Wooden and bamboo bikes have been a vital and practical working essential for years in parts of Asia, however modern advancements in adhesive, carving techniques and machinery have made wood a viable and indeed credible option in the modern cycling market.
The advantages of Wood
One of the biggest advantages of wood is that it is sustainable and the levels of pollution exerted by the creation of a wooden bike is far less versus a carbon fibre or metal bike. Wood is also far tougher than carbon fibre and is less likely to crack, dent or split. On top of that despite being as stiff as any carbon fibre frame, wood is a natural shock absorber so a wooden frame built to a high quality is likely to provide a smoother ride than a carbon fibre or metal bike. Wood over the years is hardened by the way it grows. For example a tree has to defend itself over the years from various elements such as the wind or freezing temperatures. This makes the fatigue life of wood far greater than that of steel or aluminium.
So why isn’t every bike made of Wood?
There are some disadvantages of wood, the main being the cost. In order to get a decent wooden bike you’re looking at parting with a couple of grand at the minimum. One of the main reasons for the high prices is because despite its durability wood is difficult to prevent from deteriorating. As wood comes from a living organism it is susceptible to the effects of decay, oxidisation, water damage and UV light. To prevent these problems wooden frames must go through a lengthy drying period and receive expensive coats of varnish to preserve the wood. Wooden bikes also require a lot of work done by hand and the workers need to be of a high skill level which makes them virtually impossible to mass produce. Another issue which relates to the vulnerability of wood is that whilst wooden frames are relatively easy and inexpensive to repair unlike their carbon fibre counterparts, if a chip or dent is ignored and not resealed it could quickly become a major problem and could cause permanent structural damage to your wooden bike.
Is it worth getting a wooden bike?
Despite massive advancements in the creation process, wooden bikes for the moment remain very much a fashion statement as the financial cost outweighs the practicality of a wooden bike. However having said that Companies such as Renovo and Connor Wood Bikes have developed a niche market, especially in the U.S. and if you’ve got a spare couple of quid, looking for something a little different but buying a high quality piece of kit then they’re definitely worth a look at. There is no doubt carbon fibre still offers the best all round performance but watch this space as wooden bikes are certainly worth sitting up and taking notice of.