Joiner builds 100% wooden bike

Carlton Reid
Joiner builds 100% wooden bike

Not just the frame; even the transmission is wooden. Project needs sponsors to go for 100% Wooden Bicycle Land Speed Record.

The record will be broken: if Michael Thompson can find a venue to race his Splinterbike (his triathlete mate James Tully will do the riding) and if £7500 can be raised for paying for specialised speed measuring equipment from the Speed Record Club

"When we started, we didn't realise that setting a land speed record involves certain unavoidable costs," said Thompson. 

"We thought that we could knock up a wooden bike and run it down the road, follow along in a car, check the speedo and hey presto...we've just set a land speed record. It's not as simple as that, we need to do things properly and officially."

The record is theirs for the taking. It has never been attempted before.

The pair are well on their way to the £7500: a Paypal 'donate' button is raising cash from micro-sponsors.  

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And the micro-sponsors - people like me, coughing up a fiver to support a great tradition of English eccentricity (and ingenuity and bare-faced cheek) - have found about the project from a Splinterbike webpage, Twitterfeed, YouTube films and media mentions, such as The Guardian's bike blog.

The Splinterbike isn't the first wooden bike, there have been many previous attempts but most of those that are rideable have some metal parts; most of the rest are unrideable.

The Splinterbike, on the other hand, is ridable and - given a smooth enough surface, such as a velodrome - could reach speeds in excess of 30mph. And all with a wooden single gear, solid wooden wheels and a frame with a fruity back-end ("we thought the project would go pear-shaped at some point, so added the pear," said Thompson).

Naturally, the project began as a bet. Thompson, a joiner, boasted he could make a fully wooden bike and his friend James Tully called his bluff.

The cogs, wheels and frame are made from birch ply. Ironwood - an oily wood - is used where moving parts meet. The pedals and handlebars were made from an old broom handle.

There's no chain. Instead there's a 128-tooth cog that links the chainring and the gear on the rear wheel. 

Corporate sponsors lined up to date include James Latham PLC, Evo-stik, Royal Mail, Cushion Timber, Top Box Media, Rammed-Earth.Org, UK Sealants, Starfish Graphic Design, International Paints, Bam Nuttall, Totobobo, CIM Signs and Graphics, and Steve Wright Photography.

Richard Thoday from Stanley Fearn Cycles in Matlock, has been offering Thompson track bike assistance.

Interest in the bike has exploded today. Thompson tweeted: "been asked by the V&A London if they can display the Splinter Bike from Sept 2011 - Feb 2012. I may need to lie down."

Tags: wooden bike , wood

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