NAHMBS Trends: Alternative Materials Rhyming with, “Good”

When you think “Hand Made Bicycles”, and especially showing off your 100+ hour creations, one may unconsciously begin to dream of steel tubes of various flashiness matched up and bonded together using incredibly decorative lugs and powder coated to perfection. NAHMBS 2013 certainly does not let down on this front, but another trend is certainly easy to spot: wood, and wood-like materials used in frames, as well as in various components. What seemed to be the domain of metals, then unseated by carbon fiber, may find an unlikely brotherhood with these natural materials, used in creative ways, with old-world techniques.

Nestled in the back of the agoraphobically-enormous Colorado Convention Center, Wheel Fanatyk had set up its booth, showing a dizzying array of current prize offerings from Italian Ghisallo wooden rims.

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On display were wooden 700c tubular and clincher rims, 26″ clincher mountain bike rims and tucked way in the back, some 700c bamboo rims, currently without a price point to them. Yet.

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Some of Ghisallo’s clincher rims utilize an inner carbon fiber wrap, to help out with the tremendous lateral forces of a topped out clincher tire. The wooden rims alone are strong enough to deal with all other forces, so this carbon fiber is not needed for the tubular rims, and those models do come out much, much lighter because of this. Some tubular models also sport asymmetrical spoke hole drilling.

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The bamboo rims on display, but in the corner present somewhat of an anomaly for the lineup of rims offered. It may be a experimental in more sustainable sourcing of material, as the hard wood used traditionally for wooden rims is slow to grow.

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Bamboosero is also showing their line of Booganda bikes, featuring frame construction primarily made of Bamboo, joined by using other natural materials, such a hemp fiber and barkcloth. Dropouts are still made of metal, but feature a flexible design allowing for single speed, gears, racks, belt drive systems, etc – all using the same simple, no-frills dropout design. Booganda is Bamboosero’s “performance” line of bikes – which you may have guessed, are made in Uganda. But, there’s a whole lot more to the story of Bamboosero.

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New Zealand-built Bamboosero frame  by Freddy Salgado, utilizing local materials. Salgado learned how to build these frames at one of Bamboosero’s workshops in the Philippines.

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Booganda’s simple, yet versatile dropout.

Denver-based Connor Wood Bicycles takes  a different tack to wood frame building; utilizing a lifetime of work designing and hand building wooden furniture, guitars, and boats; Chris Connor moves now to creating wooden bicycles that are usable works of functional art.

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The main front triangle of Connor’s bikes are actually one piece of wood, that’s been split and hollowed out (and the later glued back together); the chainstays and head tube are made using a laminate of wood panels, kevlar fiber and aerospace-industry epoxy.

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Chris was happy to demonstrate the effectiveness of his sandwiching of materials, which showed literally zero deflection when stood upon. Chris has taken similar pieces and run them over with his car, finally being able to measure a deflection – in millimeters. He has yet to take one of his works of art completed to be stress-tested in the labs. Doing so may be a tragedy in of itself.

Moving directly and efficiently to high-preformace, we come to Boo Bicycles, of Fort Collins, CO, which utilizes bamboo for its damping qualities, but also uses a fair amount of carbon fiber, where stiffness is ultimately the better option for your racing needs. How about, a bamboo time trial bike?

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Your hub-geared, disk brake-equipped, carbon fiber-rimmed, no seat post road machine?

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A cyclocross bike, still dirty from the last 6 laps?

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Or the next experiment in (perhaps) rear damping, rear-suspensionless  MTBs?

 

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On the completely other end of the spectrum (or so it seems), Sanomagic brought out its mahogany beauty, complete with mahogony front aero-wheel!

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Although it looks almost unreliable and unridable, Sano’s frames have been proven race-ready, strong and unmistakeably beautiful.

Finally, seeming to defy physics and make anyone who’s still an unbeliever move towards wooden-built frames, is Ken Stolpmann’s beam bike – yet another bike, with craftsmanship-roots in boat building.

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Appreciated in this bike was its well-used look: the rims are scuffed, the handlebars certainly seeing some use.

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Attached to the back of the saddle was a nice detail of wooden Profile Design-styled bottle holders – as well as a rear blinky for the commute home. The frame itself certainly looks as perfect as the day it was created.