ Bambu in 21 villages in 7 districts in Flores and succeeded in creating and caring for 2.5 million bamboo seedlings. “This gift giving bike is the second good news for us this month. The first good news was the President’s visit to the Turetogo Bamboo Campus, which is the center of education, research and innovation for EBF, and on that occasion the President bought a Spedagi bicycle that was on display,” added Monica.

During a visit to the Turetogo Bamboo Campus in Ngada, NTT, President Jokowi had the opportunity to chat with the Bamboo Mamas and Singgih Kartono. On that occasion, Singgih showed the work of the Dalanrata series of bamboo bicycles (road bikes) designed for use on the highway. President Jokowi then bought a a Dalanrata bicycle, and a few days later ordered an additional unit to be gifted to the Australian PM.

Tough and Environmentally Friendly

Spedagi is a bicycle with a frame made of bamboo, while the other elements are quality components obtained on the open market. Although made of bamboo, the power of the Spedagi bicycle cannot be underestimated. The Dalanrata series has been used by Indonesian cyclists to complete the most prestigious long-distance cycling event in the world, the Paris-Brest-Paris Randonneur in 2019. Two
Indonesian cyclists (Salman Faridi and Vidi Widyastono) using Dalanrata successfully completed the 1,200 km route. Dalanrata has also successfully completed the Java Landscape bicycle tour from Anyer to Banyuwangi (1,400 km) in 2022.

“Bamboo bicycles are strong, visually more beautiful than other materials, and also more comfortable because bamboo has the ability to absorb vibrations, the bamboo cells are like micro-suspension,” said Singgih Kartono.

Singgih started designing bamboo bicycles in 2013 after he felt “slapped” by seeing the existence of bamboo bicycles in a number of countries that do not have bamboo though Indonesia, which is rich in bamboo resources. Using the potential of bamboo growing in his village in Temanggung, Central Java, Singgih then began designing and producing bamboo bicycles under the Spedagi banner. His company trains and educates village youth to make bamboo bicycles.
In the international design arena, the Spedagi bamboo bike has made a name for itself. In 2018, the Spedagi bamboo bike won the Gold Prize at the prestigious Good Design Award event in Tokyo. The Spedagi bamboo bicycle has also become an elective subject at the Tokyo Zokei University design education institute.

“In the context of the bamboo program in Indonesia, we need symbols and icons to spark people’s love for bamboo. Good and cool products, both functionally and aesthetically, such as bamboo bicycles, will have an important role in revitalizing the bamboo industry at a village level,” he explained.

Bamboo Bike Goes Global

YBL’s Senior Advisor, Noer Fauzi Rachman, pointed out that the President’s move, by giving the spedagi as a souvenir, signifies the contribution of nature and the Indonesian people in the international diplomacy arena.

“Remembering World Environment Day, June 5, 2022, this gift is important to mark the ability of Indonesian citizens to innovate new technology by using environmentally friendly materials, producing modern goods based on community-based industries,” he said. This kind of diplomacy, according to him, will be very important and interesting for Indonesia to show in the context of the upcoming G20 meeting.

“There is a continuation of this bamboo bicycle diplomacy which is also important. Namely, creating new ways of viewing and appreciating bamboo, and developing strategies to revitalize existing agroforestry into sustainable bamboo forests, which are able to supply the need for continuous use of bamboo. Bamboo can be a modality in various cultural promotions, including in the context of overcoming poverty by eliminating structural and cultural barriers that hinder the growth and development of rural communities, including women, children and youth. Bamboo really has the potential to be a solution. We are looking forward to what will happen with this momentum,” he said.

Bamboo pioneers: Singgih Kartono, founder of Spedagi Bamboo Bike

Bamboo pioneers: Singgih Kartono, founder of Spedagi Bamboo Bike

Welcome to our new series of interviews with people doing incredible things with bamboo. From entrepreneurs to scientists, community facilitators, and bamboo farmers, we will be bringing you diverse stories and experiences through our Bamboo Pioneer interviews. Our very first one is with Singgih Kartono, who is not only passionate about bamboo and bike design with his company Spedagi but also about starting a village revitalization movement based on bamboo! He is the mastermind behind the incredible Pasar Papringan concept. Read on to learn more.

I was born in a village and bamboo is a very abundant plant in my village. When I was a kid, I liked to make toys, and the most easily available material for making toys was bamboo. Unlike wood, bamboo is easier to split and cut.

Bamboo is very close to our lives. Almost all village households, furniture, agricultural tools, and even houses use bamboo material. Our closeness to bamboo once made me not see the advantages and uniqueness of bamboo. Even as a designer, I had a time when I stopped the use of bamboo material in my works and switched to wood.

I started making bamboo bikes in early 2013 after seeing and being amazed by the bamboo bikes designed by Craig Calfee from the United States. His bike is not only made of bamboo, it also has great design and is very well made and assembled.

Bamboo in Indonesian villages

Bamboo in Indonesia faces the exact same problems that Indonesian villages face: boredom and inferiority.

The boredom arises because bamboo has been familiar to us for a long time and is very close to our daily lives. In the village, people have experiences with bamboo from birth to death. From kitchen and household utensils, agricultural tools, houses, buildings and construction of tombs also use bamboo.

Bamboo is also seen as something that is closely related to poverty and this view creates feelings of inferiority. For example, many novels describe poor families with ‘the ones who live in bamboo houses’.

In the concept that I developed at Spedagi Movement, I see the future as the past in a new form.

Let’s say the past is that bamboo. When I look into the future, then I see bamboo in a new form. We need to look at the past and everything around us today through the lens of the future. In developed countries, people use science to see what is around them that can be used in the future.

When it comes to cutting bamboo, I still use traditional knowledge. I determine the logging days according to traditional knowledge. And it turned out okay. I understand why traditional people carry out the practices which we know as niteni (observing, paying attention). They observe the environment around the bamboo so that they know the best way to treat this plant. They don’t have the tools, instruments, or a more detailed scientific approach supported by adequate equipment, so they can’t formulate it scientifically.

How we should view bamboo

First we need to take care of and plant more bamboo.

Viewed as boring and inferior, bamboo is prone to being evicted from the landscape. I found a lot of bamboo plants were being eradicated. Whereas bamboo is part of the landscape of the village community; the cultural, historical, and environmental landscapes. And I think if this important part is lost then one day we will be very sorry. Moreover, bamboo has become one of the materials that is a promising substitute for wood because it grows very fast and has very good qualities.

Second, we must be able to educate people about bamboo in new ways

Because what we are fighting against is a perception of being boring and inferior. We need a creative approach so that people can see that bamboo is extraordinary. However, to be able to see how the past, or everything around us, has future values, we must learn to see it through the lens of science, therefore we need to broaden our horizons. We must clean our glasses or learn to use new glasses, to be able to see the value and future potential of bamboo.

What is Spedagi?

If we take bamboo seriously, the products we create will be different and unique, which makes us different from other countries. Moreover, many bamboo species are found in Indonesia as the climate is suitable for bamboo.

The Spedagi bamboo bicycle is not just a means of transportation using bamboo material, but more than that, this bicycle has become part of the Spedagi Movement and has turned it into a product that has created a social movement. This uniqueness is not found in other products.

Spedagi is one example of how I try to show that bamboo is not a material that can only be made for simple and inexpensive products. Bamboo can be processed into a good and high-value product.

Spedagi was awarded the G-Mark Japan Good Design Award in 2018. G-mark Japan GOOD DESIGN award is the largest Asian award founded in 1957 and reflects Japanese design values and principles that aim to enrich lives, industries, and society.

Pasar Papringan: restoring rural pride

The Papringan Market project is actually quite simple, because its activity is only to clean the bamboo clumps and then create a terrace area between the bamboo clumps using honed stone – which is actually a traditional technique that is environmentally friendly as the terrace still absorbs water. When the bamboo forest was cleaned and simply arranged, the bamboo clumps in it looked beautiful and became an authentic and natural garden. The empty area underneath the bamboo canopy that we clean with the community then becomes a place to sell local products in the form of culinary, handicraft, and agricultural products.

Papringan market also shows that the culture of the traditional or village community is full of ‘future values’ due to the following:

Papringan market is a plastic-free market emulating traditional communities in the past that did not use any plastic. All vendors at Papringan Market only use leaves and bamboo baskets for containers to transport and store merchandise. Isn’t it time this traditional practice becomes a future practice? A value that reflects how to protect nature sustainably starting from the local economy.
Papringan market provides healthy food with 100% traceability because all the ingredients are taken from the surrounding environment. We know who the food ingredients are grown by, and from whose garden the banana leaves used for wrapping are taken. Aren’t these all stories from the future that have also come from the past?

So we have to learn or find a way to be able to see the value and potential of bamboo and all other resources in the village as something special.

What we need to teach our children about bamboo

Combining the boredom of rural communities with the amazement of urban communities in relation to bamboo is something that is important for us to use as a basis for formulating a better education for the younger generation, especially children.

Children in the village need to be introduced to how to process bamboo starting from the benefits of bamboo shoots for cooking, growing bamboo, making toys from bamboo, to how to dry bamboo using new tools or technology. Children in the village are usually very interested in new technology.

Meanwhile, young people in urban areas or developed countries need to be invited to see the ‘bamboo lives’ of traditional people, so that they can see how bamboo is an important part of life. In addition, they also need to be invited to learn traditional knowledge about bamboo.