The bicycle was born out of the industrial revolution and consequently skipped traditional building materials in return for greater efficiency and performance. It remains a symbol of engineering at its finest and a proving ground for technology and new materials. However, our modern bicycles seem to be dripping in carbon and cables that we don't use or need.
The past decade has seen a sharp rise in urban transportation by bicycle in the United States. There are people who ride bikes simply because it is enjoyable. These people do not need the high performance and precision of the latest technology. These people want simplicity, comfort and style.
I found it odd that no bicycle parts were made of wood - a material that humans came to understand so completely throughout our evolution. This year I built a new fixed gear bicycle that required no brakes or shifters and found an opportunity to experiment with this often abandoned material.
The material is red oak. It is a glue lamination. I have been riding with it almost everyday this year and have found them to be the most comfortable and enjoyable handlebars I've ever used. I have been told many many times that it will not work and that I will break my face when they "snap". I find it interesting how many people refuse to accept the material as a substitute for metal. Yet it is the same material that circumnavigated the globe, composed the first airplanes and killed mammoths many centuries ago. That's a pretty good track record.
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