The concept of an engineered, hollow frame wood bike was developed in 2007 by Renovo founder Ken Wheeler. He was an avid touring cyclist who wanted a more stable, comfortable and durable bike for the rigors of touring. At the time, he was designing the Wheeler Express, an all-composite (carbon and fiberglass foam sandwich) aircraft, and in the analysis of wood structure used in historic wood aircraft he was surprised to discover that woods had superior vibration damping and fatigue life in addition to their excellent structural properties. He felt a hollow bicycle frame of wood could offer the smooth ride, light weight and durability he wanted and extensive testing confirmed his analysis, so he began producing wooden bicycles in 2007.
Exactly Why Do Renovo frames have the smoothest ride?
The three major reasons are shown in the table. The best materials for damping vibration have low density and low stiffness. When coupled with the low vibration transfer speed, these properties determine how well a material damps vibration. Wood has by far the lowest of these properties and we further enhance ride quality with extensive engineering.
If the engineering evidence wasn't enough for us, we have the satisfaction that our findings are corroborated by the real-world experience of our customers.
“The frame ride is amazing. It absorbs the greatest amount of vibrations I've ever experienced on any other bicycle.” - Renovo Owner JL
Comparing vibration damping- wood vs. other materials
Due to the cellular makeup of wood it has much higher vibration damping than other frame materials. Note that wood absorbs vibration within the material, not through flexing. Wood and all other frames flex, but that property belongs in a discussion about stiffness.
Unlike metals and carbon which transmit shock and vibration, wood absorbs it. So unlike some frame manufacturers who use gimmicks in their carbon frames to tame the harsh ride, Renovo has used what we call Full Frame Vibration and Shock Damping (FFVSD) for the past ten years, where the entire frame is engineered as a shock absorber using the superior vibration damping of wood, further engineered to minimize vibration. Renovo frames deliver the smoothest ride of any frame with comparable stiffness, and are renowned worldwide for their unequaled ride quality.
Engineered for Performance- The stiffness of hardwood varies by species, but many have the same stiffness pound per pound as steel. Coupled with purposeful frame design this enables us to make a lightweight frame with optimum stiffness for any riding style from a city cruiser to a competition mountain bike.
Total Ride Quality
Renovo frames are unique because their principal vibration damping is within the material and does not depend on flexing or ‘vertical compliance.’ Our frames can be as stiff as carbon fiber or aluminium, but that isn’t our goal, we want the highest ‘stiffness to smoothness’ ratio, delivering both comfort and confident handling. Renovo frames have the smoothest ride of any frame with comparable stiffness and are renowned worldwide for their unequaled ride quality.
Not optimal for all bicycle structures- Like most materials, wood is not suitable for every application. A good example is the clamping of a wooden seat post or handlebar. We use wood where it suits our engineering goals, not because it’s pretty. This is partly evidenced by our use aluminum inserts in the head tube, bottom bracket, seat tube and dropouts to take stress loads for which wood is unsuitable.
Superior Durability + Damage Tolerance- The linear fibrous structure of wood is uniquely damage tolerant. Unlike metal frames where a dent is a stress riser ultimately resulting in a frame crack, a dent in wood is a minor, easily repairable cosmetic imperfection which will not initiate a crack. Carbon is also susceptible to cracking, as it is notch-sensitive and often built into very thin cross-sections. Aside from damage, wood also has a fantastically long fatigue life; meaning it can undergo many more flex cycles (riding forces) than metals, similar to carbon fiber. Ultimate frame durability is aided by our sealing and finish. Frames are sealed inside and out to be impervious to moisture. Our high-quality clear polyurethane finish is durable and easy to repair. With durability added to our unique vibration damping properties and stiffness/smoothness ratio, it’s no wonder Renovo riders love their bikes. We receive frequent unsolicited testimony from Renovo riders, nearly all of which centers around how uniquely their Renovos ride.
Comparisons by our customers whose carbon bikes have plastic shock absorbers in the stays and fork confirm those findings on the road:
“I’m amazed that you’ve come from nowhere and produced a gorgeous bike that rides better than my $8000 carbon S-Works Roubaix”. DM, Shop manager, A Bicycle Odyssey
"Back-to-back riding against the Roubaix clearly shows that the Renovo has a smoother ride!” Joe Martz, (Read Joe’s complete magazine quality ride review of his R4 Pursuit)
And others: (there are many more)
"Comparing with my Cervelo R3, the ride is incredibly smooth. Even compared to my old steel Pinarello, it's a more pleasant ride." Luciano, Paribas, Brasil, Pursuit
"I have 11 bikes in my collection. The Renovo is by far the smoothest and quietest. Silky smooth even on bumper (sic) road, supreme handling." Eddie Wu, Zhuhai, China R4
A Detailed Evaluation of Ride Quality
For a test-ride, I used a favorite loop which is a great, 25 mile ride that has a long, slight descent of 6 miles over an older road with plenty of snakes and cracks. This road is almost unrideable on aluminum bikes, as you do about 30 mph while your teeth get shaken out. The best carbon bikes I've ridden on this road are the Roubaix and the Colnago CLX 2.0. Steel-framed bikes do well here, but still transmit a bit of high-frequency vibration. Once I began the descent on the Renovo, I was shocked. You still feel the bumps, but they are extremely damped. And there is almost no high-frequency vibration at all! The wood frame just soaks up this road, and gives a ride like some kind of magic, natural shock absorbers. Back-to-back riding on this with the Roubaix clearly shows that the Renovo has a smoother ride. Joe Martz, Los Alamos, NM
Renovo introduced modern technology to wooden bike frames in 2007, 190 years after the first wooden bike. We originated the process of laminating hardwoods and using a computer-controlled (CNC) router to precisely mill our frames in hollow halves, which are later bonded together.
It takes many steps to make our frames, and at each one we take steps to ensure quality.
Ok, let us start with a wee bit of engineering on the matter of weight, which for many cyclists is like starting a conversation on politics or religion.
For years, the orthodox position on weight has been something along the lines of “Lighter bikes result in significant performance gains.” Recent engineering work by others on aerodynamics and tire choices have begun to dethrone light weight as the ultimate goal for a bicycle, but weight still reigns supreme in many minds.
The problem with this belief is that it’s largely based on marketing and assumption.