The $9 cardboard bicycle

Israeli designer Giora Kariv invented his $9 cardboard bicycle after hearing about someone who'd created a cardboard canoe. The finished product is advertised as remarkably strong and durable:

The Cardboard Bicycle Project is a new, revolutionary and green concept that produces bicycles which are made of durable recycled cardboard.

ERB is an active partner who manages all the business and financial aspects.

The first commercial model of bicycles is designed for large companies as a vehicle for the employees and to large cities as a cheap, light-weight vehicle and parallel to it the electric model is being developed.

The Cardboard Bicycle can withstand water and humidity, coated with a strong layer of brown and white material, making the finished product look like it is made of hard lightweight plastic and can carry riders weighing up to 220 kilograms. The cost to make the bicycle is around $9-$12 and the manufacturer expects that the cost to the consumer would be around $60-$90 depending on what parts they choose to add on.

Cardboard Bicycles (via MeFi)


  1. So this really isn’t a $9 bicycle.
    It’s more like a +6x markup bike.
    So it’s like saying Schwinn can make a bike for $40, but they are going to sell it to you for $300.

    Still impressive that a “cardboard” bike can hold 400+lbs.

    1. It looks like the brakes, brake levers, pedals, headset and tires are off the shelf items.  One of the other bikes on his website has a conventional handlebar, and I suspect that the one in the video may have a regular bar under grey.  I can’t get a good look at the drive train, but I suspect the chain isn’t cardboard, and that there are regular bearings in the wheels. 

      Not sure what’s up with the bottom bracket, it’s huge.

      I note that the brake pads grab on the coated cardboard rim.  I wonder how the coating holds up?  I suspect that the coated cardboard isn’t a particularly efficient heat sink so I suspect brake fade on downhills will be remarkable.

      As an art/builder project it’s stunning. 

      1. The BB has to be huge is my guess, I think under there would be a tremendous BB that also functions as front ring for a SS belt drive. 

        Eliminates rings & cranks, sort of.

        huge cylindrical BB buildout provides bountiful support for the base of your a-frame and torques, 

        allows comparatively short, stubby cranks of the favoured material, 

        belt drive can run dry, eliminating risk of caustic fluids on favoured material,

        a belt drive with coaster brake (or “fixed” … I guess… would feel weird) would mean that the front brake is there for speed adjustment rather than stopping, so light use only front brake.

        Or it’s a standard drivetrain cheap stamped in China and covered up for that reason, but probably not I hope.

        I wonder if he sticks to the almost race geometry for a reason mechanical, or a reason like marketability, since it looks like a fixie as he has it now. Since it is clearly not a fast bike, I feel it must be fashion, because when performance is not the goal the race geometry has some drawbacks.

    1.  As long as its function is to make Walmart money and allow the buyer to reply: “Oh, I have a bicycle!” which is allowed a quiet life in the shed. ;)

        1. Those of us who work on bikes have an acronym for these shitheaps: BSOs.

          They aren’t bikes, merely bike-shaped objects.

      1. You actually believe that? How much would you be willing to wager on the cardboard bike lasting longer than the Walmart bike?

        Before you answer, I’ll tell you that I had a bike of similar mass-retail made-in-Asia origins and price and it served me well for three years, including 100 mile bike rides.   Then it got stolen.  Someone is probably still riding it today.

        The “$9 cardboard Bicycle” headline gets attention because people have fallen for marketing hype that has made them think a “real” bike must cost $1000, much as they think “running shoes” must cost $200.  They don’t.

        We love stories that make us thing some rad, out-of-the-box guy has found a way to bring elite modern tech to the third world masses but bike technology matured about 100 years ago.  Everything since then has been tiny nibbles around the edges of its basic operation.

        The third world has had affordable bikes for a long time because they were smart enough to go with what works, not with what is advertised.

        1. Wal-mart bikes are made to lesser standards than “similar mass-retail made-in-Asia origins” bikes by design of their acquisition model. 

          The same asian firm that makes $125.00 bikes for Sears or Toys-r-us will pump out lesser bikes for Wal-mart in larger numbers. It’s how they roll. (Wal-mart, not the bike)

          Another problem with those bikes is the aforementioned features. 18 speeds, dual disc-brakes, suspension front and back, or any of these features alone and you have a suspect product. Most of the “mountain bikes” of this retail level come with specific warning to NOT ride the bike except on paved level ground. Many of the aforementioned features cannot be repaired or replaced on said bikes. Even Wal-mart bikes with these features, that actually work and keep working, range between $250-$450. You can also buy real bikes at Wal-mart, but not at “Wal-mart” prices as people think for bicycles

          It is possible to produce a lasting bike for a mass market for everyday use, these bikes just don’t resemble the fake racers that are the predominant product of the market you are defending. 

          The cardboard bike, no one said it would last longer than a junker from a box store, can’t see where you got that, but if is a single-speed, belt drive, coaster brake bicycle I think it is it will outlast any non-single speed, super-featured fake racer that gets chumped onto so many US customers who want a single speed bicycle to ride but feel compelled to buy a “hi performance” piece of trash, for the very reason you gave, but for far too little investment research, at a shitty box store.

          1. So again. If this magic cardboard bike costs $9 to make. Why in the blue blazes of Xanth’s Imaginary Economy is it going to cost Me Mr John Q Consumer $60+?

          2.  @google-c5868c47252dbe2d7b51541d5f7b6f51:disqus  Because the brakes, wheels, gears, chain, seat, and more are not going to be made out of cardboard.

        2.  My point was about the Walmart bikes. Yet my fear that it could fail at any moment might just give me that missing drop of adrenaline necessary to be able to outrace a bear on my way to James Bay. :D

          I still can like the story, the effort and the… well… very original “in the box” thinking of that man without entertaining much hope that his design will dominate the World.

        3. If you really imagine bike tech truly ‘matured’ a century ago, you know not of what you speak.

          As far as I’m concerned, the basic design wasn’t completed until 1992, when Shimano introduced the brifter. Hyperglide (another Shimano innovation everyone had to copy) is pretty important too (allowing indexed gears to work well, paving the way for brifters), and only dates back to the mid 80s.

          As for marketing dictating the constraints, yes and no. The modern narrow chains (9+ speed) are pretty silly, but just about every other recent change to industry standards has had a quite solid basis in engineering, and often doesn’t necessarily cost any more.

          I tell you what works for a human-powered vehicle – efficiency. Using tech trapped in amber for a century doesn’t help with that.

          Simplicity and durability isn’t mutually exclusive with modernity, and I don’t buy the argument that only the simplest bikes will do for the third world anyway. Give em 24 speed hybrids and they’ll be bloody stoked; 1 in 30 people anywhere in the world is easily smart enough to figure out exactly how it all works, and to kludge a fix without proper parts.

    2. For some values of “functional.”  The < $100 bikes in Wal*Mart are, honestly, dangerous if used in any serious manner.  If you take them to a park and ride them around a level, paved path at 10 MPH, they'll probably give you a few years worth of service, perhaps 100 miles or so.
      If you try to use them for transportation, you'll find yourself replacing parts very soon, and I've seen firsthand extremely dangerous failures due to really junk parts – brakes that simply snap off is the biggest example.

  2. It would be cool to see his techniques for working with cardboard published. While I’m skeptical about this working out on an industrial scale, for batch builds using cardboard in this way is a great solution. It’s plentiful, cheap and …brown.

  3. Watching the video, I had a vision:  Hipsters. Hipsters everywhere. Riding recycled cardboard bicycles, wearing recycled paper clothing, and sipping recycled lattes.

    1. I had a vision as well…that scene from Water World.
      Hipster pees in machine, gets steaming hot latte out.

  4. You’re not gonna win the Tour on that thing.

    Anyway, I love this thing. Always dreamt of making a bike out of plywood…this is way, way cooler.

  5. Amazing what you can do with a bunch of cardboard.  And 40 pounds of Bondo and paint.

  6. How much does it weigh? An actual $9 bike would come in handy as a transportation option. I recently left a $10 thrift store bike unlocked for a week at the bus station, and was pleasantly surprised that it was still there. It costs more than $9 to take a bike on a greyhound, so it would be nifty if you could buy a disposable/recyclable bike for $9 at the airport/bus station/hotel, then give it away when you fly home.
    If the frame is ~ $9, how much can the boingboing maker community make the rest of the parts for, so that amazon can ship the kit the same day?
    – arbitrary aardvark

  7. It’s really cool, but my poo-poo comment it’s that it’s not like this is ready for an Instructables post. It either takes one person a long time with some special cardboard (I never see stuff like what he used at my recycling transfer station) or it takes a company that can put this into a production line.

  8. This has one advantage over the current welded frames: since the glue makes the joints actually stronger than weaker, you can achieve the same stability with less material.

    I am very interested in how the results of this stunt will find their way into other developments, e.g. 3D-printing bikes or a new way to create carbon-fiber-frames.

    1. This has one advantage over the current welded frames: since the glue makes the joints actually stronger than weaker, you can achieve the same stability with less material.

      Reynolds 853

  9. that headset doesn’t look like it’s made of cardboard.  brake is off-the-shelf as previously mentioned.  bearings in the bottom bracket and wheels are for damn sure not cardboard.  drivetrain is probably a belt (good choice.)   what they mean is that the FRAME, and most of the wheels, and maybe the crank, is made of cardboard.

    this $9 figure is specious as hell.

  10. So this guy makes a innovative bike design, locks up every last bit of data in IP patents and then decides on a 600% markup. A much more humble 100% would enable the poor in developed and developing nations to get a bike, something they might not be able to afford otherwise. That being said though, at least metal bikes can be scavenged and rigged together. This thing doesn’t look like it would survive such treatment.

    TL;DR: Meh.

    1. About that 600% markup: it isn’t 600%.
      One needs to factor in the manpower, the marketing, the factory overhead and, as stated in the article the extra parts in the cost + the 9$.

      1. If Direct and Indirect costs are not already factored in, then it does not cost $9 to make as the article says.  As for the extra parts it would be nice if you can pull them off, and replace the frame only, so you’re first bike is in ~$100 range, and replacement frames are $12-25.

  11. It’d make sense at an industrial scale, and it makes sense as a prototype, but to put this amount of work into building a bike made out of cardboard otherwise would be madness.

  12. I just want to see someone try to go ta a skate park with one of those things. After the 1st jump it would warp, the 2nd they would just eat it.

  13. Bain Capital or some American will buy it, ship to China and several other Countries, then back across the Ocean to be more competitive, with who we do not know, and charge $1,500 to some nut who will ride it a couple of times.  Then another American will buy it, sell it to Movie Stars and Pro Athletes wives for $8,000. 

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