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Picture of Walnut Wood (triathlon) Bicycle Frame
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As an income-less college student, it can be difficult to get into the sport of triathlon. Swimming and running are fairly cheap sports, but outfitting a bicycle that is competitive can be daunting. I bought a road bike from a bike swap for $600 a couple years ago, but it wasn't great for triathlons and I recently got a dent in the top tube that worried me. Luckily, as a part of my engineering curriculum I learned what I needed to build my own frame out of locally sourced black walnut wood.

While this was a fairly intensive 5-month project (I only had time to work on it occasionally because of school), I'll do my best to give a good outline of the steps involved. Prerequisites are a good understanding of bicycle design (which I attained mostly by reading on the internet) and access to some wood working tools and a vacuum bag.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Picture of Materials and Tools

This list is not exhaustive but it provides an overview of the most important tools and materials needed.

Materials

7-10 board feet of black walnut (other hardwoods may be suitable)

Titebond III wood glue

Locktite Epoxy (see image)

appropriate bicycle tubing for the head tube and seat tube

Bottom bracket insert

flexible metal tubing for cable routing

3/4" plywood

and all associated bike parts except for the frame. Like I said, I used all the parts from my previously owned road bike.

Tools

Planer

Vacuum bag and pump

band saw/ miter saw/ table saw

Assorted drill bit sizes

Router and necessary bits

hand drill

drill press

 
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rpotts21 year ago

That should be in a modern art display. You mentioned that buying a frame was expensive. what would you say is the comparison? half? 3/4?

JMYilla (author)  rpotts21 year ago

Thanks! Buying a triathlon frame varies depending on the brand and quality, but they range anywhere from $500 to $5,000. The materials it took me to build this totaled less than $200, so really the only big investment was time. Also, I had all the tooling accessible through my school, so I didn't need to pay for that.

When you say school? Your still in a High School or University? Because in my High School we probably have the tools to make this but I'm not sure if we can even make a project like this during school hours.

JMYilla (author)  OffBeatSocker1 year ago

When I say school I mean University. The construction of this bicycle related to a project I was working on, so I was able to use the equiptment.

sgsax1 year ago

Looks beautiful. You've mentioned the weight. How does that compare to other bikes in this category? Hardwoods like walnut are nice for strength and rigidty, but come at the cost of weight. Have you had a chance to race it yet? How does it feel for that?

JMYilla (author)  sgsax1 year ago

It is definitely heavier than a good quality aluminum or a carbon fiber bike, but unless you ride on very hilly courses, the weight is not a major concern. At 23 pounds it is probably 20% or 30% heavier than the road bike that I used the parts from. I haven't raced it yet, but I have done about 200 miles on it so far and loved every minute. I think the custom fit will help improve my speed.

Not bad for wood actually! My road bike is about 16 but my mountain bike weighs more than that and it's thin aluminum.

WilliamG2610 days ago

Wonderful! Thanks for sharing. A quick question:

Where do you get the metal part which is hold the rear wheel from stays?

AndreaB2125 days ago

one word; amazing!!

Thank you very much for the wonderful instructable love it :-) excellent comments currently working on a similar project (e bike) and I will take into account hints and tips that you have all mentioned thanks to all

Adyhatton2 months ago
Hi love your bicycle could you help with providing the files for the plans? Would love to build one cheers
JMYilla (author)  Adyhatton26 days ago

Sorry for the delay. I don't have the solidworks files anymore because I created them on my school's network. However, the beautiful things is that you should be able to create your own plans in order to customize a bike to exactly your specifications. The great thing about wood is that you can make the bike however you want.

i too would love these plans

Fantastic. As a professional woodworker, I've been pondering the wooden bicycle concept for a while and I will definitely incorporate parts of this design into my own one day.

But unless they taught you something in engineering that contradicts traditional woodworking technique (which is quite possible - engineering has debunked some traditional "wisdom"), 9 plies would be more dimensionally stable than 8, as they would more equally counteract the stresses of grain movement from the opposing ply. I understand why you engineered it this way, because of the hollowing you did through the center - 9 plies would have made one "half" thicker than the other and the routing would have had to take that into account, meaning two separate height set-ups. However, if you applied veneer to both sides with the same grain orientation, when you glued the two sides together, the two veneers would form the center ply.

Additionally, it means that your two halves are also odd numbers of plies. Albeit the exterior plies are not the same thickness, they would still counteract movement better than an even number of plies until you can get them glued up.

Lastly, I'd recommend fabricating two clamping cauls from MDF or Melamine (waxed so glue won't stick to them) cut to the rough profile of the bike frame. Use these when gluing-up the frame halves. The cauls help to distribute clamping pressure more evenly and provide flat surfaces to register the parts against while the glue sets up. If you also clamp the two halves together in the cauls while you are not working on them, it may help with controlling wood movement as well. The cauls won't guarantee that the two halves will mate together perfectly when it comes time to glue them, but it increases the likelihood enough to warrant the effort.

If the central plies, i.e. the ones that will be in the centre when the two halves are glued up, have the grain running in the same direction then the total number of plies will be odd @ 15 plies, the central one being thicker. So that rule is met. As the grain is predominantly running in the same direction for each laminated segment, they're not strictly plies anyway - more of a glue laminated beam. The important thing would be to take care with the endgrain orientation - concave or convex - to avoid building in unequal stresses.

JMYilla (author)  underground carpenter2 months ago
Hello,
Thanks for the comment. As an absolutely novice woodworker, I've never heard of the odd-number-ply rule of thumb. I don't doubt its credibility, but from an engineering perspective I'm not sure I understand the benefit. Symmetry between the two halves seems to be the more important goal to me. Though I suppose since symmetry means the middle two plys will match in grain direction, maybe your thought about veneers joining to make the center ply is actually already happening.

Haven't had any problems with wood stability so far (1+ year) and my professor has bikes up to 5 years old with no problems (using similar technique)

Thanks!
mig33 months ago

How did you connect the seat and chain stays to the rest of the frame?

JMYilla (author)  mig32 months ago
Hello! The stays were connected to the frame using locktite epoxy, shown in the photos on the instructable. Of course, the bottom bracket provides shear strength for the chain stays and there is a 1/2" aluminum dowel providing shear strength for the seat stays as well as mounting the rear brake.
mig34 months ago
Where did you get the drop outs for the seat stays?
JMYilla (author)  mig34 months ago
Had them machined. They could be done with a drill press and good band saw though.
bcorcora1 year ago

This is amazing. Can I ask what school you did this at?

wmuntz1 bcorcora4 months ago

Cedarville University

maros.feher.96 months ago

....interesting project man...nice job!

swaldo7 months ago
that's awesome
baird.sills7 months ago

where did you get the dropouts from?

Jarheadicus9 months ago
I am thinking of making a frame for a 29"er, would that impact the amount of wood I'd need?
Ninjarooster9 months ago
Sir, that's an amazing piece of perfection!

It looks absolutely awesome! I was just wondering, what if your brake cable/derailleur cable breaks inside the tubing? How would you replace it? It would seem awfully difficult to get the wires through the frame or would it not?

JMYilla (author)  OffBeatSocker1 year ago

There is 3/8" aluminum tubes going from the inlet to outlet points for the internal routing, so I would just feed new cables through. It woudln't be a problem to replace.

travderose1 year ago

This thing is beautiful! I love the wood

Truly a green machine. Congrats on being a finalist!

Very nice looking!

veeguy1 year ago

This is a beautiful piece of functional art! I especially love Black Walnut's rich appearance. While I do a *lot* of woodworking, I never thought in terms of making a bike frame! Good stuff.

The only thing that would give me pause is the possibility of being impaled bywood splinters in case of an accident. This is the reason cars are no longer made with wooden dash panels or steering wheels. The NHTSA has all but banned it's use in automotive manufacture. This is one of the main reason Morgan cars are not able to be sold in the USA, their wood frames.

No_Limits1 year ago

This is a work of art. Wish I had the ability to make something this amazing. Great job!

Exceptional effort and result.

Art meets custom manufacturing.

One issue I have with this is that Titebond III wood glue can after prolonged loading suffer from " creep " over time , so is not recommended for structural purposes .

Fantastic job.

CAMXposure1 year ago

Since I have seen this instructable- i've been on the search to find myself scrap pieces of wood- preferably something much lighter in weigh , if possible. And I'm searching for a local woodshop I can raid- the research

if you have more visual plan documentation, I'd be thrilled to see it

but I did see most of what you posted and saw that you did not image document the lamination process- RATS!!!

best wooden bike build I've seen- DOABLE!!!

calafaho1 year ago

WOW!! well done!!

gedruley1 year ago

That is gorgous!!

hogthrob1 year ago

Really awesome project - I would get rid of the seat and put a glass table top on it!

Can you explain a little more on how the stays attach? The bottom one appears to fit over the bottom bracket and then fits against a horizontal rebate on the bottom of the down tube. Are the top stays made in one piece that butts up against the down tube or do they have some steel through them?

JMYilla (author)  hogthrob1 year ago

Thanks!

You are right on with the chain-stays, that is exactly how they attach. The seat stays are two pieces, and they are epoxied on the flat surface. There is however, a aluminum pin that is a little less than 1/2" diameter that goes through the main frame into both of the seat stays. This serves the dual purpose of mounting the back brake through the pin and also helps add shear strength to the stay attachment. Getting the stays on straight is probably the toughest part of the build.

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