Nicholas Brungo, an artist who likes working with bikes, has found a way to combine the two interests: creating bamboo-frame bicycles.
The 31-year-old runs a bike repair shop in Lawrenceville, and earlier this month he completed a fundraising drive to buy parts and tools. Over the winter, he plans to build a few of the bikes and by next spring, his Lawrenceville neighborhood -- no stranger to new trends -- could see people on its streets embracing another one: Mr. Brungo's bamboo bicycles.
"They're kind of like functional pieces of art, because they're handmade," Mr. Brungo said.
A native Pittsburgher, Mr. Brungo left the region for a few years to study in Virginia and then England, returning 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 opened the bike shop Love Bikes in April 2011, and on Friday, he was sitting inside his shop. It's a small garage, attached to the rear of Arsenal Lanes Bowling on Butler Street, that has formerly served as a performance space and an art studio.
Now, it's where he builds and fixes bikes, and in the next few months, if all goes to plan, it's where his bamboo bikes will come to life.
Mr. Brungo first read about bamboo-frame bikes in a cycling magazine, and last year as he was looking for something to get people interested in the new bike shop he opened, he decided that making bicycles out of bamboo might do the trick.
He went to New York City last summer for a three-day seminar on building bamboo bikes that was 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 and then rode it around Pittsburgh 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. And many people asked where they could get one for themselves.
He decided there was enough interest to start making the bikes, and over a 50-day period that ended earlier this month, Mr. Brungo raised $1,200 through indiegogo.com, an online fundraising platform, which will go toward purchasing tools and supplies. He is purchasing supplies initially from the Maine company but said he wants to eventually use a bamboo supplier in Pittsburgh.
The bikes will range from $900 to $1,500, he said. He sold the first bamboo bike on eBay to a man in California for $1,000, including shipping.
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: email@example.com or 412-263-1707.