Renovo test ride

Handmade wooden bicycle maker Renovo was at the Sea Otter Classic with demo bikes, so of course I took one out for a spin!


Renovo wooden bicycle

Renovo made a splash when they started showing up at handmade bike shows a few years ago. I’ve gazed on and lovingly stroked these fine machines but have never taken the opportunity to test the ride until last weekend.

I had already put in two exhausting days of road biking, mountain biking, and walking around Sea Otter’s huge venue when I clipped into the wooden R4 Pursuit road bike that Ken Wheeler from Renovo handed to me. Saddle adjustment was just a rough eyeball estimate, but this is among the more comfortable road bikes I’ve ridden. I meandered through thick Sea Otter crowds on grass and dirt, shot a couple of easy “Panda” self-portraits, hopped a couple of curbs and threaded my way through a crowded gate with ease before I hit the road.


Renovo wood bicycle

Renovo’s tubes are larger than you’ll see on other road bikes and my thighs slapped the top tube a little, but without any discernible interference. My only concern is that the finish might wear thin where my legs touch the tube, but that’s only a concern if you ride knock kneed like I do. The “Q” felt normal to me.

I felt a little bit sluggish pushing myself up a steep hill, but I suspect the slug was more me than the bike since I was near the end of my second day of riding demo bikes. I cranked and the bike responded. Francesco Mancebo jetted past me in his orange jersey, but, hey, he’s a pro and I’m a middle aged guy with a belly who blogs about bikes.

I confidently cycled up and over a steep hill. With three or four turns of the crank in the big ring and small cog I easily shot past 40+ MPH, tucked in and swooped through moderate curves, touching the brakes only to finesse my way through a traffic jam of mountain bikers. I felt no road chatter through the handlebars or seat. Steering is confident and predictable and not the least bit twitchy. No hands riding is a breeze in spite of the heavy gusts blowing across Laguna Seca.

Renovo R4 Road Bike Wooden Bicycle

I’m not a materials engineering expert at all, but this wood laminate bike seems to do a superb job of absorbing road bumps while still giving me a lively ride. The R4 pursuit provides a much smoother ride than any carbon bike I’ve tried, but this is by no means a mushy, flexy platform. Although wood seems like a fragile material, Renovo claims it’s more durable than carbon fiber and more easily repaired.

Since somebody’s going to mention it in the comments, I’ll address traffic light sensor triggers now: Standard traffic light sensors are triggered by an electrical current that’s induced in your bicycle wheel, not in the frame. If you ride carbon fiber rims, you can run a few loops of copper wire around the rim to increase traffic signal inductive loop detector performance.

I wish I gave myself a little more time on this Renovo wooden bicycle. I only put a few, very short miles on the bike. Renovo is beautiful to look at and beautiful to ride. Frame without fork is $2995, with complete bikes starting at $4600. $1500 deposit required for Renovo to even put your name on the waiting list, with balance required for them to begin work. Other road models as well as a time trial, mountain bike and commuter frames are also available from Renovo. More at Renovo Hardwood Bicycles.

5 Comments

  • April 18, 2011 - 9:11 pm | Permalink

    Nice looking bike. I wonder how it will stand up to extreme cold? Would be interesting to see.

  • April 18, 2011 - 10:08 pm | Permalink

    I wonder how it would do in low and high humidity?

  • April 20, 2011 - 2:29 am | Permalink

    I just bought one of these babies, only had a chance to ride it twice so far. Seems like a great ride so far, but the looks just make me want to ride it. And the wood is completely sealed with epoxy and laquers and whatever so it is completely safe in extremes of temperature and weather. I wish I had it a little longer to post a more comprehensive review, but that will have to wait til the end of the summer.

  • Deepikatandon
    May 16, 2011 - 10:33 pm | Permalink

    I am passionate about riding bikes….wood and bamboo seem to be the next level….I am still curious about what led you to decide to buy a Renovo bike? where did u hear about them?
    with such a bike you are sure to make heads turn on streets….is it the experience of riding something different other than carbon? looking forward to get some words from the one enjoying the experience….maybe it convinces me enough to get a Renovo. thanks!

  • Ken
    June 26, 2011 - 7:29 pm | Permalink

    Richard,
    Renovo is opening a showroom in Sausalito on July 2. I promised you a 19″ mtb, will have one for you shortly and you can pick it up there if you like, and of course you can spend more time on a road bike if you wish…
    Ken @ Renovo

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