- Wooden bikes aren’t just for ecology-minded hipsters.
- With its great strength-to-weight ratio, timber is an excellent material for a mountain bike frame.
- And the latest wooden bike offering is made for hardcore singletrack riding, instead of cruising around town.
In South Africa, wood is great for flooring or braais but
not really championed as a build material. Especially for mountain bikes.
Such a pity, as wood makes for an ideal alternative to metal or carbon-fibre. Although it requires a lot of master craftsmanship, wooden bicycle frames can deliver unique ride quality. A wooden bike can be made to have superior ride quality to metal or composite bikes.
Smoothing your ride
The secret of wood is its ability to absorb vibration. Cricket and hockey players will be familiar with this characteristic of wood. You can strike a ball and not have your hands numbed with shock, using a wooden bat or hockey stick.
This same principle applies to mountain bikes. Rolling over rocky or rooty terrain is fatiguing. Even with large volume tyres and suspension, there is a frequency of trail chatter that can numb a rider’s hands and feet, on a long ride. An impeccably constructed wooden frame can reduce those vibrations to a more tolerable level.
The French connection
Edouard Delbove is a French master carpenter and designer, working from his Atelier Suji workshop, in the mountainous Vercors are. The latest project from Atelier Suji, is an inspirational wooden hardtail, that isn’t shy of being pointed down the most technically challenging mountain bike trails.
Simple called Le Drop, this hardtail mountain bike can roll 27.5” or 29” wheels. Unlike many other wooden mountain bikes, Le Drop has very modern frame geometry and ideally suited to longer-travel forks, for big mountain riding.
According to Eduoard, his frame works with forks in the 150- to 160mm range. Shaped with a 65-degree head angle, Le Drop is the equal of most hardcore steel or carbon-fibre hardtail mountain bikes, currently in production.
Pretty and tough
The overall finish is so beautiful, you might never want to ride your Le Drop down a rocky trail, but Eduoard has ensured it will look splendid for many years. Eduoard coats his Le Drop wooden hardtails, using an environmentally minded eco varnish to keep them prematurely ageing and looking weathered.
Even with the latest clutch derailleurs, chain slap is a wear-and-tear reality for mountain bikers. And a steel chain can do a lot of damage to a wooden chainstay.
Cleverly, Eduoard has crafted a cork chainstay protector instead of using a thermoplastic one, as is the practice with most mountain bike frames.
It can cope with any trail
Built with sustainably sourced timer from the Rhône-Alpes region of France, the Le Drop hardtail is bonded with a special bio epoxy, formulated in Portugal.
According to Eduoard it rides as good as it looks. Compared to a steel or composite frame of similar specification, Eduoard Delvove’s Le Drop isn’t light, at 4.8kg, but when it looks this good – does that really matter?