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Bike Material of the Future: Wood

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Daniyal_Ali
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Wood it work?
Daniyal_Ali   3/10/2014 11:08:52 AM
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Interesting idea Rob. These bikes would definitely dampen the road vibrations and look beautiful on the tracks, but what worries me is the deterioration of wood. We all know it is a hygroscopic material and it will be affected by vapors and other environmental factors. Will the design be able to cater these environmental influences? Because if not, these bicycle frames could be seriously damaged with absorption of moisture and deformation of wood.

NadineJ
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Re: Wood it work?
NadineJ   3/10/2014 3:32:40 PM
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Wooden bike frames have been very popular for a while on the west coast of the U.S.  I haven't heard of any problems with weather or moisture.  An epoxy resin can be used, just as with boats.

I wish the article included some of the existing brands that are also using this vintage material for today's bikes.  The first bicycles were made of wood too.

Renovo in Portland, OR:

Renovo

 

Masterworks in California:

Masterworks

 

tekochip
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Re: Wood it work?
tekochip   3/10/2014 3:37:48 PM
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Agreed, it's a beautiful material, but I worry about moisture and then the lack of it.  This Winter has been so awful that I have three guitars in the shop for cracks.  Two of them are over forty years old and have never had humidty problems before.

 

I bought a humidifier.

J. Williams
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Re: Wood it work?
J. Williams   3/11/2014 12:59:25 PM
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It is entirely appropriate that they are making wooden bike frames at Cedarville University.  I wood even be better if the frames were made from cedar.  (Not very strong though.  :-)

Ratsky
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Re: Wood it work?
Ratsky   3/11/2014 3:21:59 PM
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I had a similar thought!  However, I wood suggest an alternative that wood probably be far stronger and weather-resistant:  bamboo!  I remember visiting Shanghai in the boom years of the early '90s and marvelling at the 24/7 construction workers building huge high-rise buildings using bamboo scaffolding exclusively!  Some of those trunks were 40 cm or more in diameter at the bottom. 

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Wood it work?
Rob Spiegel   3/11/2014 3:02:02 PM
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That's a great question, Daniyal_Ali. Unless it's cared for well, wood won't hold up like aluminum. I would be interesting to know how these cyclists care for the wood. I'll see if I can find out.

kenerator
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Re: Wood it work?
kenerator   3/11/2014 7:13:25 PM
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"Unless it's cared for well, wood won't hold up like aluminum." 

You'd get some arguments from both boat and bicycle owners on that comment. I think there are too many variables to make that statement; from the specific aluminum alloy and wood species, to the application and the environment. 

But since we're talking wood biycles here, I beg to differ based on our testing and the more or less collective 1500 years or 1 million miles of customer riding on Renovo bikes.
  1. The fatigue life of hardwoods exceeds aluminum and steel.
  2. Other than the cheapest bikes, metal bicycle tubing is butted, meaning it is much thinner (.030") in the middle of its length than at the ends. It is therefore very susceptible to dents, which in aluminum are fatal to the frame because dents of any magnitude are stress risers, which will crack in time.
  3. A dent in wood isn't a stress riser, so unless the impact causes a crack, it's just a dent which is easily repaired. See example, bottom of page.
  4. If it is cracked, it can be easily bonded back together with epoxy, just as the joints are bonded.
  5. Renovo bikes are finished with the same clearcoat as late model cars and the finish has the same life expectancy.
  6. Finally, our bikes are easiily refinished.

Ken Wheeler, Renovo

 

 

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Wood it work?
Rob Spiegel   3/11/2014 9:37:25 PM
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Good point, Ken. I've asked the program leader from Cerarville to respond so the comments here. I did get a quote from him about maintaining wooden frames. I posted it in an earlier comment.

kenerator
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Re: Wood it work?
kenerator   3/11/2014 3:31:46 PM
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Mr. Kinsinger's bikes bear a striking resemblance to the Renovo R4, one of our many designs produced since 2007 in Portland Oregon. Renovo has sold bikes all over the world; from South Africa to Alaska and even Belize. They have raced in the Race Across America, the World Ironman Championships and MTB races from New Zealand to Texas. Of the hundreds of bikes sold we have never had a problem from moisture, and our six year old customer bikes look just as good as the new ones in our showroom. 

Most people have no knowledge of what the finish on their car is, but nevertheless accept it will keep the steel underneath from rusting. But when wood is mentioned, some folks leap to the conclusion failure is imminent, despite the obvious examples of wooden houses, boats, skis, surfboards and even airplanes. Protecting wood from moisture is neither hard nor black magic, just good engineering. 

Guitars however, are not designed for significant moisture resistance because they reside indoors, and in fact, most acoustical guitar bodies are unfinished on the inside thereby exposing them to changes in humidity.

 

 

 

 

Rob Spiegel
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Answer about maintaing the wood
Rob Spiegel   3/11/2014 9:21:04 PM
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I received this info from the program leader, Jay Kinsinger regarding finishes to preserve the wood:
The answer to the question is that the frames are sealed on the inside and the outside has the same finish which is used on gun stocks. The rule of thumb for a nice gun stock is: 1 coat of finish / day for a week, 1 coat a month for a year and finally one coat a year for a lifetime. In other words, it is not maintenance free. The finish is simply wiped on with a rag.....easy to apply. As is the case with wooden boats they will outlast their plastic/fiberglass/carbon-fiber counterparts but only if they are properly taken care of. 
 
Jay H Kinsinger


kenerator
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Re: Answer about maintaing the wood
kenerator   3/11/2014 11:24:56 PM
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It's important to recognize that Mr. Kinsinger appears to be making 'hobby' bikes for their education value and his material choices seem reasonable for that effort. He uses a wipe-on oil finish intended for interior use; easy and cheap to apply, typical on furniture and gunstocks which don't experience the outdoor hours a bicycle does. The oil finish looks good initially but according to the USDA Forest Products Labratory General Technical Report FPL-GTR-190, any oil finish has very limited Moisture Excluding Effectiveness (MEE). In their testing at 80 degrees F and 90% RH, linseed oil, on which all oil finishes are based, has a 12% MEE on day 1 and 0% MEE by day 7. 

That quality of finish would never be acceptable on a commercial product. Renovo has given nearly every commercial coating on the market extensive testing to arrive at the best possible finish currently available. Our bikes are finished with 3 coats of catalyzed linear polyurethane applied over three coats of epoxy sealer, or 6 coats total. The same FPL report shows epoxy at 91% MEE in 14 days, linear polyurethane at 74% in 14 days. We have never experienced a finish problem in six years in any climate. Our wooden bikes require no more maintenance than a carbon or metal bike. 

 

Ken Wheeler, Renovo

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Answer about maintaing the wood
Rob Spiegel   3/11/2014 11:35:47 PM
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Thanks much for your comments on this story, Ken.. Your real-world experience adds a great deal. I've also invited Jay to join in. This is a great thread.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Answer about maintaing the wood
Ann R. Thryft   3/12/2014 1:18:40 PM
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This is fun--thanks, Rob. Looks like a smart material to make a more pleasant ride.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Answer about maintaing the wood
Rob Spiegel   3/12/2014 1:52:05 PM
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Thanks Ann. Interesting that we have two bike frame stories up in one week. Nice job on your 3D bike frame story:

http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=272030&itc=dn_analysis_element&

 

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Answer about maintaing the wood
Ann R. Thryft   3/13/2014 12:24:44 PM
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Thanks, Rob, I noticed that, too. And the 3D printed bike frames I wrote about aren't even of the same materials. Titanium frames kind of blew my mind. That's quite a ways from airplane wings.

Jerry dycus
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Gold
Re: Wood it work?
Jerry dycus   3/27/2014 8:48:55 PM
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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.

 

 

 

Crackle
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Silver
There's wood and there's wood
Crackle   3/11/2014 8:37:56 AM
Given the right wood, adhesives and coatings, there's no reason to be sceptical about wooden bike frames. We've been building wood-framed (and some plywood-skinned) aircraft for over a century now, with great success. A comparable engineering challenge, perhaps, with weight, strength and complexity well within our abilities. Wooden boats have perhaps more latitude with weight, but greater requirement for the right water-resistant coatings and adhesives.

tekochip
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Platinum
Re: There's wood and there's wood
tekochip   3/11/2014 9:33:11 AM
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Excellent point Crackle.

bob from maine
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Re: There's wood and there's wood
bob from maine   3/11/2014 10:46:53 AM
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Using Epoxy resins to saturate wood and give it desired engineering characteristics has been done for decades. Before Epoxy, resorcinol glues were used to make airplane wings and propellors, and of-course boats. Some of the early wind power propellors were made of wood veneers as they were lighter and their performance could be very accurately predicted. Not sure flexibility is a desirable characteristic in a bicycle frame though. Wood saturated with epoxy is probably as dimensionally stable as any other material in regards to environmental changes. The difficulty is doing it the same every time.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: There's wood and there's wood
Rob Spiegel   3/11/2014 3:08:05 PM
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Good points, Crackle. I sent a note to the wooden bike maker to find out how he cares for the wood. I'll post the answer when I get it.

Li HUANG
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Iron
Re: There's wood and there's wood
Li HUANG   3/17/2014 9:17:17 AM
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How this walnut idea from for frame of a bike ?  A forever memory.

Mar. 17 2014  21:16 +8 w8p12c .hk

JimT@Future-Product-Innovations
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Too much time will always cost too much money
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   3/11/2014 9:50:30 AM
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Rob, while your title calls it a Material of the Future (I get it, spoken tongue in cheek) there was one line I specifically noted which guarantees this initiative will never launch as tomorrow's material of choice: "Each frame takes hundreds of hours to build". This is a beautiful hobbyist project, and they do look like a fun garage project; but I'm missing the point of why it's being developed at a University.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Too much time will always cost too much money
Rob Spiegel   3/11/2014 3:11:15 PM
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Great point, Jim. And it's a good question. Ultimately, the bike is built so the engineering students can test it for a range of stresses, In the article, Jay noted that the bikes are actually destroyed by the testing procedures.

kenerator
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Re: Too much time will always cost too much money
kenerator   3/11/2014 7:19:28 PM
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Mr. Kinsinger comments "Wood varies in a 3D way" and "it's a challenge to evaluate wood".

In the first statement I think he's trying to say wood is anisotropic, but that doesn't mean the second statement. It is however, a challenge to evaluate a bicycle frame, which is a complex structure utilizing the full range of the material's mechanical properties; bending, compressive and tensile strength, fatigue resistance, torsional stiffness, vibration damping, etc. But, like the metals, all of these properties can be measured and tested non-destructively, so I wonder how and which properties are actually tested, and why the student's bikes are tested to destruction.

At Renovo we test frame designs to failure initially, and later to compare against design changes or different designs, but without testing the individual materials and tube properties beforehand and evaluating against a baseline dataset, destructive testing is meaningless.

We have turned many thousands of board feet of wood into bicycles and have never experienced a 'hidden' weakness. 

Ken Wheeler, Renovo

Sojourner Cyclery
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Re: Too much time will always cost too much money
Sojourner Cyclery   3/13/2014 9:49:53 AM
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I have the highest respect for Ken Wheeler and Renovo. Renovo is one of the manufacturers that inspired me. Please understand that there are things in the article that made me cringe like the part about "hidden flaws" and I'm very familiar of the term anisotropic. Ken is dead right, my bikes are hobby bikes akin to an experimental aircraft. That doesn't necessarily make them inferior. As I said before, the finish is not maintenance free. My objective was to appeal to those of us with the engineering genetic defect that forces us to "make stuff ourselves". If you don't have that defect, buy a Renovo. I will be exhibiting and speaking at the NAHBS (North American Hand Built Bicycle Show) this weekend (March 14-16) in Charlotte NC. Ken, if you're there I would very much like to meet you.

JimT@Future-Product-Innovations
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Re: Too much time will always cost too much money
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   3/17/2014 2:58:05 PM
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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.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Too much time will always cost too much money
Rob Spiegel   3/11/2014 3:11:15 PM
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Great point, Jim. And it's a good question. Ultimately, the bike is built so the engineering students can test it for a range of stresses, In the article, Jay noted that the bikes are actually destroyed by the testing procedures.

stevejahr
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Wood - forgotten but not gone
stevejahr   3/11/2014 5:35:59 PM
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Wood has many beneficial properties as a material and is natures original composite.  Wood is still a popular material for aircraft where strength and weight are critical parameters and do not forget that the world's largest aircraft was made mostly of wood.  With proper engineering wood is QUITE capable!

Regarding flexibility: yes it *is* desireable to have some flexibility in a bicycle frame as this is the suspension for most bikes.  This is a key differentiator between steel, aluminum, and carbon fiber composite bike frames.  Steel is quite elastic and forgiving providing a smoother ride which long distance riders prefer.  Aluminum fatigues if allowed much flex and therefore must be made exceeding stiff giving a harsh and noisy ride.  Carbon is preferred not just for it's light weight but it's engineered flexibility with the structure designed to be rigid where needed and flexible where needed.

This sounds like a fabulous experience and learning laboratory for students.  Factoring grain and density affects into the structural analysis will prepare these students well for any future efforts with other materials.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Wood - forgotten but not gone
Rob Spiegel   3/11/2014 9:26:25 PM
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Thanks Stevejahr. This is a good point regarding the earlier question about the value of this program for college-level students. 

These comments are interesting, so I invited the program leader, Jay, to join the comments conversation.

MarkdWeinstein
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Wooden Bikes by College Students
MarkdWeinstein   3/12/2014 2:42:13 PM
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I have been intrigued by the creativity and engineering of the students and Professor Jay Kinsinger from Cedarville University. I've personally seen many of his wooden bikes and they're impressive. His tandem bicycle is in the United States Bicycle Museum in northern Ohio. Jay has done a great job with his students through their capstone project--I only wish other engineering faculty throughout the nation would be as creative in their teaching.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Wooden Bikes by College Students
Rob Spiegel   3/12/2014 3:49:30 PM
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Thanks Mark. Jay's program has sparked quite a bit of interest among Design News readers.

bobjengr
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MATERIAL OF THE FUTURE
bobjengr   3/13/2014 7:51:21 PM
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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.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: MATERIAL OF THE FUTURE
Rob Spiegel   3/13/2014 7:55:51 PM
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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.

bobjengr
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Re: MATERIAL OF THE FUTURE
bobjengr   3/15/2014 5:35:27 PM
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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.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: MATERIAL OF THE FUTURE
Rob Spiegel   3/15/2014 6:55:36 PM
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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."

tekochip
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Re: MATERIAL OF THE FUTURE
tekochip   3/17/2014 4:06:27 PM
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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?"


Li HUANG
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Iron
A forever product
Li HUANG   3/17/2014 9:12:57 AM
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How the walnut idea to be the frame of bike ? A forever memo.

Mar. 17 2014  21:11 +8 w8p12c .hk

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