Jay Kinsinger prepares to ride his wooden bike from the University of Dayton to the University of Notre Dame (238 miles). He was part of a team of riders from Cedarville University who were supporting the pro-life work of the Life Resource Center in Dayton, Ohio. (Source: Mark D. Weinstein)
Wood is a great engineering material. It's light, strong, damps vibrations and done right, lasts 100 yrs+.
I've been watching some of the old 50's, 60's westerns, The Rilfleman especially and they use many kinds the most cool , light wood wagon designs that survived the 'roads' back then. How they use wood flexibility/strength to absord the forces yet weigh little so 1 hp could move them easily and not jar the riders to death.
Most cars before the 30's were made from wood with metal tacked on, thus the Tin Lizzie model T. MGs, Morgans etc were into the 50's! The Morgan 3wh RT was made into the 60's. The 'Marcos racecar' is still being built.
I drive my wood/epoxy MC's every day. My Harley size EV trike only cost $500 and 32 hours to build and now going on 3 yrs. I'm building a Reverse Trike cabin car now I'll likely make into a plans vehicle.
My last one was rear ended by a compact car and totaled it vs the $40 it took to put mine back on the road. For low costs, beauty when finished clear which also takes much less work it's really hard to beat wood/epoxy vehicles done well.
The only problem is everyone is always taking your picture!! The good thing is EVERYBODY sees you so they don't crash into you. Sadly just last month someone watching me rearended another!! Too many people can't handle anything different as so little is anymore. Women really love them is a bonus.
Since wood/epoxy needs so little labor and cost you can build a couple body/chassis with it until you get what you want. My RT mockups cost less than $100 each lets you sit in them, etc before doing the final one. Even a finished one, body/chassis, is $300 in materials.
I also do high tech composites, metals, etc and for weight/strength/cost, especially in vibrating environments, it's hard to beat wood/epoxy. Only strionger is CF and only barely. That's why the fastest WW2 Britsh plane was the Mosuito 'Bomber' made near completely from wood and tore the German Me109's etc up.
Back when they started making larger wind generators, the 70's, they couldn't make a metal or composite blade that would live over 60' long so had to turn back to wood/epoxy
A Company that makes WEST System Epoxy did them until they finally figure out how to make them syrvive with composites. They have an excellent wood engineering/ structual design manual. Especially look up Tortured Ply technic I use to build coumpound curved bilged 40' boat hulls in just 10 manhrs.
Facts are engineered wood like plywood/epoxy/ laminated and others is a great sustainable stucturual material and it's use will only grow in the future bringing beauty and great strength to bikes, homes, boats, aircraft and many other things.
I do that to my wife all the time, particularly on a bouncy day. If I have to refold a chart or grab something for the kneeboard and a gust knocks the aircraft out of level flight I'll nod towards the yoke and ask my wife, "You want to get that?"
To Kenerator & Sojourner – you two have disclosed a fact I never knew existed, being that Renovo is an existing commercial supplier of wood-frame bikes. Never heard of Renovo or the Wooden Bike industry before. So, thanks for that.
So to my first observation, where the high number of hours required producing this product will make it cost-prohibitive and attractive only to enthusiasts, I do understand that there will always be a niche-market for such craftsmanship.
To the second query about having university students design, build, test & evaluate similar products made from wood materials, I'm trying to imagine how they may put their knowledge to practical application in their future careers. I guess what they learn about strength of wooden materials will be useful in other industries such as hardwood furniture applications, but it's definitely a much narrower opportunity than a metallurgy background, for example.
Hey Bobjengr, When I went up in the wooden/canvass plane, the pilot turned the controls over to me -- by surprise. When I explained that I didn't know what I was doing, he said, "Worst case, all you have to do is let go of the controls and it will straighten out and glide."
Rob-- One thing that was a real eye-opener was nose wheel rotation at 60 MPH. Then you're flying. The plane literally lifts within 60 or 70 yards of runway. The glide ratio was at least 1000 to 1. If you ever had an engine out and had to make an emergency landing, you could glide through three states before needing to find a suitable landing site. Those were the good old days.
Thanks Bobjengr. The professor quoted in the article is in this comments thread, as is the principal of a commercial wooden bike manufacturer. You can ask question by replying to their comments directly.
My brother-in-law -- and aerial photographer -- once took me up in a wooden place covered with shellacked canvas. Quite a thrill.
Great post Rob. I logged flight hours in a wooden, fabric-covered Piper Tri-Pacer and never really worried about structural integrity although I must admit, I never really considered a wooden bike. It does seem to me a wooden bike structure would be best suited for cross-country and not mountain biking. Do you know if any student or rider uses one for this purpose? I also would love to learn more about the grades of wood might be available for this purpose and will certainly do some work to find out. Again, very interesting post.
Highly regarded engineer and physicist Ransom Stephens speaks with Design News about his extensive science and engineering background, the serious yet funny study of neuroscience, and how one primes their brain for innovation.
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