(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Sat, 25 Nov 2017) London, Uk – –
The forerunner of the bicycle – the laufmaschine or running machine – bears only a passing resemblance to the pedal-bikes we know today.
Invented in 1817, it had no chain and was powered by the rider pushing his feet along the ground in a walking or running motion.
Even more unusually, its frame was made from wood.
Jump forward to 2017, and a crop of bike makers is turning back the clock – at least in terms of using wood as a core material.
These firms make their bicycles in part, and occasionally wholly, from woods such as ash, oak and walnut.
They are driven by a love of craft and design, the desire to use natural materials, and a passion for cycling itself.
And they have attracted a small but growing base of enthusiastic customers, willing to pay high prices for their lovingly crafted creations.
“People like having something unique, something different,” says Chris Connor, the founder of Connor Wood Bicycles.
“They also appreciate the craftsmanship. Not a lot of things are built by hand these days.”
The company was born in 2012, after the 48-year-old American decided to combine his long held passions for woodwork and cycling.
All his bikes all have wooden frames; the other parts, such as the gears and wheels, are made from steel, carbon or rubber.
Prices range from $3,500 (£2,600) to $11,000.
Sales have gradually been increasing, but it hasn’t been easy, says Mr Connor. That’s because of a perception among some cyclists that wooden bikes may break or be unsafe.
In fact, Mr Connor says wood is very durable, which is why it’s used to make tool handles, skis, boats, even light aircraft.
It also absorbs vibrations well, making cycling on bumpy roads smoother, less tiring and quieter.
“And of course, these bikes look great,” says Mr Connor, who makes his frames made from “strong but flexible” white ash or “eye candy” black walnut.
A recently published book called “The Wooden Bicycle: Around the World” features 111 companies that make bikes from wood or bamboo.
Only one, Splinterbike in the UK, sells 100% wooden models with its bikes featuring wooden gears, chains and wheels.
However, most limit their use of wood to the frame, and occasionally parts such as the handlebars and forks. Other parts will be made from materials typically associated with bikes, such as aluminium.
It is the unique design of wooden bikes, and their bespoke craftsmanship, that underpins their appeal, says Gregor Cuzak.
The Slovenian co-founded Woodster Bikes after meeting woodworker Iztok Mohoric, who had recently designed a bike with a wooden frame.
“I wasn’t interested at first, but after I saw it and took a ride, I was immediately convinced,” Mr Cuzak says. “People were watching me as if I was driving a wild sports car.”
Like other firms in the space, Woodster is targeting customers who appreciate the finer things in life. Its bike frames are made of woods such as beech and bog oak, and prices range from 2,500 euros (£2,190) up to 17,000 euros.
In addition, every customer gets a book with a story about how their individual bike was made.
“We even plant a new tree at the same location where we cut one for your bike,” Mr Cuzak adds.
Piet Brandjes, 63, who co-founded Dutch firm Bough Bikes, agrees that wooden bikes “attract attention”.
For that reason, firms in the Netherlands such as Novotel and Rabobank have bought Bough Bikes for their guests and employees to use.
By Thessa Lageman