Nicholas Brungo was looking for something to get people interested in the new bike shop he opened last year in Lawrenceville. A bicycle frame made of bamboo, he decided, might do the trick.
So last summer, he made one, and rode it around his neighborhood a bit.
"It certainly drives attention to itself," he said.
People wondered whether it was sturdy and durable and quiet. It is, he said. They asked if it would rust. It won't, he said. And many people asked where they could get one for themselves.
To that last question, he now has an answer.
If all goes according to plan, beginning next spring, Pittsburgh bicyclists will be able to buy a bike made out of bamboo and constructed by Mr. Brungo. Earlier this month, Mr. Brungo raised $1,200 through indiegogo.com, an online fundraising platform, which will go toward purchasing the tools and supplies he needs to build the bikes.
At Love Bikes, the bike repair shop where Mr. Brungo is the owner and sole employee, he's not dealing in bamboo yet. The shop, which is attached to the rear of Arsenal Bowling Lanes on Butler Street in Lawrenceville, was formerly a garage, then a performance space and then an art studio.
Mr. Brungo, 31, who lives in an apartment adjacent to his office, opened the bike shop last summer. A native Pittsburgher, he left for a few years to study in Virginia and then England, then returned in 2005 to make a living as an artist, using mostly industrial objects to make mixed medium 2-d art.
He became interested in biking, and at REI on the South Side, he trained as a bike mechanic. He decided to open his own space in Lawrenceville, a community with a lot of bikers that he said needed a place where bikes could be restored and repaired.
He first read about bamboo bikes in a biking magazine, then last summer went to New York City for a three-day seminar on building bamboo bikes, hosted by a Maine company called Bamboo Bike Studio.
"They're really pretty, and it's actually a good material to make a bike out of," he said of the bamboo frames.
He built his first bamboo bike at the seminar, then later sold it on eBay to a man in California for $1,000. His future bamboo bikes will range in price from $900 to $1,500, he said.
As Pittsburgh's biking community continues to grow, he said he hopes his bamboo creations will send the message that in Pittsburgh, people aren't just riding bikes, they are also building them.
Kaitlynn Riely: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1707.