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Simply put, wood has natural characteristics that we look for in a bicycle frame material. The ability to absorb vibration is what sets wood as a frame material apart from all other frame materials. Add to this, wood's strength to weight ratio, durability and the ability to engineer and form wood into any shape, wood is a viable material for a bicycle frame material. Wood has been called "natures carbon fiber."
When you think of high tech frame materials, carbon fiber and titanium come to mind, but wood is not considered high tech, probably because it's not new or man made. Just because it's not considered a high tech frame material doesn't mean it's not a great material for a bicycle frame. Most of us grew up riding some type of steel or aluminum frame bike and have never seen or given any consideration to wood as a frame material. The first bicycles were made out of wood, but as the advancement of materials progressed, wood fell victim to steel, aluminum and finally carbon fiber. Some believe that wood is not a material appropriate for a bicycle frame, but advancements in CNC woodworking machine technology, joinery and adhesives have enabled us to engineer a wood frame bicycle that is smooth, responsive and strong.
The natural properties of wood provide vibration dampening that rivals other bicycle frame materials. Other industries turn to wood for its vibration dampening properties. Some of the best riding skis and snowboards use wood as a core material because it is light weight and absorbs vibration. Baseball bats, axe handles and other tools use wood for its strength and vibration dampening as well. Because of wood's natural ability to absorb vibration, we can design a frame that is compliant, yet maintains a responsive feel when you put the power down. Other frame materials struggle to reach a compromise between a smooth compliant ride and a lateraly stiff frame. Too often a compliant frame has a noodly lateral feel or a lateraly stiff frame has an overly harsh ride. Our wood frames have the ride qualities that the other materials are trying to emulate. Our wood frames are strong, responsive and more compliant than the other materials.
As other material advancements have gained attention, wood has been long forgotten as a bicycle frame material. With numerous examples for the argument of the strength of wood: bridges, planes, buildings, etc., we can engineer strength into a bicycle frame by using complex joinery, advanced laminating techniques, advanced adhesives and paying close attention to grain patterns. Due to woods strength to weight ratio, we can design a frame with wall thicknesses 6 to 8 times as thick as other materials. This makes a wood frame durable and gives it the ability to handle blunt forces that would otherwise damage beyond repair or destroy a frame made of other materials, yet keeping the frame weight comparable to those on the market today. The result is a bicycle frame that rides like no other and is the envy of other frame materials.
Aside from the benefits of woods natural characteristics of strength, vibration dampening and beauty, wood is highly sustainable making it an environmentally responsible choice for a bicycle frame material.
So, I ask, Why Not Wood?