A not-so-Normal approach to building wooden bikes
Although wooden-frame bikes may not be a common sight out on the street, they're plentiful at events such as the North American Handmade Bicycle Show. So, what makes one stand out there? Well, it helps if it's made in a non-traditional manner – which is the case with Normal Bicycles.
The metal bike frames that we're used to consist of tubes, which are joined together via either welds or lugs. Many wooden frames, on the other hand, consist of two carved-out sides that are bonded together down the middle. Normal Bicycles, based out of Buffalo, New York, splits the difference – its frames are made of wooden tubes.
"It's multiple layers of maple veneer, laminated together," said designer/builder Chris Kudla, describing his tube-making process. "By doing that, I can make the wall thickness a lot thinner, and also have these long sections of tubing that I can cut to length. It helps with stiffness, the weight, and also manufacturing."
It should be noted that there's also a thin layer of carbon fiber lining the inside walls of the tubes. Those tubes are joined to one another using an aerospace-grade aluminum alloy and titanium fasteners. A marine finish is also applied, to keep the wood from being damaged by rain, snow or salt.
The ride quality of the resulting bike is said to provide a solid connection with the road, but without the bumps and shocks.
As far as weight goes, the custom gravel bike that was being showcased at NAHBS weighs a claimed 22.5 lb (10.2 kg). Chris and his wife/business partner Jessica also had one of their cheaper, production Urban Scout commuter bikes on display (pictured above) – it tips the scales at 25 lb (11.3 kg). Pricing for the Scout ranges from US$3,200 to $3,550, depending on the package. The gravel bike, on the other hand, is worth around $6,000.
"I'm an engineer doing woodworking," Chris told us, describing the origins of his unique approach. "Most of the time it's woodworkers doing woodworking, so I think that's where it comes from."
Company website: Normal Bicycles