Other than recycling rubber to make new bicycle tires, what could be done to make a bike as efficient and comfortable as current bikes without using petroleum? What else could good tires/wheels be made of?
The issue seems to be jointing. Even if you use steel joints then at least that is cutting a lot of steel out of the bike, and making it lighter at the same time.
I think another issue would be durability, at least in some climates. Bamboo breaks down pretty quickly here when it is exposed to weather. The heat tends to make it crack and then it loses its strength, water gets in etc. I guess if you can just cut some new stuff and re-assemble it easily, its not a big deal. I don't know if you can use any natural products on bamboo to help protect it? I can't imagine it being very absorbent to waxes/oils.
Steel bikes can last just about forever if you look after them. There's about 2.5kg of steel in a bike frame, and at least 100-200 times as much in a small car (plus all the other stuff). So, making steel bikes for everyone would be easy if we did it now, but maybe not so easy if we keep depleting this other resources and it becomes harder to produce steel in the future.
Though the logistics of producing steel could get difficult if everyone is on bicycles, so perhaps it is a good question
I don't see the need to not use steel although carbon fiber might be better. I don't think tires are made from natural rubber or that there is enough natural rubber in the world to meet the demand without petroleum. If we could simply recycle tires using eco-friendly energy, I could be happy with that.
Location: Adelaide, South Australia (Mediterranean climate)
Pretty sure steel has major durability advantages over carbon fibre. I have heard carbon bikes basically lose their stiffness after a few years and eventually will fail. Steel frames could last more than 100 years.
Vulcanization doesn't necessarily require heat. Maya peoples of Central America and southern Mexico were apparently mixing the juice of an Ipomoea species with latex hundreds of years ago to produce rubber very similar in use to what is produced by modern vulcanization techniques. Varying the ratio of Ipomoea juice to latex changes the properties of the rubber. See, for example: http://articles.latimes.com/2010/may/31/science/la-sci-rubber-20100531
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
Bicycles were certainly made (and popular) before petroleum and the resulting plastics became a common sort of thing, but these days, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to do so. Even if you were to construct a bike made of all metals and natural rubber tires and tubes (and a Brooks saddle, of course), there's still the issue of oil being used in the original construction of the thing, and the transport from factory to consumer.
And I'm not sure whale oil is the socially acceptable alternative for chain lube.
If tubes and tires were not produced anymore than I could see bikes going more in this direction.
A lot of them have pieces of car tire fastened to the wooden wheel.
They do manufacture latex tubes already, although I am not sure if it's by design or by the limitations of latex itself but they leak air twice as fast as a normal tube. So it takes energy to keep air in them. If you only had a limited number of pumps or ways to get air in the tire leaky tubes aren't going to be good.
I doubt that we are really going to reinvent rubber today. Here's a good idea. Buy a good bike and then after you have it, don't put any gas in it. To save even more gas, run a delivery service or taxi.
The short answer, then, would be "Yes, it can be done", but the long answer is more complicated. I can lube an entire bike with natural bee's wax. Tires and tubes can be made from natural rubber. So yes, it can be done.
But: When the time comes, will it?
I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
Touch not the cat but a glove.
Friends help you move. Good friends help you move bodies. This tiny ad will help: