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How to Make a Sweet Ride From Only Wood and Glue

This takes DIY to another level: a bike created solely from wood and glue. Michael Thompson, the craftsman behind the feat, and James Tully, his triathlete pal who demos the contraption, are the guys behind the bike. Thompson has so far made three bikes sans nuts, bolts or screws in his Norfolk, England, studio. Here, [...]

Photo: SplinterBike

This takes DIY to another level: a bike created solely from wood and glue. Michael Thompson, the craftsman behind the feat, and James Tully, his triathlete pal who demos the contraption, are the guys behind the bike. Thompson has so far made three bikes sans nuts, bolts or screws in his Norfolk, England, studio. Here, he shares his techniques in a step-by-step video from DesignTaxi:

Thompson calls his newest creation the SplinterBike Quantum, or SBQ. It’s composed of 88 individual wooden components. No one can doubt his dedication: it took Thompson 120 hours to prepare, 40 hours to cut and 400 hours to assemble the fixed-gear bike. Weighing about 85 pounds, a fit cyclist can manage about 35 miles per hour on the wooden cycle.

On their site, the two biking enthusiasts explain:

The SplinterBike project came about after a casual £1 bet turned serious.

The challenge was to design and build a 100% wooden bicycle. “No bolts or screws, just wood and glues” were the rules of engagement. What developed was the SplinterBike, creating a new type of human powered vehicle… the Plicycle.

Many years of woodworking experience have enabled me to make a bet with a friend and end up developing something that will ultimately set a land speed record for wooden bicycles. It’s a testament to the versatility and strength of one of mankind’s oldest available materials… and of course, modern glue technology!

Just because the things around us are as they are, doesn’t mean they have to stay that way. Alternatives can be designed for everything we use day to day and so often take for granted. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel but it’s interesting to try.

The Guardian elaborates on the bike’s “engineering marvels”:

The axles are made of the hardwood ekki; the cogs, wheels and frame are birch ply; and oily ironwood was used in place of metal bearings where moving parts met. The pedals and handlebars were made from an old broom handle salvaged from Michael’s shed.

The trickiest part was the drivetrain – how do you make a wooden chain?

Well, by cunningly replacing it with a huge 128-tooth cog that links the chainring and the gear on the rear wheel. In fact there are six cogs, as the drivetrain is replicated on both sides of the frame to add strength.

You may also have noticed that the frame features a pear, which Michael explains is because at some point the project will inevitably “go pear-shaped.”

But for now, their aims are still high. They hope to land a record speed on a wooden bike, with extra funds they raise going to the disaster-relief charity ShelterBox. To follow the SplinterBike’s progress, check out the duo’s blog.

More from Smithsonian.com: Turning Bamboo Into a Bicycle 

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