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How WYLD Bikes Brought Purpose To Cycling With Bamboo Frames That Create Positive Impact
By Jessica Campbell | Nov 16, 2021
2020 was the great equaliser, the pandemic a viral meme and way of saying, “I was there, too.” While everyone’s experience of these last two years will inherently be unique, most can attest to the fact that for all the ills that accompanied lockdown, there was also an opportunity – however slight. For the first time in the midst of a culture that has come to wear the phrase “I’m too busy” like a badge of honour upon their chest, we were giving breathing room. With borders closed and regional travel off the cards, we were confronted with a new and startling reality but in this moment of respite and reflection, we turned inwards. A discerning eye was taken to our own values, to the lifestyle we perhaps wanted for ourselves but felt too removed from, as though standing outside craning our neck to get a glimpse of the most brightly-lit room in the house. And so we emerged from lockdown perhaps not shiny and new, but more grounded, motivated to honour the values at our core.
It might be a matter of circumstance, but that WYLD bikes has arrived at a time where we as consumers are now demanding greater transparency and ethical responsibility from businesses and their products can’t be underestimated. The products are, at their essence, a reflection of the values held by founders Natalie Simmons and Simon Doble. The pair, who first joined forces to found the company, Barefoot Citizens, are passionate about creating sustainably minded businesses. When Simmons left her corporate job after 25 years, she wanted to build something that would create a positive impact for people and the planet. “We believe that purpose drives people, people build communities, and communities change the world. I think Covid really highlighted this notion that we’re not just individuals coexisting on this planet, we’re also deeply connected,” says Simmons.
“People have realised that things like climate action is everyone’s responsibility and people do want to know where they’re buying their products from and transparency is becoming very important. It’s about giving people the opportunity to not only do something good for themselves, but to do something good for people and the planet,” she adds.
With a keen interest in design and building products that actually create positive impact (and don’t simply look the part), Simmons and Doble turned their attention towards the bike market. If you, like countless individuals, turned to cycling as a means of keeping fit during lockdown, you’re not alone. In 2020, bike sales increased by a staggering 990 per cent globally, a figure that shows no signs of slowing down. Our health became a priority and with the outdoors off limits for so long, when restrictions eased suddenly the routes less travelled held all the allure. “We saw an opportunity in the market to bring responsible bikes to market,” Simmons explains. “Most bikes at the moment are made of carbon steel or graphite, and we believe that bamboo bikes could replace a lot of the bikes that are currently on the market.”
Bamboo might seem an obscure choice for a bicycle, but to learn more about it is to discover that it might just be the best material you can think of when it comes to bicycle design. Aside from being one of the most natural and sustainable resources that we have that’s easy to grow and requires very little water, it’s also particularly well suited to cycling. Bamboo has a lot of flex in the bike, making it a really nice ride and it’s also far stronger than steel. The bamboo frames are wrapped in a vegetable epoxy that make it particularly sturdy, while also being far lighter. Most importantly though, buying a WYLD bike is buying a bike for life. This isn’t a model designed for those interested in trends or flash pieces that are found abandoned a year later. In contrast, WYLD bikes go the distance, something that was particularly important to its founders who look to break the cycle of disposable goods.
So, the idea of a bamboo bike was born and with it a partnership. In looking to bamboo as a sustainable alternative, WYLD bikes partnered with Ghana Bamboo Bike Initiative (GBBI), which employs women who are disadvantaged in some way – often as a result of domestic violence or poverty – and provides a means of support. With each bike being handmade in Ghana, women are provided with an opportunity to not only gain employment, but learn new skills that empower her to take herself out of the cycle of poverty into which she was born. For each frame produced, 10 bamboo seedlings are also planted in its place. “We do that not for re-harvesting purposes, but to stop the erosion of fertile land in Africa,” Simmons explains. “One of the biggest issues in West Africa is the erosion of fertile land, and that’s depleting food sources as well as income sources for people. And then we ship the bikes to Australia and obviously off-set our shipping footprint.”
The bikes are then assembled here in Australia in partnership with a number of social enterprises where training, skills development, employment, career pathways and ongoing mentorship is provided to disadvantaged and unemployed youth. In developing their confidence, skills and offering such opportunities, these young Australians can go on to find fulfilling work in the future.
Currently, there are two WYLD bikes available for purchase 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 with two size options available. There’s also the option of a nine, 10 or 11 gear option for each bike. “For us really it was about making sure that it’s the highest performing bike, without it being a racing or professional bike. But it’s fitted out with top-end components as well, which was really an important part for us,” Simmons explains. “The three key things we really focused on were that we built a circular economy, that the performance of the bike was top-notch and that we’re trying to contribute to this notion of the end of ‘fast fashion.’ Bikes are no different. Bikes are disposable and a lot of the cheaper made bikes last a year or two,” she adds. “It’s a bike for life.”
Already, interest in WYLD bikes has been far-reaching as Simmons admits that many a stranger has been inclined to come up and start a conversation after seeing the bamboo bicycle in the flesh. It’s already seen them look to the future, with Simmons revealing WYLD will be brining out a BMX frame and a little kid’s frame, as well as the launch of a bamboo e-bike in the New Year. Just recently, the company also collaborated with Citizen Wolf, an ethically accredited T-shirt company in Sydney, to launch its merch. In a stand against fast fashion, the supply chain has been kept short with the intention of making as many of the t-shirts, tote bags and caps here in Australia.
It’s clear, both in conversation with Simmons and in the business model of WYLD bikes itself, that every stage of development has been carefully thought out to ensure a positive impact for all involved. “Cycling was something we really believed in and we saw a huge opportunity,” says Simmons. “We just believe in building purposeful businesses that create impact, both locally and globally.”
For more information on WYLD bikes or to make a purchase, visit the official website here.
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