Introduction: Wooden Wedge Bike

About: Long time bicyclist, bike commuter, bike tourer, recent bike builder/experimenter. I'm an energy consultant for hydro electric, solar and other renewable energy generation.
Clean lines and minimalism
You can build unusual and useful wood bikes without welding.
I think wood bikes should become poplar again. :-)
This is a simple one speed wooden bike with coaster brake, fits everyone from little kids to TALL adults. There are no metal tubes in the frame.
Wooden' you build with wood if you couldn' weld? I wood.

It's got a 4" Razor scooter front wheel, so it's only safe on smooth roads without potholes or bumps.
Bike is designed so there is not much weight on front wheel. Bigger riders have center of gravity closer to back wheel.

Other bikes I've built
Videos (includes bike) from Maker Faire

Step 1: Start Design on the CAD System

Using a sophisticated 2D CAD system (Cardboard Aided Design) life size cutout of your foot/leg thigh/back and arm, pivoting on brads at the joints, you can design the bike on the ground to explore sizing and clearance issues.
My CAD system sometimes has a Gooey interface if I spill something on it while designing:-)
More seriously, like other CAD systems it has a GUI (Graspable User interface).

Make a cardboard cutout of your lower leg (with foot and pedal), thigh, torso, and straight arm (to a distance 2" back from your wrist). Use it to look for good riding position and clearances for knees to bars, heels to wheels etc. Use the CAD system to layout the riding position, cranks, wheels etc with attention for locating your hands, shoulder, seatback angle, butt, knees and feet.
For detailed instruction on 12 Steps to designing a sweet handling recumbent, visit Bikesmith Design

This bike is designed for the rider to have a vertical back and no seat back and no weight on the hands.

Step 2: Tools Used

These are the common tools I used.

BB = Bottom Bracket = main crank bearing
HS = Head Set = pair of bearings for the steering column.
CAD = Cardboard Aided Design
ID = Inner Diameter (typically of a hole)
OD = Outer Diameter

Tools not shown:
2 C-Clamps or wood clamps big enough to hold 5" thick things
a 12" long 1/4 inch drill bit.
Various spade drill bits 3/4" to 1-1/8"

Step 3: Parts Needed

1/2 inch 5 ply Plywood 4' x4'
2x4 board 8'
3-1/2" by about 18" 3/4" plywood scrap
Wood glue and some 2-1/2" screws to "laminate" the 2x4 short piece onto long piece and for laminating the lower plywood reinforcement piece for required beam depth to hold Headset (HS).
Kick scooter's: front fork, wheel, Headset (HS), stem and bars
Kid Bike's: single speed coaster brake back wheel (I used 16" size) one piece crank assembly, pedals and Bottom Bracket (BB) assembly of cups, bearings and cones
Extra bike chain (see town's recycling center or bike shop dumpster)

Step 4: Laminate 2x4 and Drill Holes for BB

Cut a couple feet of 2x4 off to use as the short piece laminated to the under side of the long piece to create thickness for supporting the BB and HS holes.
Glue and screw the pieces together creating the beam.
Mark the beam where you want the BB to be centered. (pencil and speed square)

Drill shallow (1/2" depth of the BB cup) 2-1/4" dia (equal to OD of BB cup) hole for the BB on right hand side of the beam (chain ring is on right side). The hole saw cuts a cylindrical cut into the wood. Leave the inner wood intact to facilitate drilling the three 1" through holes.

Drill similar hole on left side but go 1-1/8" deep to recess the left cup into the wood so the two cups are the crank required 2-7/8" apart at their outer edges. (measure an actual kid bike's BB width to see what I mean.

Step 5: Drill the Through Holes and Chisel Them to Make a Through Slot for Crank

Practice inserting and removing the crank from the donor bike frame a few times to see the clearances needed to pass the crank. Note that I had to drill my holes aligned perpendicular to the long edge of the beam to maneuver the crank through while the right chain ring is attached and needs space to move in.

Drill 2 or 3 1" holes inside the BB cut and clear through the beam. Chisel them together to make a through slot to pass the crank through. Cut as little wood as possible to leave maximum remaining strength for the beam supporting the BB cups. Do not cut outside the BB cup hole. For the right side cup hole, chisel the wood inside the BB cut down to make a "floor" 1/2 inch below the surface so the BB cup can fit snuggly into it and be supported by the hole's walls and floor.
For the left side, chisel the wood inside the BB cut down to make a "floor" 1-1/8 inch below the surface so the BB cup can fit snuggly into it and be supported by the hole's walls and floor.

Step 6: Drill Holes for Headset (HS) Cups

Drill a 1/4 inch pilot hole (using a foot long 1/4" drill bit) for the HS at desired head angle.
Use another hole saw that fits the OD of your HS cup's inner sleeve to make 1/2" deep cup support holes like you did for the BB. Line the hole saw up with the 1/4" pilot hole. Drill at the angle that matches your head angle to the beam so the HS cups will sit securely after wood is chiseled from hole. Drill both top and bottom HS support hole saw cuts. Now you can use a spade bit large enough to match your steerer tube OD to drill the head hole all the way through following the pilot hole. I usually drill half way from each side.

Step 7: Assemble Headset (HS) on Steerer Through Beam

Install lower race (onto cone so balls (and not retaining clip) touch cone) and cup (into beam) and pass the steerer through beam. Install upper cup into support hole in top of beam. Install bearing race so balls (not retaining clip) touch cup. Screw down the upper race cup onto threaded steerer.
At this point you remember you should have greased the bearings. Take it apart and grease things. Put it all back together. It is either a strange ritual or I'm forgetful, but I can't remember which.

Step 8: Looking Under the Hood of the Empty Wooden Bike Box

This is the view of the inside of the completed bike.
I enjoy the mystery of its emptiness.
"Hey, you said this plywood box had a wooden bike in it and all I see is a chain and a couple of wheels!, I've been had."

Cut a strip of plywood for the top plate that will be screwed and glued to the top of beam.
I cut mine 4-1/2" wide the whole way up. so it extends 1/2 inch past the beam on each side forming a rabbit? or shelf for the side triangles to securely rest against.

For extra comfort you could have your top plate start 4-1/2" wide at the front and get progressively wider towards the rear (and your rear). It would accommodate little riders with little rears and taller riders with wider rears.

Glue it and nail or screw the top plate to the top of beam.

Cut out the Plywood triangles so they match and are the desired angle but are a little long. We trim the bike to length later. (Don't you just love wood?)

Step 9: Attaching the Wheel Stays (side Panels)

Drill the real wheel's axle hole in the two stacked wheel stays (in one shot) just barely larger than the axle.

Wheel alignment technique:
1) Attach the two loose wheel stays (side panels) to the wheel axle and tighten the axle nuts finger tight.
2) Clamp the wheel stays on the main beam in about the right place. (C clamps or wood clamps etc)
3) Make a bike chain the right length using the donor bike chain and some extra chain. See: How to use Chain Tool

4) Install chain on chainwheel and cog.
5) Slide wheelstay (panel) back until chain is tight (tight means it deflects about 1/4" when pushed 2 lbs from the side) Make sure side panel is pressed snug up to the supporting top plate. Clamp in place and tack with one screw (No Glue) to beam.

6) Back up and eyeball the wheel alignment relative to the bike. Slide the other wheelstay (left panel) around until the wheel is both plumb* and straight along the direction of bike travel. Clamp and screw (No glue. (I have commitment issues) and you may need to remove at least the right side panel for chain and tire maintenance).

7) Put in the rest of the screws (at least 4 on each side).

8) attach the rear wheel coaster brake arm to the left wheelstay with a sturdy bolt mounted through the plywood (and through an additional reinforcement spacer plywood scrap). It is only a 4" arm so it is subject to a lot of leverage when stopping.

9) Trim bike to desired height above road and desired length. You see I chose a ground hugging 2" above road for me. For more safety and to accommodate uneven roads and hard riding yahoos, cut frame higher above road. To avoid stubbing your nose you could cut the nose higher than i did also. (Called cutting you nose to spare your face.)

10) Seat is optional on this bike.
11) You can add shelves inside for storage and a back door panel to enclose your stuff.
12) Use carefully and safely always wearing a helmet and clean underwear, avoiding holes, bumps, curbs, rocks etc.

  • a one syllable word for vertical

Step 10: The Joy of Riding

Always wear a helmet, and always have fun!

Remember your first bike ride?
Freedom and independence

Step 11: Dumpster Dipping for a Small Planet (and Smaller Budget)

As an avid Dumpster Dipper, (please no diving)
I built this bike entirely from dumpster salvaged materials, the wood, the bike, the scooter, the extra chain, the screws, glue and paint.

Keep an eye out for discards that can find new fun after you have remade them and saved them being entombed in a landfill.

We have a saying at my house...
"The Dumpster will provide."
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