Instructables
Picture of Bent Plywood Bicycle
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After seeing this bike on a bicycle design blog I was inspired to build my own. It was made by someone named John Hobson. The concept is the same, but mine is fairly different.

Also I had some left over epoxy and fiberglass from a kayak I built and was just itching to find a project I could use it on (or maybe I was just itchy from all the fiberglass). Anyway, since I wasn't thrilled with my current bike that was a cheapo 15 year old big box store bike, I thought it would be great to replace the old frame with a wood composite frame and have something unique.

The part of the design I liked was that the top and bottom parts of the frame are like leaf springs separated by the seat tube. I thought that having a suspension system integrated into the frame was a really cool idea. Ideally vibrations and bumps would be absorbed into the frame and returned back to the wheels, without making the frame too bouncy. The frame I built consists of plywood, fiberglass, epoxy, and even paper, so there is no welding required.

Before I get started here's some bike terminology I had to learn:
Head Tube - short tube for the handle bars, and front fork assembly.
Top Tube - horizontal section that connects the seat tube to the head tube.
Down Tube - diagonal section that connect the head tube to the bottom bracket.
Bottom Bracket - This is where the pedals and crank attach.
Seat Tube - longer tube that the seat post slides into.
Chain Stays - Two sections that connect the bottom bracket to the rear wheel.
Seat Stays - Two sections that lead from the seat to the rear wheel.
Dropouts - brackets to connect the rear wheel.

Caution: Riding a bike is dangerous, riding a home built bike is even more so. If you decide to build a bike, take it slow, wear a helmet and other protective equipment, reinspect your work, and be prepared for it to break at any moment.

 
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HanzieO3 years ago
Hi, nice work with your bike. I am halfway with making a similar bike and I will post and instructable as soon as im done. This will be my second wood bike the first one is like a junk yard recumberant. See the foto below. I really like your bike and admire the workmanship. I will add a bit more steel to my bike coz I like the industrial look and I am a metal worker at heart. I used a jig for the laminating and both halves come out of the clamps tonight.

Does it still go?
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LongToe (author)  HanzieO3 years ago
Cool man, I can't wait to see your instructable. Your recumbent looks great. Yep it still works but I broke off the seat clamp when I used a seat post that was too short. That's a place where steal would work better. Good luck with your build!
HanzieO LongToe3 years ago
http://www.instructables.com/id/Wood-Bike-2/
The loops make the whole bike strong and selective use of metalwork keeps the slender look. The bike design you mentioned is spoiled by the box for the seatpost.

Have you seen the Pashley Tuberider? It is a great looker. I fitted mine out with a motor system driving the chainwheel. Pashleys all have hub brakes, so motorising them is a challenge. Photos as www.mr-motorvator.co.uk
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randomray4 years ago
Excellent build and very helpful instructable ! A few suggestions and thoughts . A simple jig to clamp the wood to will make this project much easier . You really don't need the fiberglass between the layers of plywood ." it'll be lighter and it's plenty strong without the glass " An outside rated wood glue would be plenty strong , then coat the outside with epoxy and glass " it'll be a lighter bike ". Leave the seat tube on the bottom bracket , run the tube through the holes in your wood frame epoxy it in then leaving a short section at the top and bottom cut out the center section and connect those pieces by wrapping with several layers of veneer . Or just cover it with veneer . I would take the donor headset and just cover it with veneer after installing it . If you wanted you could take 1/4" strips of wood with the grain running the length of the bike instead of the plywood and it would be far stronger . Hickory , ash , sitka spruce and white oak would work great . Mix in other woods for cool patterns and colors . Once again great job , now I'm going go build my own thanks to you . Do a search for wood bikes on Flickr there are some cool ones out there .
LongToe (author)  randomray4 years ago
Thanks, those are some good ideas. If you make your bike, you should make an instructable or post it online somewhere.
rowerwet4 years ago
great i'ble! I really want to make my own now!
from a stress stand point would it be better to have the pedals mounted inside the frame rather than outside? that way the force you put onto the pedals (downward) would be pushing against the frame rather than pulling.
I also have built ply and epoxy boats taking the construction to bikes makes sense.
If you used west system epoxy let http://www.epoxyworks.com/ know and they could make an article out of it, in fact they have an article about epoxy and wood bikes in it this issue.
LongToe (author)  rowerwet4 years ago
Thanks! You're right, I'm not crazy about hanging the crank below the frame, but I thought putting it inside would make it too high. This design could probably be reworked for a better or cleaner looking crank mount either inside or laminated into the frame itself.
This is awesome! 5* and my vote!

Is this springy to ride ?
LongToe (author)  scraptopower4 years ago
Thanks. No, it's not very springy, but I'm kinda a light weight. It might be a different story though for a big dude.
dbell LongToe4 years ago
I'm not a bike builder, so may be talking out my butt here, but from a structural point of view, you have assembled a very rigid frame, and it wouldn't have much spring to it.

How would it work if the seat tube passed through a sleeve set into the top tube/seat stay arc, rigidly attached only at the bottom bracket?

Dave
LongToe (author)  dbell4 years ago
That sounds pretty cool. It would really act like a spring then. Someday I'd like to make a bouncy bike and really exaggerate the vertical spring. This bike is a little more practical.
legamin7 months ago

as a wood purist, I think I 'wood' have steered well clear of using any fiberglass. As well, I noted that you were using materials of varying strengths that is a practice rarely recommended for longevity. Wood with two part laminating glue and thinner veneer (should you try this again) will give you amazing visuals and a longer lasting end product. I'm only saying this from a static materials strengths professional. I do tend to over engineer my designs. I'm impressed with your product! I think the concept is inspired! I'd have you on my ideas team any day!

LongToe (author)  legamin7 months ago
Thanks! There's another instructable that did something similar to what you are describing. http://www.instructables.com/id/Wood-Bike-2/

amazing yes

srichie1 year ago
I'm a bit confused about the frame. I see you've listed the materials that its made of, but i'm still not sure what the frame is... So the plywood is just a veneer, or outer layer? And structurally its mostly fiberglass? Has there been any stress tests done on the frame?
LongToe (author)  srichie1 year ago
The frame is 7 layers of 1/8" plywood with fiberglass sandwiched between each layer. I have no idea what loads it can support. Ride at your own risk.
EvoQ1 year ago
I think you did a wonderful job on a first prototype. And just think you have inspired allot of people to do the same. that is what life is all about my friend.

Thnxx for sharing.
LongToe (author)  EvoQ1 year ago
Thanks!
I have one question. How light is the bike? I'd think it'd be lighter then your average frame.
LongToe (author)  CryoFireProductions1 year ago
The frame by itself weighs about 6.8 pounds and all together it is 32 lbs.
altomic2 years ago
say, could you make the Bottom Bracket and Seat Tube in one piece.

That is the seat tube is welded to the bottom bracket - to make a "T".

you then have 2 holes in the bike frame for the seat tube to go through (from the bottom to the top) yeah?

the seat tube and bottom bracket are metal and covered in the veneer once inserted into the bike frame.

it would give the bottom bracket strength and you wouldn't have to have the stuff around it to hold it in place.
LongToe (author)  altomic2 years ago
Good idea. HanzieO did something similar to what you described on his version. http://www.instructables.com/id/Wood-Bike-2/
thirst4know2 years ago
Nice design. A few improvements could produce a bike that will last a lifetime. Hardly any rust either! Great lines on your bike.
LongToe (author)  thirst4know2 years ago
Thanks!
yoyology2 years ago
That is a beautiful object. The fact that it's a functioning bicycle as well makes it even more astounding. Well done, sir!

I see that you posted this a couple of years ago. Have you made another since then? I'd love to see an update.
LongToe (author)  yoyology2 years ago
Thank you. I would like to build a beach cruiser version, but haven't gotten around to it yet. One of these days.
savant772 years ago
Awesome build man, great details, well placed photos and not perfect. So many people put up perfectly executed ibles that you know it was really thier 2nd or 3rd attempt. I personally don't mind the twine BB, whatever works, only time will tell if it holds up and since it's wood, just rebuild it stronger. I'm also impressed with the weight, I just built a cargo hauler based on a steel big store box bike that came out to 12 lbs! Do not put wood forks on if you like your front teeth!
ac-dc4 years ago
... another project inspiring people to make a bike that can get them hurt or killed if they use it. Nifty idea, but, even professionally made bikes fail and with luck people should not get hurt just to have some novelty item.

If it were the other way around, if for some odd reason bikes were made out of plywood and someone suggested a STRONGER, BETTER frame from metal tubing I would applaud but this kind of suggestion that puts people at risk is very irresponsible. I propose some industry standards and laws that hold bicycle frames to standards for durability a bit like car crash tests and road-worthy regulations.

You only have one body and one life kids, please think before endangering it.
You have got to be kidding me... This is a great project, I'm sorry you don't see the value of it.
Bicycles can cause you to get hurt or killed. Even professionally made bikes fail. I propose we outlaw all bicycles. Then no one will ever be injured or die.

But seriously, I'd trust a plywood frame made to my own high standards to a cheap metal frame made by the lowest bidder.
I propose we require any bicycle ridden on the road to be tested for road-worthiness. If you want to ride your one-off homemade bike which is supposedly, and I mean supposedly because if you don't test your claim you are just making up nonsense, made to relevant higher standards, then by all means ride it only on your own private property so in the event of failure you are not risking others in public.

The same applies for bicycle helmets, if you want to make one out of string and glue I would say it is a bad idea no matter how great you think it is, that testing to ensure it is safe is important, that no suggestion to make one should occur without the testing being stressed as the most important thing.

Realize the difference, that what you do in private to risk your own health and well-being is different than trying to encourage someone else to do it.
boaslad ac-dc3 years ago
Did you even READ this article before you started farting on it? Did you read his advice on construction technique? Did you even realize that the method this bike is made with is almost identical to the modern method used in the construction of wooden re-curve bows (archery) which by the way FAR out perform (both in accuracy and durability) metal versions of the same design ?

I realize that an amateur wood worker would probably botch the job resulting in an unsafe and unreliable product... Having said that allow me to also mention that MOST amateur wood workers would realize that a project of this magnitude would be beyond their ability. But even if they DO attempt it and FAIL as haniously as you seem to think they will, they will have only hurt themselves.

You also overlook one very crucial detail. Failure is the only true road to success. The Wright brothers made over 20 designs before they made one that flew. NASA blew up countless rockets before landing a man on the moon. The Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse has taught a whole new generation of engineers how NOT to build a bridge. Failure is life's greatest teacher. Do people get hurt in the process,? Hopefully not. But yes sometimes they do. In the end they KNEW it was a risk. But it was a risk THEY CHOSE to take.

As far as road worthiness... If this was motorcycle or a car or some other vehicle that achieved terminal velocities I would be more inclined to agree with you. But as some one who has crashed literally thousand of times on bicycles (usually doing something that my mother would rather not know about) I don't. I have had many of your beloved steel and chrome alloy frames snap under me. and guess what... I survived. And with all my limbs still attached, too.
Bike helmets = false sense of security= unrealized risk taking. Check out the research- helmets don't actually prevent the most devastating aspect of head injury. More to the point- where will the Nanny State end? Probably in "1984".

"Life is a terminal, sexually transmitted condition and no one gets out alive!" And sadly- so few actually Live!
I meet your proposal of road worthiness testing and raise you a walking requirement that enforces sturdy shoes knee-pads and helmet. Oh and a mouth guard. Seat belts for recliner chairs and thick gloves for handling hot coffee.
And for the sake of being nice I'll encourage courage and applaud the sharing of knowledge and the attempt at sharing wisdom.
Oh and helmets for bicycles would have gotten a kid pounded by all the other kids back when I was a young little monster with my extra set of forks pounded on and half the bolts cross threaded while using a four foot board across a stack of tires for a ramp. We used to throw bikes together from piles of trashed bikes and play chicken till someone ended up with a broken collar bone and went home to momma then did it again the next day. And the next and the next. I remember two kids dying while growing up. one was a hemophiliac that got talked into jumping off a bridge thirty feet into shallow water, bled to death internally. And the other tried to imitate a circus stunt and ended up accidentally hanging himself. ages 15 and 12. were both avoidable? perhaps, but I do believe they were a bit inevitable too. Fate will decide and Darwin will point and say "I told you so" So live life and enjoy it till it ends because you never know when it will.
Dang dad, you're just preachin' all over the place. One of the beautiful things about living in America is that we get to make decisions for ourselves on many levels. @shoehornteeth can make them for himself, you can make them for yourself and I can make them for myself. It's quite a wonderful concept; one, considering your need to determine our IQ and decide what we should do or not, you might not actually know about. I don't know about @shoehornteeth, but the last time I checked, you were not my father. Even though your assessment determined I was not all that smart, I know you are not my father because my father doesn't feel the need to constantly tell people how they should behave or what they should think. FYI ... my IQ is 144.
That sure was a convoluted reply. I reread it twice, and I still can't tell if you're agreeing with me. Just to clarify, I was being sarcastic when I said bicycles should be outlawed. My opinion is that detailed descriptions/instructions on how this wooden bicycle was built are appropriate for this website.
Oh, sorry about that.  No, I agree with you.  It's bugs me when someone feels they must preach here because preaching to you or me or anyone has nothing to do with, for this instructable, building a bike.  @ac-dc can raise kids, within the law, however they want and choose never to go around a lumber.  I knew your comment was sarcastic.  :)

I like to read the comments or get ideas.  I was an adult the last time I looked, so I get to make my decisions.  I even get to eat my dessert first if I feel like.  Therefore, as an adult, I don't want to weed through the comments of a self-appointed supervisor trying to make everyone do what they want, arg. 

I'm kind of embarrassed because now I think I have amassed more comments than @ac-dc.  :/
No one is encouraging you to make your own bike. In fact, you probably shouldn't trust yourself to make anything for yourself. Do you have the proper means to test that sandwich for pathogens? No? Don't eat it! If you get sick, you could cause others around you to get sick too. Better leave food prep for the professionals.
Realize the difference? If no one ever made things for themselves or tried different materials or different designs, no progress would ever be made. There is an inherent risk in every activity. No one is telling you to take this risk. And if my frame has a catastrophic failure, then I'm the only one who pays the price.
Great. Just what we need. MORE government regulation to stifle initiative/creativity.

News flash, people: LIFE is risky no matter what you do. You can choose to live it or to spend your time on this earth in complete misery worrying constantly about the countless ways you might get hurt.
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