Wooden bi­cy­cle


The Shed - - Contents - By Ian Parkes Pho­to­graphs: Adam Croy, Daniel Strekier

— Daniel Strekier’s wooden bi­cy­cle is clearly a work of art but it also re­ally does work as a bi­cy­cle, al­beit a unique one

Daniel Strekier’s wooden bi­cy­cle is clearly a work of art, and of crafts­man­ship, but it also works as a bi­cy­cle, al­beit a unique one.

It’s not as nippy around town as a Lime scooter and it’s not ideal on hills, but give it rel­a­tively flat ter­rain and its fat tyres de­liver a very com­fort­able ride.

Aware that the bike weighs nearly 60kg, Daniel wanted to see if that was too much for a de­cent hill, so he rode it up cen­tral Auck­land’s Queen Street to Karanga­hape Road.

“It would go up, but quite slowly,” says Daniel. Com­ing down was a dif­fer­ent mat­ter. It got up to 38kph be­fore Daniel hit the brakes. “It was quite bouncy,” he says.

The over­size width and square pro­file of the tyres wouldn’t be the first choice of most bike de­sign­ers but their over­size di­men­sions make the larger frame sec­tion sizes that re­sult from build­ing in wood look quite del­i­cate.

The tyres still might not even have been Daniel’s first choice if he had been de­sign­ing a bike from scratch, but the tyres came first, then the wooden wheels, then he had to have some­thing to con­nect them. For a bike de­signed back­wards, it’s a vis­ual and tech­ni­cal treat.

Just for the chal­lenge

Daniel’s moun­tain-bik­ing friend and neigh­bour Bruce had asked him for help mak­ing a bar­rier for a ra­dio-con­trolled car track and Daniel thought that he could cut it out of tyres. A lo­cal mer­chant sug­gested us­ing some old midget rac­ing car tyres, as they didn’t have steel in them.

That got Daniel won­der­ing what else he could do with them. “I kept bounc­ing the wheel like a bas­ket­ball won­der­ing what to do,” he re­mem­bers.

He de­cided, just for the chal­lenge of it, to build a wooden wheel. He thought about a trike or quad bike but de­cided that they would be too big for foot­paths. He was into moun­tain bik­ing, so he set­tled on the idea of an off-road bi­cy­cle. In wood, nat­u­rally.

The wheel con­cept worked, so he de­cided to beef it up and make a stur­dier ver­sion, and the bike project was un­der­way.

He had so much fun mak­ing the bike that he couldn’t ac­tu­ally stop. He de­cided to add mud­guards, a chain guard, a long se­cu­rity chain and a work­ing pad­lock, a sad­dle bag, oh, and a very funky bi­cy­cle hel­met, all made out of wood.

Wood­work­ing has al­ways been a pas­sion. He clearly re­mem­bers us­ing a saw aged nine or 10 and mak­ing lit­tle wooden cars as presents for his sis­ter and other rel­a­tives. And now he has made toys for his son and other chil­dren.

Now a bubbly Kiwi

Daniel grew up in the town of Após­toles, in a farm­ing re­gion in Mi­siones, Ar­gentina, a prov­ince that sticks out like a thumb be­tween Paraguay and Brazil, and is home to the Iguazu Falls.

He came to New Zealand for three months but when he went back to Ar­gentina, he re­al­ized that he missed New Zealand. So he came back and his three months has stretched into 12 years. He loves New Zealand but re­mains proud of his her­itage and, while his English is fine, his Span­ish ac­cent is as much a part of him as his bubbly per­son­al­ity.

He runs his own busi­ness,

The tyres still might not even have been Daniel’s first choice if he had been de­sign­ing a bike from scratch, but the tyres came first, then the wooden wheels

Mas­ter­piece Wood­works, “for craft and gen­eral wood­work, es­pe­cially rus­tic style”, from his home in How­ick, Auck­land, mak­ing be­spoke fur­ni­ture and fit­tings. He en­cour­ages his cus­tomers to do more with solid wood, but in­stead of starv­ing his wood­work­ing pas­sion be­tween com­mis­sions, he de­cided to chal­lenge him­self.

Asked which were the most chal­leng­ing parts of the bike build, he replies: “I was en­joy­ing it so much I for­got which part was the hardest. I en­joyed work­ing ev­ery­thing out. When I was build­ing it was a hol­i­day for me!”

Think­ing back, he says that build­ing the wheels was quite tricky. He wanted some­thing more so­phis­ti­cated than the an­cient cart­wheel-type hub­caps he built for his van (that’s an­other story). It had to be mod­ern and smooth enough to sup­port and hold the pres­sure of a mod­ern tube­less tyre.

Build­ing those wheels

Each side of the wheel started out as 16 pieces of flat wood joined with fin­ger joints to form a cir­cle with flat edges. Flat discs were glued to them and the two sides were joined to­gether with a cen­tral wooden strut. The strut has flat sides, like a bolt head. That al­lowed

“I kept bounc­ing the wheel like a bas­ket­ball won­der­ing what to do”

but­tresses to be glued be­tween the strut and the wheel disc, help­ing to join the two se­curely.

After a proof-of-con­cept trial, Daniel built the real things, strong enough to take a real ham­mer­ing. Hav­ing a front wheel col­lapse is not some­thing he was pre­pared to risk.

They turned out good-look­ing and strong, but the tyres wouldn’t stay pumped up.

“The bike is very heavy when it has low tyre pres­sure,” he says.

He painted the wheels with ex­tra coats of resin but they still would not hold their pres­sure. The fi­nal so­lu­tion

came when he painted on a layer of liq­uid sil­i­cone.

Meet ‘Grace’

Daniel has clearly spent a lot of time on de­sign. A tra­di­tional bike frame with its dou­ble-diamond ba­sic shape lends it­self eas­ily to con­struc­tion with straight pieces of wood, but you will find very lit­tle of that on Daniel’s bike.

Only the forks, chain guard, and chain stays are straight — but not en­tirely. The forks and both sets of stays are lam­i­nated to curve around the fat wheels and the chain guard has won­der­fully in­tri­cate lam­i­nated curves over the gears at each end. It came to­gether so well that, even with its butch tyres, it suits the name Daniel has be­stowed on it: Grace.

But the most strik­ing fea­ture of the bike is the free-flow­ing, wob­bly stripes in con­trast­ing wal­nut and ash on the frame rails and mud­guards. They high­light this bike’s or­ganic essence. Daniel is of­ten asked how he made this fea­ture — peo­ple are con­vinced they can’t be in­lays be­cause they are too un­struc­tured.

Most peo­ple sug­gest they were done on a CNC ma­chine, but no.

A friend, Thomas Rahm, used a lathe and a CNC ma­chine to turn out the al­loy and steel parts for the wheel hubs, brake car­ri­ers, and the other com­po­nents that Daniel de­signed to trans­fer power from the pedals to the rear wheel, but none of the wooden parts was cut by CNC.

All pedal power

The pho­tos show what looks like a small elec­tric e-bike mo­tor be­ing in­stalled, but this bike is all pedal power. Daniel used stan­dard bi­cy­cle cranks and a bot­tom bracket with a two-speed crankset. The chain then con­nects to a gear linked to a Shi­mano 11-speed in­ter­nal gear­box, a unit usu­ally seen in the rear hub of tour­ing and commuter bikes, mounted in front of the rear wheel. An­other short chain links the out­put shaft on the other side to the bike’s rear wheel.

“The per­for­mance of this gear­box is quite amaz­ing,” says Daniel. But maybe he’ll get a mo­tor for the next one.

Like other stylish mod­ern bikes, the ca­bles are also routed in­side the frame to avoid dis­tract­ing from the form, so that in­volved in­sert­ing flex­i­ble tubes from end to end in­side the frame so that the ca­bles could be fed through them.

“I was al­ways think­ing, how can I do it bet­ter?” says Daniel.

The han­dle­bars, hav­ing to fit hu­man hands, are one of the more del­i­cate items on the bike. They are also lam­i­nated for strength with lay­ers of carbon fi­bre in be­tween lay­ers of oak.

“I was able to hang my weight from one end,” says Daniel. So land­ing jumps should be OK.

He takes sim­i­lar care in the work­shop. “One of my say­ings is: ‘Work safe — you need your fin­gers for the next job’.”

Clamp that

It’s also clear from the bike-build pho­tos that Daniel needed a lot of clamps. Even if he’d been get­ting them as birth­day and Christ­mas presents for sev­eral years, he would still have had to buy more.

On one lay-up alone he used 52 clamps. On an­other he used 33 — but only be­cause he had run out of room for more. Some jigs, like those mak­ing a dou­ble bend, were quite sim­ple. Oth­ers, like the jig for the in­ter­nal face of the main frame, were also mas­ter­pieces of in­ge­nu­ity.

The main frame is a box sec­tion with four sides, but there is no join on the in­ter­nal face. Four 2mm strips were steam-bent and lam­i­nated on a separate form, which was lashed into a spe­cially built frame so that pres­sure could be ap­plied in all the right places. It was then left to dry for two days.

“I took a lot of care mea­sur­ing many times and work­ing out the an­gles. That was quite hard to do,” says Daniel. “I need a chal­lenge some­times to feel happy and I got to learn. It was a big achieve­ment.”

The mud­guards are much more stylish than they might have been. The square pro­file of the tyre would have made it easy to build a three-sided cover, like the deep slab-sided guards on a Har­ley-Davidson Fat Boy. But as the

“It wanted to go in the ditch, and we just went in the ditch. I rolled like Jackie Chan”

wheels al­ready looked heavy enough Daniel de­cided on some­thing much lighter and more el­e­gant.

That cre­ated a raft of new tech­ni­cal chal­lenges. Nat­u­rally they had to have the sig­na­ture wob­bly tiger stripes but the re­ally tricky bit would be mak­ing the guards curve in ev­ery di­rec­tion.

“They are not flat across the top,” says Daniel. “They are like a bar­rel. This took a bit of learn­ing how to do it.”

He made them three lay­ers deep. Only the top layer needed the stripes. To get the curve, they had to be made up in sec­tions. Each guard is glued to­gether from 32 pieces stuck to­gether into nine build­ing blocks for fi­nal assem­bly. Bi­cy­cle in­ner tubes were pressed into ser­vice to ap­ply pres­sure in be­tween the clamps.

Wooden nuts and studs, wooden hel­met

An­other fea­ture of the bike is the wooden nuts and studs. To avoid hav­ing the studs shear, Daniel lam­i­nated them in his sig­na­ture wal­nut, oak, and ash colour scheme be­fore turn­ing the threads. The bike also had steel axles that de­manded steel bolts and wash­ers to hold the wheels on, but that would not look right.

To give the wheels axle nuts of the right scale, Daniel put large wash­ers on the bolts then drilled and screwed the wash­ers from the un­der­side into over­size six-sided wooden caps. The re­sult is a steel bolt with a wooden head. As well as look­ing right, he ac­tu­ally needed the flats to lock the bolt and hold the wheels on to the axles.

An­other cool piece of kit is Daniel’s wooden hel­met. He bought a plain cy­cle hel­met then glued on lots of large plugs made of the three timbers in the bike — oak, ash, and wal­nut. Then he drilled into the mar­gins to fill the gaps with a

smaller size of plug. This cut into the edges of the plugs that he had al­ready in­stalled and the glue that had run be­tween them.

How did he avoid cut­ting into the hel­met? “By be­ing very care­ful,” he says.

Then he sanded the hel­met and re­peated the process with more plugs, and smaller ones, three sizes in all. “I did it again, and again, and again,” says Daniel. “I’m not sure if I fin­ished or if I just got tired.”

Bike trail test

But both bike and hel­met are put to good use. This is more than a wood­work­ing ex­er­cise; it’s also an ex­er­cise ex­er­cise. Daniel took the bike on the Hau­raki Rail Trail, where the gen­tle gra­di­ents suitable for trains don’t pose too much of a chal­lenge, but just keep­ing Grace on the path still pro­vided plenty of ex­cite­ment. There’s a rea­son most bikes don’t have big square tyres.

You can’t lean the bike as hard as a nor­mal two-wheeler, as that pops it up on the cor­ner of its tyres with un­pre­dictable con­se­quences, so Daniel has just taken to steer­ing hard and lean­ing his body more. He says you have to look out for cam­ber changes too.

“It wanted to go in the ditch, and we just went in the ditch. I rolled like Jackie Chan,” he says.

An­other time when he no­ticed the bike head­ing ditch-wards, he hit the brakes, the rear locked up, and he coasted into the ditch any­way.

“I have to lean out a lot and just keep ped­alling,” he says.

Daniel’s not ready to hang up his wooden hel­met yet. He is cur­rently train­ing for a char­ity ride from Cape Reinga to Auck­land, a trip which does in­clude a fair few hills. But he’s keep­ing his ambition in check, as he knows the chal­lenge is se­vere.

“I will call it ‘To the Next Town’,” he says. “I will just keep ped­alling and keep lean­ing.”

So how did he create those wavy stripes? Fig­ured it out yet? He laid a strip of dark tim­ber on top of a strip of light tim­ber, fas­tened the two to­gether then cut two wavy slots through them both at the same time on the band­saw. Then he could pull the cen­tre piece from the strip be­low to mix and match. Neat, eh?

Daniel thanks Thomas Rahm, Bruce McKay, Tony Wilson, Michael Gwilliam, Craig Mur­ray, and Bruce Chan for their help and sup­port through­out the six months of the build, and Rob Hal­lie for the tyres.

The tyres came first - then the wheels

The wooden-axle bolt head hides the steel in­side

The maker’s plate

Curv­ing ev­ery which way, the mud­guards high­light Daniel’s artistry

Daniel and Grace

Clockwise from above: Wood and leather sad­dle bag; pre­ci­sion wood­work­ing with or­ganic high­lights; work­ing wooden pad­lock and chain; lam­i­nated pedals; tech trim­mings; just right from any an­gle; be­spoke en­gi­neer­ing around Shi­mano gear­box

Above: The forks and both sets of stays are lam­i­nated to curve around the fat wheels

Daniel (right) and friend and neigh­bour Bruce McKay tackle the Hau­raki Rail Trail

Daniel’s next chal­lenge - a ride from Cape Reinga to Auck­land

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.