RENOVO, EXCLUSIVE WOODEN BICYCLES MADE FROM OLD WHISKY CASKS
Exclusive bicycles that are just as good as classic steel or aluminium bikes in terms of design, elegance and strength. In Portland, U.S.A., Ken Wheeler’s company, already famous for developing and manufacturing the Wheeler Express, a four-seater airplane, has now turned the all-wood bicycle into a must-have fashion. Each model takes about 20 hours to make and each frame uses up to 40 pieces of wood. A process with high precision requirements that only the power of a morbidelli CNC work centre can satisfy.
What have wood and a glass of fine Scotch whisky got in common? Bicycles made entirely out of the oldest material in the word and which are just as good as classic steel or aluminium bikes in terms of design, elegance and strength. We’re talking about the Glenmorangie Originals: a new range of bikes that exists thanks to a partnership between Glenmorangie, a well-known British producer of Scotch whisky and Renovo, a wooden bicycle manufacturer based in Oregon. These unique bicycles are the first in the world to feature a frame made entirely of used whisky casks. So Renovo’s brilliant vision has now become even more praiseworthy thanks to its use of recycled casks that allows its product to add environmentally friendliness to its many other technical advantages.
Unlike many distilleries, which reuse their barrels up to six times, Glenmorangie takes pride in only maturing two batches of scotch per barrel. After their second use, the barrels, all of which are made of American white-oak, are broken down into individual staves and sent to Renovo's workshop in Portland, Oregon. To make each bike, the American company’s craftsmen use approximately 15 staves (or planks), which are all kiln-dried and sanded. When these pieces are ready, they are passed on to Renovo’s expert workers who handcraft them into bicycles. All this is done using high precision techniques that enhance the bike’s unique design, which is based on the curve of the original whisky cask. It is a painstaking process, as each bicycle takes over 20 hours to make.
The Glenmorangie Original is the flagship bicycle in the Renovo Hardwood Bicycles range, and it is designed to be ridden. Thanks to its hollow frame design and the wood itself, the bike absorbs vibrations more effectively than carbon fibre, and the Renovo experts say it provides an extremely smooth ride. The Glenmorangie Original weighs just under 22 pounds, or less than 10 kg.
Renovo Hardwood Bicycles has built approximately 700 wooden bicycles in the last seven years. After initially specialising in customised bikes, the company has now moved on to develop a line that can satisfy the needs of most of its customers. Over time, the company has also refined the efficiency levels of its production base in Portland.
The company was founded by designer Ken Wheeler, who is known for developing and manufacturing the Wheeler Express, a four-seater airplane. Wheeler’s son Stu, a Marine Corps fighter pilot was also involved in the project. With all that high-performance aviation background, it’s hardly surprising that Renovo bikes are so sleek and high-tech. The experience of the company’s staff that includes guitar-making and prestige and standard furniture production is also very important.
"Historically, wood bikes came before metal bikes and we only half-jokingly say metal bikes were invented because making a wood bike is such 20 RENOVO - USA a pain in the ass," comments Wheeler on the Renovo website (www.renovobikes.com) while comparing wood with other bike frame materials. “Well, it is unruly,” he adds, “but we've learned how to make it behave in this unusual application and it's proven to be superb as a frame material and well worth our effort."
To make each Renovo frame, up to 40 pieces of wood are laminated to form blanks. A CNC work centre is used to rough out the basic shape, which workers then refine by hand. Its careful wood selection and frame design are also based on rigorous research and testing. The result is a strong, high-performance hollow-wood frame that weighs between 4 and 5 pounds, offering durability and smooth ride quality.
To craft its curved sections with such precision and refinement, Renovo uses CNC work centres manufactured by the leading international woodworking machinery manufacturer SCM. In September 2017, the owners of the company visited SCM at its headquarters in Rimini, to buy a new morbidelli m200 boring and drilling CNC work centre.