INBAR in conversation with “Bamboo Hero” Mowgli
Mowgli (小罗） from China, is a bamboo bike frame maker, mechanic, cyclist, community activist and the second in our ‘Bamboo heroes’ series. In the first profile, we heard how British adventurer Kate Rawles travelled over 13000km across South American continent on a bamboo bike to raise awareness of biodiversity issues.
When Mowgli , now 26, graduated from university, where he had spent three years studying Marine Science, he was in the same position as millions of other young recent graduates around the world. He had enjoyed studying, received high marks and made a lot of friends, but he didn’t feel like going straight into a demanding job as an engineer, and wasn’t sure exactly where his passion would take him. So to pass the time and pay his bills, he took a job in his local bike shop. He was good with his hands, and learning how the bicycle parts worked came naturally to him, so he soon became a proficient bike mechanic, familiar with most of the major problems that customers would have when they came in the shop.
It was in Guangzhou that he built his first bamboo bicycle, when Bamboo Bicycles Beijing, the company that would soon employ him, ran a workshop in the southern Chinese megacity. He realised very quickly that he wanted to get more involved with the bikes: “This beautiful, sustainable material can be used to build bikes – my favourite thing! I was so excited.” Soon afterwards, he moved to Beijing, China’s crowded capital, to work for Bamboo Bicycles Beijing, running workshops for a mix of locals and foreigners who wanted to make their own bike out of locally sourced bamboo from Zhejiang Province.
Five years later, he has lived in all three of China’s hugest supercities, carried out several impressive solo cycle tours and become an avid activist and supporter for bamboo as a material for making bicycles – and for making anything else!
Mowgli’s work making frames at Bamboo Bicycles Beijing, and working on his own bamboo bicycle framesHis most recent cycle tour took him to the Chinese Island of Taiwan, where he cycled from Huadian to Wuling on the bike he made with his own hands, sleeping each night under the stars.
Even when he lives in the city, he rides his bike every day: “When I ride my bike, it reminds me that we can live a more sustainable, environmentally friendly, self-sustaining life. When I feel down, I don’t need to buy a lot of things to feel happy – instead I can go for a ride on my bike, feeling light and free.”
Bamboo has truly transformed Mowgli’s life – he now runs workshops in Shanghai and has built hundreds of bamboo bikes. “The best thing about my job is seeing people’s faces when they ride their bike for the first time that they have made with their own hands,” he says, smiling. “When you help other people, good things happen – it always has a good effect on me too!”
To learn more about what Mowgli is up to now, click here.
To find out more about INBAR’s work in China with bamboo bicycles, click here.