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First Person

A rare ride, the bamboo bicycle

Erba Cycles’ Randall Levere turns heads with the unexpected material he uses in his South Boston cycling business.

Lane Turner/Globe staff

I was 12 when I got my first decent bike. I bought it for $237. I found a 25-mile loop that went along the Maine coast, past farmlands. I would ride 25 miles a day as a 13-year-old, rain or shine.

I was an engineer after college, but it was too much about minutiae; my heart wasn’t in it. I got into doing Web design, but I wasn’t waking up every day thinking about Web usability or strategy. I was waking up thinking let me check out bikes, racing. In 2009, I took a trip to France to do some bike riding by myself in the country. It gave me all this time to reflect. I thought I really have to do something with bikes. I have this knowledge of engineering and this knowledge of bikes.

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I had a workshop in the South End for my consulting work, so I brought in some tools and built a prototype. Something about bamboo spoke to me. It is different and really beautiful. The first bike I made was a surprise to me because it rode beautifully. Going over potholes with my steel-frame bike, I used to feel the big slam, and I didn’t feel it on this bike. When I pedaled really fast, it was quick, like carbon fiber. The species of bamboo I’m using is strong like steel alloy.

I’m launching my first tour. The intent is to get people on the bikes and talk to them and get a reaction. My van can hang five bikes on the inside, four on the outside; it’s got a little sitting area.

You know that feeling, that freedom when you’re 5 or 6 and all the sudden you can go somewhere out of eyeshot of your parents? That’s the essence of my business, that joy, that freedom.  

FOR MORE As dates for the Erba Cycles’ summertime Try and Ride tour are announced, they will be posted at facebook.com/erbacycles.

 

(Interview has been edited and condensed.)

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