I am building a soapbox (go kart) and I am planing on what materials I could use for the frame and the chassis. I have thought about using bamboo or steel.

Steel is normally the go to material when building the chassis and frame. However, I am starting to think bamboo may be a better choice. My reasoning is that:

  • Bamboo is less dense than steel, this makes the structure lighter and could enable it to go faster.
  • It is cheaper than steel. This leaves room for prototyping and allows me to iterate my way to perfection.
  • More flexible than steel this could be good as the go kart will jump over bumps and slides.
  • No welding would be needed.
  • Depending on the type of steel used, bamboo can have a higher tensile strength than steel.
  • More eco-friendly.

Also, it is possible to make a bamboo composite that produces a stronger bamboo based material.

Could you let me know your thoughts on what I should use: steel, bamboo or something else?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ No experience in this area, but it certainly could be done. This bicycle company makes bamboo bikes. The tough part would be connecting the bamboo pieces. $\endgroup$
    – sam
    Apr 27, 2020 at 22:38
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Sam While there is some bamboo in the frame of that bike, the joints and a lot of the frame is metal. $\endgroup$
    – Eric S
    Apr 27, 2020 at 23:06
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Why would lighter = faster, for a gravity driven kart? $\endgroup$ Apr 29, 2020 at 8:14
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Why not both? Steel lower chassis with all the key parts fixed, bamboo upper frame to keep the C.O.G. low? $\endgroup$ Apr 29, 2020 at 8:15

2 Answers 2


I think the only way to decide this is to make a preliminary design of your cart - twice, once with steel, once with bamboo. You don't need to engineer every detail, but you need to have close look at the critical issues:

  • How to connect individual members (with the tools and skills you have access to)
  • Cost
  • Weight, center of gravity
  • rigidity or stiffness of the whole structure and individual members
  • How does bamboo fail vs. steel?
  • Safety or which material is more likely to impale the rider in case of accident

In my experience, some issues only show up in manufacturing/building, but many issues will become apparant the moment you make a decent drawing of your design.


The idea of bamboo is an interesting thought, but ultimately steel will be a better material to use.

You want a low center of gravity on a GoKart, and using bamboo will raise the center of gravity and make it easier to flip over when approaching turns. The connections would be your biggest problem. I design wood structures everyday and exposed connections are often large because thru bolts are required for larger forces. I could see you running into issues trying to coordinate the frame intersecting and getting the strength you need in shear, flexure, compression, and tension with a bolted connection rather than a welded connection.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.