PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – In his Southeast Portland workshop, Ken Wheeler makes serious road, touring and mountain bikes – out of wood.
Skeptical engineers and cyclists scoff at the idea, but Wheeler and his company, Renovo Hardwood Bicycles, are slowly proving them wrong. For 3½ years, he’s been rolling out his tailor-made, hollow-framed wooden bikes – the only ones of their kind, he said – converting cynics along the way.
The idea of a wood bike is nothing new, but they’ve been clunky or dangerous in the past, not meant for constant pounding. Engineers have argued that because of wood’s properties, it can’t make an effective bicycle frame like metal can.
But to Wheeler, wood is an ideal material for building custom bikes because of its stiffness and natural shock absorption, a bike’s two most important qualities.
“It’s the smoothest ride of any bike, coupled with stiffness, which we can vary to suit the rider,” he said. “A lightweight person needs a less stiff frame than a heavy person. We can tailor to the exact body type.”