The heft and feel of a well-worn handle,
The sight of shavings that curl from a blade;
The logs in the wood pile, the sentiment of huge beams in an old-fashioned house;
The smell of fresh cut timber and the pungent fragrance of burning leaves;
The crackle of kindling and the hiss of burning logs.
Abundant to all the needs of man, how poor the world would be
Without wood.

Everard Hinrichs, quoted by Eric Sloane in A Reverence for Wood


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Great Designs in Wood (24) - The Renovo Bicycle

 Marc Lewis of Dwight Lewis Lumber and Lewis Lumber Products sent me a note that he had taken possession of his new Renovo Hardwood bicycle. And what a beauty!

The bike is made of Pennsylvania curly maple, cherry, and hickory sawn right in Marc's mill. He sent about twenty board feet of lumber to Renovo's facility in Portland, Oregon, and they eventually sent him back his new bike. It was originally supposed to be made only of maple and cherry, but the lumber sent didn't meet the stiffness requirements for the rear fork, so Marc sent them some hickory, and they got it perfected. The bike is featured in the following Renovo video at about the 2:10 mark.
The advantages of wood in this application are well-stated on Renovo's website...

WOOD! It makes the smoothest bike you'll ever ride, stealth quiet, lightweight and responsive, stiff as you want. Renovo hollow wood and laminated bamboo frames will forever change your understanding of what a bicycle should be, and how brilliantly these natural materials perform when designed to their strengths. 

  • Lightweight; a frame weighs from 4 to 5.5 pounds--bikes, 16.5 to 20 pounds.  
  • The smoothest ride of all. Wood absorbs shock and vibration, other materials transmit vibration--you feel the difference immediately. 
  • Stiffness? Oh yeah. As stiff as carbon or better if you wish, but most importantly, we tailor the stiffness and ride quality to your riding style and weight, so the bike is designed for you, not some theoretical average rider. 
  • Rain? C'mon, these things are made and ridden in Portland Oregon. They're sealed inside and out with epoxy, then finished with linear polyurethane, the same clear coat you'll find on expensive cars. 
  • Tough. Most woods used by Renovo are stiffer, stronger and harder than axe handles or baseball bats. The frames easily withstand impacts that ruin butted metal or carbon frames. The fatigue life of wood rivals carbon and is substantially longer than aluminum or steel. 
  • The Renovo frame is environmentally friendly, with sustainable woods, bamboo and low VOC finishes. 
We chose wood not because it's different, not because it's sustainable, but simply because we believe its engineering properties suit the requirements of most bicycle applications better than any other material. The performance of wood in applications more structurally demanding than bicycles has been well proven over many years. The most successful fighter bomber of WWII was the all-wood 400 mph British Mosquito, of which some 7500 were built. The all-wood unlimited hydroplanes Slo Mo Shun, Miss Budweiser and their brethren pounded through the water at well over 150 mph for many years through the '70s, and the fastest unlimited hydroplane ever at 511 mph is all-wood. 
But over the years, wood in high performance applications has mostly been replaced by metals and plastics because wood is far more costly to work with. Designing is difficult because it's properties vary among species, and woodworking is demanding and difficult, so mass production is generally a non-starter. But where production is limited, and the properties of wood are matched to the product, it is difficult to surpass.

Are you a wood elitist and need a cool, sporty status symbol? Couldn't do better than this, at least until Mercedes comes out with a woodie version of their SLS roadster.


Fireball Doowah said...

I've seen them in person, and they are gorgeous.

Matt Pryor said...

I must get one