I recently visited the Shin Kiba workshop of Sueshiro Sano, an extremely kind and generous man who has been building sailing and tender boats since the age of 13. He is the 9th generation of his boat building family to continue the tradition. Since 2008, he has taken to creating track and road bikes made entirely out of Mahogany wood without the use of a nut or bolt.
His frame is strengthened throughout by alternating the thickness of timber: From hollow to solid, adding carbon fibre to parts experiencing the greatest strain. He’s fashioned his own jig to form each wheel, made from a series of laminates. The bike even features a wooden water bottle holder.
So why do this? His explanation is clear. His bike weights a total of 7kg. This includes wheels, chain set, derailleur and brakes. A full-size tender boat sits in the rear of his workshop. An out-of-water sample it is equally light. Attendees at the Düsseldorf Boat Show were so shocked by his claim his boat was half as light as traditional boats of the same size that they made him weight it. With no steel fuel tank (he uses plastic) and the only real metal used being the engine block (Made in Japan) mounted to a timber frame, the rest of this handmade boat is formed from hollow sections and joined by wooden dowel. Everything except the finishing bronze work (Made in Britain and shipped form London) is formed in-house. That, of course, includes the boat’s wheel. He’s simply ported ideas of flexibility, durability and weight to bicycles. If you can make a light bike from carbon fibre why not make one from wood?
Be warned. If you order a bicycle today (roughly $2000) you will be need to be patient. There is a four year waiting list!