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Fast Furniture: Renovo Hardwood Bicycles

Listing #2571   Listed on: 02/17/2010

Company Name: Renovo Design LLC

Contact Name:   Ken Wheeler
While fiddling around with airplanes I learned that the engineering properties of wood made it a superb candidate for bicycles. So, borrowing from the knowledge base of both the marine and aircraft industries, and after extensive study, design and testing, I developed wooden bicycles which are lightweight, durable, sustainable, and of course show the beauty of wood in a context which surprises most people. Um yes, there are skeptics... many.
The frames are hollow, weighing from 3.5 to 5 lbs, yielding bicycles weighing from 16 Ĺ pounds to 20 lbs. Wood allows us to tailor the ride qualities of smoothness and stiffness to the needs of the particular owner, which is not practical in production bikes. While not quite as lightweight as carbon bikes, we can exceed them in stiffness while retaining noticeably superior ride qualities.
We test every stick of wood we buy for stiffness and other properties, and have accumulated a substantial database of wood properties. This enables us to predict the stiffness and ride qualities of our bikes made from a wide range of woods. The FPL data is a rough guide to properties, but completely inadequate for our purposes.
Our designs are modeled in Solidworks, edited in AutoCad, and toopathed in Alphacam. Aside from the usual woodworking machinery, the mainstay of production is a Routech 220 CNC router. All laminating and bonding is done with high-temp Pro-Set Epoxy, oven cured. The finish quality and durability is crucial, so all frames are coated with epoxy, then shot with linear polyurethane. We have sold bicycles all over the world, and some will soon pass the 10,000 mile mark, still looking as good as the day they were delivered.

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Renovo R2 in Doug Fir and Bubinga, carbon stays

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R4 Pursuit, Wenge, Padauk and Sapele, wood stays

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R4 frame, Walnut/Port Orford Cedar, wood stays

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R2 Head Tube, Sapele, Curly Maple

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R2 Seat tube, Bubinga, Curly Maple

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R2 Headtube, Ash, Purpleheart

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Renovo R2, Maple, Bubinga

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Seat tube cluster

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Headtube area

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Wenge, Padauk, Sapele

Viewer Comments:

Posted By: Bob the Wood Doctor     [02/17/2010]
Now that's really cool! What a clever idea. They're just too pretty too use though. It would be a shame to soil or (heaven forbid) damage such a work of art. Great job.

Posted By: Josh Weltman     [02/17/2010]
Do you make mountain bikes? I'll supply the old growth clear western red cedar and doug fir.

Posted By: Ken Wheeler     [02/17/2010]
Bob, Bob, Bob; Thing is, we usually have hardwoods on the outside, so they stand up to abuse pretty well. The most damage we've seen was a bike that was shipped to Germany, did a tour of nearly 1000 miles, traveled on buses, streetcars, trains and car racks. It came back with one small dent which we easily refinished to as-new. These bikes are meant to be used, but like most high-end bikes, they're not abused either.

Josh, our first mountain bike will leave the computer screen on its way to the CNC in about a week. The first bike is hickory, we'll see what it takes to break it, then explore some other woods. Thank you guys for the kind words.

Posted By: ScottG     [02/18/2010]
Beautiful work!

If you could find enough of that stuff the Aborigines used for blow-gun darts, maybe you could also make the spokes out of wood :)

Posted By: JimD     [02/18/2010]
Those are spectacular.

Posted By: Lee Bargeron     [02/19/2010]
Hi, Have you dappled with Amboyna? I have fabbed a couple sets of gun handles with it and it is spectacular! I wonder how it would hold up in frame shape?

Posted By: urbanlumberinc     [02/19/2010]
WOW! As a woodnut and former cycling junkie, I MUST have one of those (soon as I hit the lottery.)

Posted By: Brian     [02/19/2010]
Wow, really beautiful work. Have you considered using threaded forks/quill stems? I think they would detract less from such an elegant form.

Posted By: ken wheeler     [02/21/2010]
Thanks guys,
Hi praise from this website. Haven't tried amboyna or narra, but the properties look good, I'll look for it. We've hardly scratched the surface of woods we can use. I do want to do a snakewood bike, and I've got my eye on a fabulous plank of waterfall bubinga. The threaded fork is a good idea except our customers usually go for state-of-the-art components. Because our bikes can compete with the best of traditional materials, we steer clear of wooden rims etc, so as to not to appear any quirkier than we already are. We do benefit immensely from low expectations when someone demos a bike.

Posted By: Jamie     [02/28/2010]
BEAUTIFUL. I'm curious about the weight compared to other traditional materials. I'm sure you're inundated with wood suggestions, what about pecan? Plentiful and immensely strong. I've used it to make entry door handles.

Great work!!!

Posted By: Ken Wheeler     [03/01/2010]
Thanks Jamie. Our frame and bike weights are in the description above. Renovos are generally lighter than all but carbon race frames.
Pecan and hickory are related and similar in properties. We've built a number of hickory frames in combination with other woods, one of my favorites.

Posted By: Joe Dickey     [03/03/2010]
Are you aware of the wooden frame bikes built in the late 1800's?
The Wright boys were building them before they got into aviation. Look into the Ford Museum. That is where I saw them several years ago.

Posted By: Robert     [03/03/2010]
Have you tried using bois d'arc wood? I hear it is extremely strong and also very brightly colored.

Posted By: Murat Altinbasak     [03/04/2010]
I am blown away! I have been racing as a Cat 2 licensee since the late 80's and I still race in a lot of pro and masters events. These bikes look amazing, and I'd like to feature them on one of my blogs. My recent copy of Velonews shows that there is still a company engaged in making race wheels from solid beech- have you used them as a source for wheels? I think it's time to break open my piggy bank! Indeed I've also been a woodworker since I was a teenager and so I gravitate towards all things wood. Wife and I started a little internet company where we sell wooden children's bikes. It's called and easily found via Google. Our site also has a blog where I would love to feature your bikes. Nice work!

Posted By: Craig     [03/04/2010]
Wow, other than my pregnant wife, that is the most beautiful thing I have seen all day. How many hours are involved to build a frame?

Posted By: Ian     [03/04/2010]

Posted By: Ken Wheeler     [03/04/2010]
The first bikes in the early 1800ís were wood, but by the late 1800ís they were all steel. The number of hours to build a wooden frame is why steel bikes were invented. Wood bikes had a brief resurgence during the metals rationing of WWII, which was also the rationale for the magnificent all-wood Spruce Goose airplane, still the largest in the world and a must-see piece of engineering and workmanship for lovers of wood stuff.
Bois díarc, or Osage orange is another wood we havenít tried, but itís similar to Black Locust, which is on our short list. We havenít used wooden wheels as explained above.
Wooden bikes always win races because the other racers get confused and lose their concentration trying to figure out how a bike of materials not-made-by-man could possibly work. Craig, comparing our bikes to the beauty of a pregnant woman is a first and very fine compliment. I hope your wife accepts the comparison in the intended spirit, they are known to get cranky over little things during this period.

Posted By: Jeff Meeks     [03/06/2010]
I saw these bikes at the wooden boat show in Port Townsend this summer. They are even more spectacular in person.

Posted By: Michael Wassil     [04/08/2010]
Have you thought about making a frame set for a long wheel base recumbent? Or would you make a one-off frame to my specs? Just asking, these bikes are so incredibly beautiful that an LWB recumbent would be simply stunning. I wish you well in your efforts.

Posted By: Anthony Romano     [05/11/2010]
A nice extremely durable wood I would like to see is sapodilla. Harder than hickory with the color of cherry and walnut. I made a head board out of three slabs.

Posted By: Asad Saeed     [05/26/2010]

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