I found this bike on Fixed Gear Fever. I emailed Shawn (the “framebuilder”) and he sent me the story behind the bike. I’ve uploaded all the pics from Jacob for you to check out. I wanted to share it with our readers for a couple reasons:
- It’s damn cool
- The photos are quite artsy
- It’s really damn cool
After reading his own review, I don’t know how functional the thing is, but as bike art it’s about as cool as it comes. Jacob is a design student, and is actually looking for an internship - so if you are a reader that runs a big design shop and has a slot for an innovative guy like Jacob - hit the Contact page and I’ll get you in touch with him.
Here’s the story as Jacob tells it:
Well the story of the bike is that I was sitting in old Chicago’s with another hipster buddy of mine and we started talking about bamboo bikes and how neat we thought those were. The conversation turned towards how we could build a similar bike and we decided that it would take at least some complicated fixture to set the bottom bracket, head tube, dropouts, etc.
We needed to solve for exactly where it needed to be to get the geometry right then glue it together, and even after everything was glued the bike would be almost unrepairable if something cracked or broke…….because it’s still wood.
So I started to think about how to build a bike that required no glue. Me and my buddy were also taking our hot metals class for our industrial design degree, so I wanted to get some credit for my design. Because the head tube and bottom bracket are welded they would qualify for my hot metals project. I started to think of a flat pack - ready to assemble wood bike. Not necessarily mass producible, but maybe it could be if some tweaks were made. I was thinking of stacking shapes for the design and I came up with the idea that there would be different planes: a center plane and two outer planes that would be essentially be mirrors of each other. I had used Baltic birch plywood before and because it’s a tightly compressed ply-wood it is void free, very strong, and doesn’t warp or twist easily. I drew up a bunch of ideas and started to do the CAD work that actually took longer than anything else.
Because I did most of the work on the computer I was able to change the geometry and styling easily, then I ordered the bottom bracket and raw head tube material and machined those parts and welded the plates that attach the head tube to the three vertical planes. I had the wood pieces cut out on a CNC router and once everything was finished and painted I just bolted it together. The rear wheel is put in by spreading the flat side panels out and putting the axle in the slot, then tension for the chain is done with wood spacers in those slots.
But how is it to ride? It’s like riding a rubber band. It is the most unique feeling because the plywood is really vertically stiff - it doesn’t feel like its going to break, but over the long sides it has a certain amount of sway. The best way I could describe it is like the springiness of a diving board and how it only springs in one direction without twisting. The bottom bracket swings side to side while pedaling and the heat tube has twist when pumping kind of hard, but the bike just kind of wriggles under you wile riding. At slow speeds it is defiantly tricky but at cruising speed it feels like you could swing through cones just carving lines. It really is a blast, and I made it so that if it ever went all Buffy the Vampire Slayer the parts could be replaced easily because they all bolt apart so if one side ever cracked just that piece could be replaced.