Wood is a spectacular building material, delivering great stiffness and low density. The contemporary product environment is more material aware than ever. We enjoy a vast range of mold able plastics, metals, and composites and today’s designers are also aware of the great potential of wood. Careful selection of species and grain, combined with modern adhesives and fabrics for reinforcement helps wood reach new potentials.
Early sporting goods depended heavily on wood (bats, ski’s, backpacks, etc.), as did boats, airplanes, furniture, and musical instruments. Today, amazing feats are being accomplished with advanced design and wood. High on my list are lightweight boats, like those made by Joe Greenley at Redfish Kayak in Port Townsend, WA. His wood wonders are among the fastest and lightest boats available of any material.
As you can with Wheel Fanatyk, I’m quite fond of wood rims. It’s more than nostalgia, the material makes a wonderful rim regardless of the vintage of bicycle you have in mind. I’m surprised wood rims are so little appreciated, given their virtues. However, many bicycle frame builders have discovered wood. Here are a few:
Bamboo frames by Craig Calfee have received lots of publicity, including the LA Times, Sundance Institute, and Outside Magazine.
The beautiful German frames of Waldmeister take full advantage of the springy, shock absorption potential of wood.
In Portland, OR, Daedalus Cycles has just launched a bamboo frame business.
One of the most appealing wood bicycle concepts lately is the Jano by the Austrian design firm, GP. Their Web site does a wonderful job of explaining the structural and aesthetic considerations involved in the use of wood for such a fundamental product as a bicycle frame.
While there are certainly a dozen more wood bicycle makers at work, I’ll just end with a glimpse at a fascinating new urban park design for NYC’s Governor’s Island. The Dutch design group, West8 recently won the contract for this project. They envision wood bicycles for the use of visitors. What a delightful concept.
So, when are these “enlightened” designers going to wake up to wood rims? Soon, we hope!