TEMANGGUNG, KOMPAS.com - As Indonesian President Joko Widodo led Anthony Albanese around the lush gardens of the Bogor Presidential Palace near Jakarta earlier this month, he presented the new Australian prime minister with an unusual gift: a bamboo bike.
The night before, designer Singgih Susilo Kartono learned it would be the Spedagi model he crafts in a small village on the island of Java that the leaders would ride side-by-side in a unique moment of bicycle diplomacy.
Prime Minister Albanese would tuck his trousers into his socks after the statesmen stripped off their jackets and ties and donned helmets, setting off on the light and environmentally friendly two-wheelers for the symbolic bike ride.
The 54-year-old designer told AFP the diplomatic gesture was a “special, magical moment” for him after years spent working on the bike.
“It’s not about the bike being bought by Jokowi, but the fact that it was used to welcome PM (Albanese),” he said.
When not arming world leaders with new bamboo wheels, Kartono is using his sustainable bike craftsmanship to bring jobs to locals and show Indonesian villagers how they can make use of the environment around them.
“I train youths 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 Kartono’s village in Central Java, where he saddles up for his own bike ride every day.
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.