Instructables
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.

 
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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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rpotts26 months 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)  rpotts26 months 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)  OffBeatSocker3 months 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.

sgsax6 months 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)  sgsax6 months 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.

mykiscool JMYilla5 months ago

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

Sir, that's an amazing piece of perfection!
OffBeatSocker4 months ago

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)  OffBeatSocker3 months 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.

travderose4 months ago

This thing is beautiful! I love the wood

Truly a green machine. Congrats on being a finalist!

Very nice looking!

veeguy5 months 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_Limits5 months ago

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

victorvector5 months ago

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.

CAMXposure5 months 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!!!

calafaho5 months ago

WOW!! well done!!

gedruley5 months ago

That is gorgous!!

hogthrob5 months 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)  hogthrob5 months 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.

guaps5 months ago

Absolutely incredible. Great design and impressive execution. The wood frame and the aero design makes for a really cool "old world meets new world" effect. Now just get a head badge 3D printed for it, and you have past, present, and future all represented on one machine.

Well done.

jamessimon5 months ago

This is very, very cool.

This looks absolutely amazing! Awesome build!

adrenalynn6 months ago

I'm a former women's team cyclist, having raced some of the earliest composite frames, and I gotta tell you: I'd have _killed_ to have a bike that weight and aerodynamic profile back in those days (not to mention something so gorgeous!)

How much flex do you get in the back triangle and bottom bracket? I'd be terrified of breaking something so gorgeous! Amazing work!

JMYilla (author)  adrenalynn5 months ago

Thanks, I appreciate your positive feedback! It is a joy to ride and look at.

I'm not sure how to quantify flex, but its a lot more laterally stiff than you might think. I really cant tell that it is any more flexy than the aluminum frame I had before.

Haha, I trust the frames integrity for normal riding, but my biggest fear is getting hit by a car and breaking the frame!

Thanks again!

ltnemo20006 months ago

from a (friendly(ish)) roadie: 23 lbs is impressive. My road bike comes in at 19. You're wise to get a custom fit. I would be eager to see a ride built from spruce which has the best strength/weight ratio or rock maple which is cheaper and crazy strong. I really wish I could get a test ride.
alas....clean your bike and keep your cadence up!

JMYilla (author)  ltnemo20005 months ago

Thanks! I'm sure there are a lot of wood species and combinations that would work well. I had done some testing on black walnut for an engineering project so I knew what it was like and used it to keep things simple. I appreciate the postitive feedback.

the_tool_man5 months ago

Beautiful bike. I'm impressed that you got the weight down to 23lbs. Perhaps I missed it, but how does the seat post clamp work? Also, did you install a pipe for the internal cable routing?

JMYilla (author)  the_tool_man5 months ago

Thank you. If you look at the pictures on the last step, you can see a little hole on the right hand side of the seatpost. That is a bolt that clamps the seatpost, the mechanism is just hidden inside the wood.

Yes, there is 3/8" aluminum tubing that I bent from the inlets to outlets of the cable routing.

cuica6 months ago

How much does it weigh?

psauvignac6 months ago

this is really incredible....

I would love to try to make one...!

jbh1236 months ago

Very nice work! Like the previous commenters, I think it's a real stunner.

Do you have any other views or specs of the vacuum table you made? If so, I'd love to see them - mainly where the ports are and what components you used for them, and what type of bagging film you used.

bd56 months ago

Beautiful! What was the final weight? How much did your previous bike weigh as a comparison?

nabukadnazar6 months ago

That's the "ART"

jnajman6 months ago

well done!

sungirl6 months ago

Piece of art! Very very very pretty!! <3 I want to do that too!

gintonforge6 months ago

beautiful work sir!

psmith416 months ago
He said his previous bike (from which all the components came) weighed about 20 lbs. The frame was probably 3 to 4 lbs. Now the bike weighs 23 lbs, so the wood frame is probably 6 to 7 lbs.
vanlreese6 months ago

I don't have the tools or skills to make one of these. Can you build me one? Naturally I will pay you.

Renovo also makes wood frames.

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