The precursor of the bicycle, the laufmaschine or the running machine – it brings only a vague similarity with the pedal bike that we know of today.
Invented in 1817, it had no chain and was powered by the rider pushing his feet along the ground walking or running motion.
Even more strangely, the chassis was made from wood.
Jump forward to 2017, and a crop of moto maker, you turn back the clock, at least in terms of the use of wood as a base material.
These companies make their bikes in part, and, occasionally, in everything from woods, such as ash, oak and walnut.
They are guided by a love for craft and design, the desire to use natural materials and a passion for cycling.
And they have attracted a small but growing base of enthusiastic customers, willing to pay high prices for their carefully crafted creations.
“People like having something unique, something different,” says Chris Connor, founder of Connor Wood Bicycles.
“They also appreciate the craftsmanship. Not a lot of things are hand-built in these days.”
The company, founded in 2012, after the 48-year-old American, has decided to combine his long-held passions for woodworking and cycling.
All the bikes all have wooden frames; the other parts, such as gears and wheels are made of carbon steel, stainless steel or rubber.
Prices range from $3,500 (£2,600) to $11,000.
The sales were gradually increasing, but it has not been easy, says Mr. Connor. That is because of a perception among some cyclists in wood, bicycles can break or be at risk.
In fact, Mr. Connor said that the wood is very durable, which is why it is used to make tool handles, skis, boats, even light aircraft.
It also absorbs the vibrations, cycling on bumpy roads smoother, less fatiguing, and more silent.
“And, of course, these bikes look great,” says Mr. Connor, that is its frame is made from “strong but flexible” white ash or “eye candy” of black walnut.
A recently published book called “The Wooden Bicycle: Around the World” has 111 companies that make a bike from wood or bamboo.
Only one, Splinterbike in the UNITED kingdom, sells 100% of models in wood, with its bicycles with wooden gears, chains and wheels.
However, most limit their use of the wood for the frame, and, occasionally, parts such as the handlebars and forks. Other parts will be manufactured with materials typically associated with the bike, such as aluminum.
It is the unique design of wood, bicycles, and their bespoke craftsmanship, which underpins their appeal, says Gregor Cuzak.
The Slovenian co-founded Woodster Bike after the meeting, carpenter Iztok Mohoric, who had recently designed a bike with a wooden frame.
“I wasn’t interested at first, but after I saw and took a ride, I was immediately convinced,” Mr. Cuzak says. “People looked at me as if I were driving a wild sports car.”
Like other companies in the space, Woodster is targeting customers that appreciate the finer things of life. His bike frames are made of beech and bog oak, and range in price from € 2,500 (£2,190) up to 17,000 euros.
In addition, each customer receives a book with a story about how their individual bike was made.
“We also plant a new tree in the same location where we cut one for your bike,” Mr. Cuzak adds.
Piet Brandjes, 63, who co-founded the Dutch company Bough Bikes, agrees that, in the wood of bicycles to “attract attention”.
For this reason, businesses in the Netherlands, such as the Novotel and Rabobank have bought Bough Bikes for their guests and employees to use.
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The bikes are also used in a common motion regime of Schiphol Airport business park, in the centre of Amsterdam, so that the workers can give them a ride.
Mr Brandjes says that all its models are of French oak frames, handlebars and front forks. However, customers do not have to worry about them getting wet in the rain.
“The bike in the common schema have been out for three years and still look good,” he says.
“As long as wet wood dries again, and that’s okay. You only need to Polish once a season.”
Everyone I spoke to reported feeling frustrated by the assumption of wood that the bikes were a bit less safe and sturdy than other bikes.
Mr Connor says to me that by using the right woods and construction techniques, his bikes are perfectly durable.
“A strong, seasoned wood, laminated in strips with reversing grain directions, bonded with aerospace adhesive is incredibly difficult.
“Add alternating layers of carbon fiber and Kevlar, as in my bike, and the strength far exceeds the requirements for the realization of a reasonably lightweight performance of the frame of the bicycle.”
As regards their operation, the Mr Brandjes stresses that all his bikes have been tested by TÜV Rheinland, a renowned German organization for the certification of the product.
However, other obstacles that may hinder the companies in the space.
For one thing, wooden bikes tend to be heavier than many road bikes. The various models of the three companies I spoke to weigh between 9.9 kg and 25 kg.
“You can’t make them as light as carbon bikes,” says Mr. Connor, “but I don’t think that a pound or two more or less it counts”.
The people who buy them are not competitive riders, ” he adds. Too expensive?
Another problem is that wooden bikes tend to cost a lot, which can prevent higher sales volumes.
The american company, the Renovo, whose bikes start at $3,995, it is probably the number one producer of bicycles in the wood in all the world. And it still said the BBC had sold only 1,000 models since it was founded in 2007.
“If someone manages to create a wooden bicycle for less than 1,000 euro (£914), sales might increase,” Mr Cuzak says.
Has only sold 10 bikes from when he started in 2015, which means that he and his partner still have to work for the company, in their free time.
However, Mr Connor runs his business full-time, having sold about 65 pieces to date. And Bough Bike has moved about 600 bikes since it was founded in 2012.
Summing up what many in the wood industry of the bike I think, Mr. Cuzak says, “this is not a normal activity, but a slow business”.
However, he adds: “We have planted the seeds and are now waiting for the tree to grow. I believe that, in the end.”