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 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’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.
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.