It is the end of September 2014 and I have been riding the Plycycle all summer and it is still going strong. Since completion in 2011, I have had to replace the forks as I originally bought cheap ones and I stripped the thread on them. Other than that it is all great.
It is a pleasure to ride, even in hilly old Bristol.
Ha, so I was helping my pal Gav Strange out with his Fixed and Chips race, when the editor of a bike magazine who was covering that event ( which was very cool by the way ) asked me if I would be in it with the plycycle. Well i thought about it for a milli second and said yes.
So here is the evidence.
Here we are in the Urban Cyclist magazine.
I am pleased to say that the Plycycle is still going strong, I love riding it and it is admired at every turn, which makes me feel proud. Long may it stay in one piece.
It was a lovely sunny weekend over the 24th -26th of March here in Bristol, which made getting on the Plycycle and riding down to Bespoked Bristol to see the show even better.
It was the first proper ride on the Plycyle after the winter and it was amazing. It really is a lovely ride, even if i do say so myself. When I parked the bike outside, I felt awkward leaving it for the first time, but i set off into the show. When I came out there was a small crowd around it and my chest swelled with pride. I answered a bunch of questions, yes I made it, no its not so heavy, no I don't really know how strong it is.... etc, etc.
During the show I found not one but two other wooden bike projects. Both more evolved than mine, but both tackling the same challenges and both with different results. After talking with them I felt that my design was strong and I had tackled common issued in a similar way. It gave me confidence that my bike will be strong in the long term.
First I found the Flat Frame System booth with Mike there to answer questions about his work. It was great to meet him and see his wonderful bike.
The Flat Frame System bike.
Then Just as I was leaving I saw Axalko company outside with their bike. It is a very serious pro bike similar to the Renovo set up. It is a very impressive machine. Enrique from Axalko was very generous with his time and it was great to see a young company with such passion taking on the bike world of metal.
The Axalko bike.
So having absorbed lots of lovely bikes at Bespoked I set off home on the Plycycle, it was such a lovely day and the bike felt so good I had to take the long way home.
I have made this blog into an actual physical book and e-book. Click here to see it. I thought it would be nice to do, just to have it in my hands, but also because it makes it easier to see the project as a progression. The only bits missing are the videos, other than that its all there.
But possibly the best reason is that I can now show my Grandmother who loves books and has no intention of looking at a blog.
I was riding the finished wooden bike around the city docks the other day and took this. It is a great bike to ride, really comfortable. I am still thinking about putting the Sturmy Archer 2 speed /roller brake hub in the rear wheel.... One day.
It was a sunny day, so I took the plycycle outside and took a few quick snaps. Soon I will take some proper photographs and make a site to show them off at www.plycycle.co.uk but at the moment will that link will bring you straight back to this blog.
Also, quite a few people have asked how long and how much it cost to make. Well I didn't keep a diary of the actual time it took but I have totted up the time I think I spent on it and it is about 42 hours over 6 months. However I think it would take longer than one working week to repeat because outside the actual hours I spent working on it is all the time allowed for curing of resins, paint and varnish. that would probably double the build time.
As for the cost.... well I kept the receipts and did some adding up. I nearly fell off my chair. It cost more than I thought. Its lucky I didn't charge myself labour.
Tools £ 58.35
Cycle parts £ 92.33
The funny thing is that the core material of plywood cost £38, the rest was on bespoke metal tubing, epoxy, varnish, spray paint etc. The frustrating thing was that often I had to buy lots more of something than I actually needed, so that has possibly inflated the actual price of some items. As for the bike parts, most came off my fixie, so actually saved lots there.
I suppose that for a hand built one of a kind bike it is not a bad price, and spread over six months it was not so bad.
At last the chain arrived, I quickly fitted it in the exhibition space at Aardman and got the bike outside as quickly as I could. A couple of pals joined my for the maiden ride and we filmed it.
The first ride of the plycycle.
I have to say that it made me beam from ear to ear. I was happy that at long last I could actually ride the bike I had set out to make back in March.
How does it ride? Well it is well balanced, and stiffer in the frame than I had expected. There is substantial twist in the frame if you push hard on the pedals off the line of the crank, but I expected that. It is however less than I had anticipated, which is good news.
I now want to do some proper test rides and carefully find out if it will be strong enough for the road.
But whatever happens next, I am pleased as punch that the project became a reality.
I also have grown to really like the handle bars that I put on so although I had thought of making a wood/aluminium hybrid bar, I dont think I will now.
So why is it not finished? Well I have all the bits except about 10cm of chain. In my excitement, I bought the chain I wanted without checking that it was long enough. So I need to buy another chain to match and make it up to length. Then the bike will be ridable.
I have sat on it and it didn't break, that is an achievement in itself.
However I am going to make some substitutions of some components. Mainly the stem. I fitted a classic Campagnolo style stem and I think it looks a bit weedy on the fat wooden frame. It also rakes down which I am not so keen on now. So I am changing it for a black ahead stem that will slope up to the bars. It is also a clamp type that will allow me to fit the wooden handle bars (with ally bar re-enforcement) I am hoping to make next.
I am also undecided on the bars I put on or if flat bull horns would be better. If I make bars they will be flat bull horns, a bit like the 'Charge' ones but without the upturn on the ends.
Mostly finished bike movie.
What bugs me? Well heaps, as you can imagine. The seat post is not at an angle that lies true to the frames angles. Also it slipped in its grips when setting and the seat sits ever so slightly off true. The varnish is thicker and more gaudy than I had expected. I should have done a test with it. There are lots of bumps and bits where I have either rushed or not thought a process through properly.
However. Having said all of the above, I am very proud of what I have made, having never attempted anything like this before, and having done it from my garage.