TEMANGGUNG, INDONESIA (AFP) – As Indonesian President Joko Widodo led Mr Anthony Albanese through the lush gardens of a presidential palace in south Jakarta earlier this month, he presented Australia’s new Prime Minister with an unusual gift: a bamboo bike.
The previous night, designer Singgih Susilo Kartono learned that it would be the Spedagi model he manufactures in a small village on the island of Java that leaders would ride side by side in a unique moment of bicycle diplomacy.
Prime Minister Albanese was tucking his trousers into his socks after the statesmen took off their jackets and ties and donned helmets, setting off on the lightweight, eco-friendly two-wheelers for the symbolic bike ride.
The 54-year-old designer told AFP the diplomatic gesture was a “special and magical moment” for him after years of working on the bike.
“It’s not about the bike bought by Jokowi, but about the fact that it was used to accommodate the (Albanian) prime minister,” he said.
When he’s not arming world leaders with new bamboo wheels, Mr. Kartono is using his bicycle craftsmanship to create jobs for locals and show Indonesian villagers how they can use the environment that surrounds them.
“I train young people here who lack skills. We have a system to train unskilled people until they can create quality products,” he said.
The model, named after the Indonesian words “sepeda” for bicycle and “pagi” for morning, is built by a team of 15 employees at a workshop in Mr. Kartono’s village in central Java, where he puts on saddle for his own bike ride every day. .
The fast-growing bamboo stalks are cut by his team, coated with preservatives, dried, then laminated before being combined with other parts to assemble the sturdy bike frame.
Pound for pound, bamboo is as strong as steel when used in lightweight structures, studies have shown, with high tensile strength making it a worthy and environmentally friendly substitute.
A fully assembled Spedagi bamboo bike can take a complex week of work and fetch up to 15 million rupees (S$1,400), and some have been sold as far away as Japan, the co-founder told AFP. of the company Tri Wahyuni.
friendship on wheels
The green wheels used by the two leaders were built with more expensive parts, Mr Kartono said, declining to disclose the price of their rides.
Mr. Widodo, famous at home for gifting bikes to ordinary Indonesians, is a Spedagi fan and bought one personally from Mr. Kartono in 2015.
Mr Albanese was also thrilled with the bike, bringing it back to Canberra and saying people would see it on the streets on what may be “the only bamboo bike” in the Australian capital.
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