PORTLAND - Scotch whiskey and wood have been combined - and it's in the form of ultra-sleek wooden bicycles.
The Glenmorangie Original by Renovo is a collaboration between renowned scotch producer Glenmorangie and the Oregon-based wooden bicycle manufacturer Renovo. The unique new bikes are the first in the world to feature a frame made entirely of used whiskey casks.
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 off to Renovo's woodshop in Portland, Oregon.
Renovo builds each bicycle with approximately 15 staves (or planks), which are all kiln-dried and smoothed. Renovo then handcrafts the bicycles, maintaining a design that recalls the barrel each bike is made from -reminiscent of the curving of a scotch cask. Each bicycle takes over 20 hours to construct.
The downtube and top tube reflect the trapezoidal shape of the stave and the arcing curve of each scotch cask.
The Glenmorangie Original is meant to be ridden. With a hollow frame design, and with wood absorbing vibrations more effectively than carbon fiber, Renovo says the bicycles provide quite a smooth ride. The Glenmorangie Original weighs just under 22 pounds.
Wood is making a comeback in several engineering and manufacturing areas, from skyscrapers to bicycles.
Renovo Hardwood Bicycles has built some 700 wooden bikes in the last seven years and has gone from emphasizing custom bikes to developing a line of production bikes to meet most customers’ needs and still be efficient to produce in their Portland, Oregon, manufacturing facility.
The company was started by designer Ken Wheeler, who is known for developing and manufacturing the Wheeler Express four-seat composite airplane. Also involved is Wheeler’s son Stu, who is a Marine Corps fighter pilot. With all that high-performance aviation background, it’s no surprise that the Renovo bikes are sleek and high tech. Their staff boasts experience that includes making guitars and fine and production furniture.
Contrasting wood to other frame materials for bicycles, Wheeler says on the Renovo website (www.renovobikes.com), “Historically, wood bikes came before metal bikes and we only half-jokingly say ‘metal bikes were invented because making a wood bike is such a pain in the ass.’ Well, it is unruly, 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. Then a CNC machine is used to rough out the basic shape, which workers then refine by hand. The company emphasizes the durability and reparability of its frames. Selection of wood and frame design is 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. Prices for complete bikes range from about $4,000 to $7,500.