Marco Facciola is a 16-year-old high school student who needed to undertake a non-academic project for a school project. Inspired by his grandfather’s stories about building wheels from wood during World War II in Holland, when rubber was scarce, Facciola decided to build an entire bicycle from wood. His self-imposed restriction was no metal allowed, just wood and glue!
“I wasn’t sure my wooden bicycle would actually work,” said Facciola. “I quickly realized the first pieces of the puzzle I needed to figure out were the chain and the sprockets (gears), since the design of all the other components depended on these.”
Material selection was the first hurdle: each chain link would need to withstand the torque of Facciola’s pedal stroke. He needed to carefully and precisely hollow out the spacer connecting each link and slide a pin through them, allowing the chain to flex as it rotated around the bike’s chainrings and rear cog.
Not content with just making a rideable bike, Facciola added a custom freewheel which would allow him to coast on descents – otherwise the direct-drive system, or fixed-gear bike, would require constant pedaling. Through trial and error, Facciola devised a working freewheel – pretty darned impressive!
I’m sure the wooden wheels don’t offer the comfy ride of a pneumatic tire, nor are the solid wheels likely to be very stable in anything gustier than a light breeze. But I have to say – it’s so cool that this kid handbuilt an entire bike from the ground up, shaping each component from the raw materials. Try that same method of building a car up from metal bits! The simplicity of the bicycle has always been one of its coolest assets, and yet it’s still the world’s most efficient transportation method.
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