Woodelo, manufacturers of high performance wooden road bikes, saw off stiff competition from steel specialists to win the Best New Builder award at Bespoked Bristol 2013. Their winning entry was the Leaf Speed, made entirely of Irish ash.
Liam Murray, who designed and built the bike, said the wood is an excellent road frame material because of its vibration damping properties. “The most discerning cyclists are roadies, so if you can convince them of the properties of ash you can convince anyone,” he told BikeRadar during the show.
The bike is made from kiln-dried, quartersawn ash – planks radiating from the centre of the tree trunk. It means they are less likely to warp, said Murray, who added that the frame is incredibly stiff.
“It’s closer to carbon in terms of ride quality but it’s unique. It just dampens the road. It feels a bit dead when you’re coasting along but there’s no loss of power when you stamp on the pedals, and it’s also smooth on the downhill.”
The Leaf Speed’s massive top tube and down tube are hollow constructions, with walls varying in thickness between 4-10mm. At the back, the shaped seatstays are solid and the frame is laminated with an epoxy resin, which adds to the stiffness.
Four distinct prototypes preceded the finished road model – although there was a lot of “chopping and changing” in between, said Murray. The frame weight is 2.2kg (4.9lb) for a 54cm model.
The Leaf Speed's ride quality is said to be unique but akin to carbon
While the use of ash as a bike frame material is novel, car company Morgan have been using it as a structural material for decades. They use an ash frame in the cockpit, which provides deformable protection between the chassis and panels.
Woodelo are based in Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, the home town of legendry Irish cyclist Sean Kelly. Murray founded the company two-and-a-half years ago after proving the 'wooden bike' concept with a singlespeed mountain bike.