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Wooden ‘SplinterBike’ aims to set world speed record

“I was going to get more pleasure out of him riding it than me making it, so I decided to build it,” Thompson said.

Six months later the SplinterBike emerged from Thompson’s workshop in Norfolk, England.

It’s a massive undertaking for something ridiculous like riding a wooden bike.

–Michael Thompson, SplinterBike maker

Made from a mix of hardwoods and plywood, getting around having chain was one of biggest challenge as the bike needed to have a high gear to theoretically reach speeds of over 30 miles per hour (48 kilometers per hour).

The result was a 128-tooth gear cog that connects the pedals to the rear hub.

It’s at a similar gear ratio to the kinds of bikes ridden by World Champion Chris Hoy, says Thompson, “but we’re looking to get something like half of what could be achieved on a normal bike like that because of the other factors involved, such as friction as wood is being used for bearings and things like that.”

With its green and yellow paint job it looks like nothing else on the road; not that it’s been on the road very much.

With worries over insurance, Thompson and Tully have taken to dawn raids on empty car parks to test the bike, sweeping the tarmac to make the ride on the wooden wheels as smooth as possible.

Tully describes riding the bike (that like normal track bikes has no brakes and a single gear) as trying the drag a wardrobe down a road.

While the land speed record attempt is set for the end of August, Thompson is still looking for funding to help them in their quest to set an official world record and hopeful that a velodrome will open their track to the SplinterBike.

“It’s a massive undertaking for something ridiculous like riding a wooden bike; it’s a complete farce really,” says Thompson.

The Victoria & Albert Museum in London has also asked to display the bicycle, which Thompson says is “the most wonderful thing I’ve ever been asked to do.”

“I’m thrilled to be asked, but it does put the pressure on. I hope James doesn’t smash it to bits before we get to put it in the museum.”

While he hasn’t ruled out building more SplinterBikes, Thompson has other projects to look after, including teaching his eco-friendly building courses.

He adapted traditional ways to make building material using “rammed earth” and now instructs those wanting to build inexpensive environmentally-friendly homes, recently exporting his ideas to a housing project in Botswana.



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