The first bicycles were made of wood, and were called Velocipedes. The first known wood bike is thought to have been designed by Leonardo da Vinci. While there is a lot of controversy surrounding the discovery of Leonardo’s wood bicycle, the following resources make it clear that the popularity of the wooden bike is gaining momentum. Inventors all over the world have designed and built their own wood bikes, some for artistic value and others that have practical uses as a mode of alternative transportation. This article summarizes some of the best designs and provides links to the best of today’s wooden bike resources.
The Autocanoe Is a Pedal Powered Amphibious Recumbent Tricycle and a Roadable Pedal Canoe! The configuration is that of a Recumbent Tricycle with the two forward wheels driving and the single rear wheel steering both on land and in the water. It can travel over the road and through the water with comfort and grace. Transitions from land to water and back are accomplished smoothly and seamlessly without leaving your seat. On the road it is stable and secure. On the water it is tractable and relaxing. This human powered vehicle appeals to bicycle enthusiasts as well as wooden boat fans.
Design Boom is a Tokyo company. This page showcases images of six wooden bicycles for a variety of applications. They display a wooden tandem, a wooden micro bike, a wood road bike, an art wood bike, a wooden micro-scooter and an ike-a-bike ‘mountain bike’ design.
Gota Wood Bicycles
Gota designs and builds original wood bicycles for sale in Brazil. Their designs are inspired by natural shapes, they strive to build bikes with clean lines and quality construction. Their bicycles are produced with maritime ply-wood and compressed with a high-resistance glue. Their products are intended as practical transportation solutions or as home art pieces.
Bicycle historians argue over whether Leonardo da Vinci was the inventor of the bicycle, but there are no doubts that a modern day craftman from the same area of Italy made a workable modern two-wheeler from wood. Vinicio Magni has been making wonderful wooden bicycles since 1995 when he patented his first wood bike design. Since then he has produced several interesting designs including a wooden racing bike.
A flash-driven website that showcases two wooden recumbent designs, the “Sputnik” and the “Vostok”. The purpose of the Sputnik was to get some experience in building bikes. The Vostok is the short-wheelbase version of the design. The seat is made of a single sheet of beech plywood. At the moment the bike still has mostly old parts. The site is foreign language, but a link to the English version is provided.
Instructions for building a wooden bicycle, based on one builder’s experience with wooden recumbents. Tom’s design uses a single piece of wood for the main frame with no joints. A piece of plywood on each side takes the place of seat stays and chain stays, to support the back wheel. His first two bikes are built around redwood lumber 4x4s. His third is a semi recumbent built around a sloping 2×4. The 4th is made from a driftwood log in a beach bike theme.
This resource has two pages of wooden bikes on display. Bicycles on display include: an 1898 Chilion ladies bike, the treebike, Italian wood bike designs by Giuseppi Matera, a wooden town bike by The Amazing Wooden Bike Company, fine wooden bicycles by Tino Sana, a modern racing bike design by Peter Dahlberg, the 1896 Hickory Ladies Model, wooden wheel building, the Dragon Bike, Magni Vinicio’s line of Italian bikes and much more.
A custom lowrider bike design called “The Woody”. Iran started his wooden lowrider design four years ago. He began by sketching out cool bike designs that would soon be crafted out of solid pieces of wood. Once all of the sketches were done, his next step was to transform these one-dimensional drawings into a 3D fixtures. His finished bicycle includes a wood frame, forks, rims, chain guard, tank, light, mirror and custom engraving.
Bicycle Frames from fine hardwoods (using iron fittings). They have both single speed and MTB designs. They design and build wood frame bicycles that improve ride quality. Their frames provide the feel and responsiveness of steel and the ability to absorb bumps and road noise like carbon fiber, thus giving a very quiet and controlled ride without excessive lateral flex.
Several images of wood bikes in use in Africa. Most of the bikes are built for utilitarian purposes like hauling potatoes and other items like wood poles and personal belongings. A few of the bicycles were designed and built with children in mind. The images are all from Adam’s trip to western Uganda in 2000, where he “stumbled across very clever wooden bicycles being used to transport goods.” The page includes several links to other useful pedal power websites. (This photo: Boy with wooden ‘bicycle’ and woman headloading in Tanzania)
The Wooden Bike Plans include patterns and simple instructions for making your own wooden bike and include a license to make one. The bike works well for riders under 140 lbs at slow speeds. Heavier riders, speed or bumpy road conditions are not recommended. Wooden members should be thicken to handle heavier loads. The site warns that the bikes are prototypes and have not been tested to be safe and it is there for to be built and used at the user’s own risk.
Wood recumbents from wood workers who have the tools and experience to make things from wood. Charles Brown, a Michigan Human Powered Vehicle Association (MHPVA) member and homebuilder has built several nice bikes using white pine for the frame. These bikes look cool, are reasonably light and, with Charles riding them, do quite well in MHPVA events.
Here are some more images found on the wood work forums:
YouTube: Our Wooden Bike Project