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

Teacher Notes

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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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    26 Discussions


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Well, yes, and HILLS, where i live, it's all hills. This thing is a beauty, and good on flat, dry road, i'm sure... I just suspect that after vainly struggling (and mostly walking) to get to the top of a steep one, madness might win, and the intrepid rider, after a last, desperate attempt to crest the hill, would moments later be heard making the protracted 'clackety-thump' sound of the painful, repeated backward somersault to the bottom. Ouch.

    WoodenbikesLeon Close

    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    The 2" ground clearance is good for smooth flat roads. The beauty of wood bike building is If you want more clearance for more practicality, you can trim an inch off the bottom edge. The bottom 4" of wood on this bike is purely decorative.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    Fantastic Designs
    These bikes are great. here's video of my 2-6 year old on a Buga-bike. I totally recommend them.
    Buga-bike by Sabamba ltd 1999.
    <a href="http://www.bugabike.com/video/sample2playlist/sampleplaylist.html">(VIDEO)Buga-bike bicycle for toddlers</a>
    It really is the perfect bike for a toddler and I am constantly telling other parents where I got it!

    link video: http://www.bugabike.com/video/sample2playlist/sampleplaylist.html

    Sans titre-rose1.jpg

    12 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice. I like your wooden bikes website, too.

    I especially like the driftwood bike (a true work of art), the lawnmower bike, and the slalom scooter design.

    Keep up the great work of relieving the landfills of bicycle parts.

    1 reply

    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks. I'm glad you like the others. I may post instructables on them in future months.
    The precurser to the Wedge Bike is the
    Scooter Bike
    It has a bike seat used as a Crotch Chock Block (tm:-) to keep the rider from sliding down the ramp.
    For different sized riders, the seat post is moved from hole to hole along the beam.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    Very interesting. Is it hard to stay on though? It seems like you would slide down the ramp.

    1 reply

    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    It's easy to stay on the 40 degree sloped ramp. Your legs help hold you up. Ramps steeper than 42 degrees may require a Crotch-Chock-Block (tm:-) (like the nose of a bike saddle) attached to the ramp to keep you from sliding down.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    Is this the very same one I saw running around at the Maker Faire recently? I sat down and watched for a while, everyone riding it looked like they were having a great time! Looked to me like the one difficulty was grounding out when trying to make a sharp turn, which would be fixed by raising the clearance a bit. Or maybe that is a safety feature, to slow things down if you're about to tumble?

    1 reply

    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    It is one of the bikes I showed and let people ride at Maker Faire. I only recall one aggressive rider grinding the bike by doing a sliding spinout stop. The low clearance is purely for aesthetics. I think safety (if one wanted more) would be enhanced with higher ground clearance.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    Great/fun bike. I've got one suggestion: you might consider curving up the front tip (similar to how the front of a snow ski is curved up), so when you hit a pot hole, the sharp tip or small wheel won't dig in and flip or suddenly stall the bike. A curved tip should allow you to glide over it, provided that the bottom of the wood frame, in front of the front wheel is more flush to the bottom of the front wheel -- you should keep the clearance of the frame, behind the front wheel, as is.

    1 reply

    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks, The beauty of wood bike building is I can make future cuts easily to modify the bike. I could even glue on more wood. Practically I need at least the 2" of ground clearance all around to handle banking duriong turns. Example of wooden bike thinking: My next cut if I wanted to gain more nose clearance and keep the triangle look (vs the quadrangle, ski tip) would be one straight cut from the back lower corner point to a place 1-2" higher up the nose. It would not be parallel to the ground, but it would increase nose clearance and still be a triangle. After riding and looking at that a while I might make a new cut parallel to the ground from the new higher bottom edge of the nose straight back and expose more back wheel also, but I would be restablishing a triangle parallel to the ground. Perhaps I pay too much attention to "Assthetics":-)


    12 years ago on Introduction

    Mmmm pointy - you should market these as cheese triangle promotional vehicles, possibly even trivial pursuit

    1 reply

    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    Mmmm pointy good. It is really fun to watch people riding it because with the short cranks and hidden wheels they seem to just glide along. Maybe I will build a little fleet of vectors for kids to swarm in. Speaking of cheesy it reminds me of the first Star Wars film's funky Sand Runner vehicle. Some say it is 'the shape of things to come'.