Our friend Alex at the European Bike Project
has been featuring a collection of wooden bikes this week with everything from drop bar speed machines to the Earthbound high pivot enduro bamboo bike
featured. There have been a few projects on there that really caught our eye so we decided to take a couple and do a deep dive on the tech and builders behind them.
First up is a plywood, linkage-driven, single-pivot from a German builder called Bene Mack. Bene studied product design and also took a six-month internship in the design department of a German bike company, so he decided to take those skills and build himself a bike for the first time. The bike was his chance to try out some ideas he had been working on using Fusion 360 and also try out the boundary-pushing geometry that is being tested by some bike brands.
So, to get the most obvious question out of the way first, why plywood? Well for Bene, it was simply a matter of practicality. Bene says, "Since I never welded before and without any access to the necessary facilities, I decided to build the frame out of plywood. The frame was designed to be built from 2D parts, which gives the bike that unique look." Thankfully he owns a jigsaw, a belt sander, a router, and a drill press in a small workshop and a friend owns a lathe, meaning he could create the bike with the required level of precision.
Ensuring the headtube didn't snap was one of the biggest challenges of the project for Bene.
After around 500km of riding on the bike, Bene is starting to pick out some interesting performance benefits to wood too. He says, "It's the quietest bike you can imagine. And the feeling of extra damping that wood provides is something I could get used to." However, he's unlikely to ever suggest that plywood bikes are the future. Apparently, the front triangle flexes under hard pedaling and although he's had no issues with it yet, he says he'll never trust the headtube 100%.
Bene decided to build the bike around a linkage-driven, single-pivot as it was a design he liked while also allowing him to increase the stiffness in the rear triangle. The system offers high anti-squat values to help you get the 9kg frame to the top of the hill and a progressive leverage ratio. Bene thinks it would work better with a coil shock but he just built this bike with spare parts he had lying around.
The next steps for Bene are riding, testing, and modifying the bike, and possibly developing a steel version. If the results are promising Bene could consider making a commercial project out of it too. If you want to follow his progress, follow him on Instagram, here