A Bicycle is born - well the idea anywa

I'm a builder, a fiddler, a maker - call it what you will, but I'm one of those 'blokes' with a workshop, a love of doing stuff and glue stains down his shirt. 

The idea of making my own bicycle frame stems back 30+ years to the days I rode steel bikes with shifters on the downtube. Given that in those days I'd have been building with straight steel tubes welded together it didn't seem possible to make a bicycle that would be unique and stand out, particularly as there is not a vast amount of wiggle room to play with when it comes to frame geometry whilst still creating a very decent, ridable bicycle. I felt there wasn't much room for creative design and I would have been pretty much building a kit bike that looked like every other bike; a whacky paint job being the only real thing I could apply to make it different.

It was when carbon bicycles were becoming mainstream that I saw the possibility for a bit of creativity in design. These new bicycles didn't have to rely on round section tubing and I was even starting to see some mild curvature being applied to the frames. I was sure that carbon was the way to go and began to think about my own design. I still wanted it to be fairly mainstream, but as a maker I felt there would be enough creativity to satisfy me. I bought a Giant Defy1 and was struck how they had lowered the seat stays to attach low down on the seat tube and also that the top tube sloped down. It occurred to me that it would not be a huge leap to take these two lines and smooth them into a single curve running from rear wheel to the head tube. I felt carbon would allow me to do this, though I wasn't exactly sure how. I drew the picture below showing my idea for this continuous curve.

I had other big projects on the go and other than occasional mulling on the subject I did nothing more for several years. Slowly the idea once again started playing on my mind, and, not being an expert on laying up carbon, I began some research. I was learning a good deal about carbon, but by chance I came across Jay Kissinger, who had built a wooden bicycle. I loved it. It was certainly a stand out bicycle. Jay was very helpful in answering my questions when I emailed him. I soon found Nick Cole, who was a hobbyist who had also built a wooden bicycle along very similar principles. Nick was also very helpful. Being that I would say I am predominantly a woodworker, it now seems crazy that the idea of making in wood never even crossed my mind. I had made several furniture pieces in the past where I had created bent, laminated oak curves. These had worked very well, so I wondered if I could take the wooden bicycle principles of Jay and Nick and go a step further by creating my desired curve. I then came across Renovo. Renovo make beautiful wooden bicycles and one of their models featured the curve I had in mind. As they are a commercial enterprise I didn't feel I could write to them and pick their brains the way I had done with Jay and Nick, but I could see from their pictures that they built along the same basic principles - creating two hollowed out clam halves that come together to make a hollow frame. I later found a few people using similar construction methods. Craig Blend proved to be an inspiration. His bicycle looks great and he was supportive and enthusiastic when answering my emails. I don't know who originated this wooden bicycle construction method, but it was a system that would allow me to work in wood, not carbon, give me great scope for creativity and make a beautiful, stand out bicycle - assuming I could pull it all together. 

I began drawing and, as I didn't have any information on how Renovo made their curve, I had a good deal of thinking to do about how to achieve this whilst maintaining strength.


© Christopher Thompson