Some cycling enthusiasts like to wax lyrical about materials. There are the traditionalists who swear that nothing handles like a steel-framed bike, the well-heeled fans of titanium – which is both stronger and lighter than steel – and riders who swear by carbon fibre, which is lighter still. And then there are the enthusiasts embracing bamboo.

The fast-growing wood has a long association with cycling in New Zealand. Richard Pearse – best known as the Kiwi inventor who didn’t beat the Wright Brothers to be the first in the world to fly – was nicknamed Bamboo Dick on account of the innovative bamboo bicycle he patented in 1902. 

Just lately, bamboo bikes have been having a minor resurgence internationally. They have a house bus-like, hippy charm all their own, but almost by definition defy standardisation or mass production and have been very much a bespoke niche affair.

Christchurch-based company Passchier is changing that with its laminated bamboo handlebars.

The beautifully crafted bars feel more like something you’d find on a yacht than a bicycle, and that’s not entirely coincidental. Dirk Passchier, one of the company’s founders, is a long-time manufacturer of bamboo kayak paddles. 

Passchier's bamboo handlebars are winning fans around the world. 

But it’s not the handlebars’ aesthetic appeal that’s attracting fans around the world, it’s the way they ride.

Bamboo isn’t as light as carbon fibre or aluminium, but it flexes in a way that neither of those materials does. 

That’s both an advantage and a disadvantage. For competitive cyclists who want every ounce of energy converted to forward motion, the stiffer the better, but for those happy to trade performance for comfort, the flex cushions the ride.

After installing a set of the bars onto my bike, I took off up my driveway and was surprised by just how much they flexed. It’s an unfamiliar sensation and – if I hadn’t read up on the bars beforehand – one that would have left me wondering whether I should be worried about them breaking.

There’s no chance of that. They meet the ISO standard and have been put through a hydraulic testing regime involving 100,000-plus cycles at 50kg of pressure.

The handlebars going through hydraulic strength testing. Photo: Passchier.


The flex came into its own when I hit the lip from the driveway onto the road – a bump that usually sends a slight jarring sensation through my hands and up my arms. The cushioning effect is different from a front-suspension fork – it’s more subtle, somehow. 

The bars soak up the vibration on metal roads, with no noticeable extra effort required to power the bike. 

They would be perfect for the many off-road cycle trails springing up around the country. The bars are recommended for all urban, trekking and trail settings. But if it’s hardcore mountain biking you’re into, the Passchiers aren’t for you (they’re not designed for aggressive downhill riding or for large riders who weigh over 110kg). 

They come in a range of colours and two widths: 760mm and 650mm. I opted for the wider of the two. 

In cycling, like everything else, fashions come and go. The super-narrow bars beloved by hipsters on fixie bikes a decade or so ago seem to be a thing of the past now, thankfully, and wide bars are in. 

Wider bars give you more control and open up your chest for easier breathing, but the 760mm ones brought to mind the flares of the 1970s – in time I suspect we’ll look back and laugh at just how wide the bars were back in the 2020s.

That said, I’ll be rocking the bars for the foreseeable future. 

I’m loath to make car comparisons, but the Passchier bars remind me of Citroën’s famous hydropneumatic suspension. The ride is both pleasing and a little disconcerting. And, like the stylish Citroën DS – which pioneered the cloud-like suspension system – the Passchier bars are about both comfort and standing out from the crowd. 

They are now being noticed internationally and have garnered favourable write-ups in cycling publications in the US, Europe, and Australia. 

At $350, the bars aren’t cheap, but if you’re going to be riding the trails and want to cut down on hand numbness and tingling, they’re well worth considering.