This Bicycle Grows on Trees

Furniture maker branches out to make wooden bikes.

This bicycle is made of wood.

(Courtesy Twmpa Frames)

Bicycle riding has taken the world by storm. Bicycles are typically made of steel or aluminum but now there is a unique company that is growing bikes on trees, literally.

These bicycles are made of British-grown ash trees by Welsh furniture maker Andy Dix. His Hay-on-Wye (located on the River Wye just north of the Black Mountains) company, Twmpa Frames, is making bikes that are both high performance and environmentally sustainable.

“It’s great to push for more bikes and fewer cars on the road, but there’s no escaping the fact that the bike industry as a whole is pretty energy intensive, Dix told Cycling Industry. “I’ve always tried to minimize environmental impact in my work. Rather than relying on heavily-processed metals, or layers of plastic that will one day end up in landfill, I’m building bikes from captured carbon, in a process powered by sunlight.”

From Furniture to Bicycles

Going from furniture to bicycles came about after a conversation with author Rob Penn, reported Positive News. Penn was looking for craftsmen to make things from an ash tree that fell for his book: The Man Who Made Things Out of Trees.

“We talked about what I might build, and I suggested a bike,” Dix told Positive News. “It seemed like a good fit, but actually I had no experience in bike building, and Rob had a publishing deadline. In the end, I built him a writing desk instead.” But the idea intrigued Dix who decided that he had to make it happen just to see if he could.

It took two years to build the prototype that was made from ash wood. Dix tested the wooden bike on the roughest roads he could find and discovered that it was comfortable, durable, and excellent at absorbing vibrations. He put more than 3,000 miles (4828 kilometers) on the bike.

Dix explained: “I was gliding along battered roads that would have shaken me to bits on a carbon bike. The penny dropped: not only could I make a bike out of wood, but it had inherent advantages over other materials.” 


Making a wooden bicycle.

 (Courtesy Twmpa Frames)

Using Wood is More Sustainable

While cutting down trees can add to more carbon in the atmosphere, sustainable tree farming is possible. According to the RainForest Alliance, sustainable forestry  is about balancing the needs of the environment and forest communities through limiting harvests and replanting trees.

Dix told Positive News that manufacturing a British tonne of aluminum results in carbon emissions of 4,532kg while producing a tonne of wood only emits 457kg. Making bicycle frames out of wood won’t make a huge difference but he believes it is a small roll in the right direction.

 “Our ancestors built amazing things out of wood, but it’s been usurped by more modern materials,” he said. “We have this incredibly sophisticated engineering material growing naturally all around us. It’s time people started to think about it in the same way as novel materials like carbon fiber.” 

The cost of a new Twmpa Cycle is out-of-reach for many bicycle riders; the idea of using sustainable materials like ash could start a new cycling revolution that puts the environment first. The company is even making plans to manufacture a wooden e-bike.  Helping the environment could be just a pedal away.

Twmpa's high performance bicycle

(Courtesy Twmpa Frames)