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What’s Old is New: Renovo Wooden Bikes

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Feb. 3, 2015 — Wood in cycling is nothing new. In fact, the first bikes ever made were wooden, the first Tours de France were won on wooden rims, and Siberian pine is still the material of choice for velodromes. While it disappeared for many, many years, it’s making a comeback. Notably, Bamboo has caused a stir with numerous manufactures crowing about the materials renewable nature and surprisingly good ride quality. Renovo, a brand out of Portland, Oregon, has been banging the wood drum since 2007, and it is making frames out of hardwoods. 

peloton/images courtesy Renovo

The people behind Renovo are not woodworkers. They are engineers, and their use of wood is not about nostalgia or gimmicks — they hit upon wood for its structural properties, durability, and ride quality. In short, they believe it is the best material for bike design. Calling wood “nature’s carbon fiber,” they leverage advanced technology to make hollow, wooden frames.


According to Renovo, wood has greater impact resistance than butted metal and carbon, is less susceptible to dents and crack propagation, is as stiff as metal pound for pound, has a fatigue life that exceeds steel and alloy and is almost equal to carbon and is a renewable, nonpolluting resource. 


RELATED: Renovo’s Opposite, the $20k Specialized McLaren Tarmac


The stand-out characteristic of wood, according to Renovo, is compliance and damping. After examining multiple materials it became clear none could equal wood, not even frames with elastic dampers or plastic film treatments between carbon layers. 


While mostly hollow wood, Renovo frames do use alloy sleeves in the head tube, bottom bracket and seat tube. 


Renovo sources the raw boards from four different specialty lumber yards, cutting and matching between 16 and 40 pieces of wood depending on frame model. Special moisture proof adhesives are used to bond the frames in a climate controlled room.


All frames are finished with at least two, three layer, applications of aircraft grade linear polyurethane. Despite wood’s natural make up, Renovo claims its bikes are impervious to heat, cold and moisture due to proper design, sealing and bonding. 


Even warping, cracking and dimensional changes are mitigated in part due to carefully controlled and verified kiln drying of all wood before construction.


A wooden aero race bike? Why not — it’s called the Aerowood.  A wooden climbing bike? Maybe not. Each Renovo frame weighs between 4 and 5 pounds, a significant handicap in the hills regardless of compliance or stiffness. A Renovo kitted out with a high-end group has a similar price to a high-end carbon bike, between $8,000 and $10,000. 

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