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Renovo Blog by Christo

Christo Blog: January 24, 2021

Are you wondering if Renovo Hardwood Bikes go through rigorous environmental testing? It turns out that I, Christo, am the Chief Executive Tester. On this ride I took a 55cm bike (too small for me, and set up for this testing run), to the Tiger Mountain Summit in Washington. The temperature at the base was 37 F and lots of freezing rain coming down. After I climbed about 500 vertical, the sleet turned to snow. By the time I broke out of the clouds, there was 2 inches of snow on the ground, and I couldn't be happier...just warmer.

Renovo Bikes have been around for 14 years now. None have needed to come in for a refinish. The bikes get about six coats of finish, starting with a sealer coat (base plus catalyst), and then numerous top coats of automotive satin (also base plus catalyst). There are four different products going into the finish.

You might think that I clean off water and mud right after a ride. Well, no. I've left my Renovo in the back of my pick up truck on a rainy night. Cleaned them up the next day. No worse for wear. A Renovo does not need more care than any other bike. The finishes on a bike are similar no matter the materials. Obviously, a steel frame without paint is going to rust. A wood bike without finish can pick up moisture. This is not a bad thing by itself. It'll dry. But the bike is finished with very high tech coatings. Even a scratch is not going to have any effect on the bike.

Here is a secret: There are easy methods to fix scratches on a wood bike, unlike other materials. Clear nail polish will work. I prefer to use a Cyanoacrylate glue, which is indistinguishable from the finish if applied with some skill. Crazy Glue and Super Glue are cyanoacrylates, but don't use them if you can get ahold of this...GluBoost. If you want to know how to work with CA glues on a Renovo, look up the videos at GluBoost.com . Luthiers worked out these methods, and it happens to work perfectly on Renovo bikes. In fact, if you are a luthier, or any kind of fine woodworker, you'll want to know about finish repair by GluBoost.

Christo Blog: July 7, 2020

Many of you have asked about how Pure Timber became involved with Renovo and I'll discuss that here, along with some wood working philosophy that made this a perfect fit...I first met the founder of Renovo, Ken Wheeler, about 8 years ago when we were both at the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival. My slant was decidedly more nautical than Ken's. But it got me interested in the product, and when Ken's business went bankrupt, I pursued and secured the assets and intellectual property. I knew I had a technical and production advantage that would make my ultimate success with the business much more likely. That probably needs a bit of explanation so I'll try to elaborate on it for you.
Pure Timber is not a Timber company, and definitely isn't a saw mill or lumber yard. The name is a reference to our engineered flexible hardwood that can be used for Extreme Woodbending (TM). This wood we create is solid hardwood, but engineered so that it can stretch when it bends. Wood can't stretch, so we engineer stretch into the wood under controlled conditions, and with heat and lots of pressure. What we do to hardwood is like taking a straight plastic drinking straw, and turning it into a flexible hospital style drinking straw. We are putting the bellows into the cell walls of the wood, and later, when we bend it, it can stretch out again. And speaking of plastic, the wood seems to be like some kind of soft plastic, so I named it Pure Timber to avoid the frequent questions about it being sawdust and glue, or plastic wood, or something like that. It's not. It is 100% solid hardwood, engineered to make it extremely flexible. By the way, after we bend it, we dry it in a kiln, and that fixes the shape permanently.
We use this engineered hardwood to make many precision products and parts. This includes musical instruments, organically shaped furniture parts, organically shaped architectural fabrications, and now wood bikes. The woodwork we do is very precise. If I could hire dentists, they would probably be really good at this kind of thing. Luthiers are good at it. And the detail, geometry and perfection required for a bike frame is exactly what we have been doing for 15 years. 
Wood is an amazing material for making bike frames if the properties of wood are considered for the shape of the part being made. I can design a frame that looks like it was made out of carbon fiber as far as the shape goes. But I have far more flexibility to change and adjust on the fly, or from bike to bike. Most bikes are popped out of molds. It costs a lot of money to make a mold, so it has to be used to make a lot of bikes. Renovo used to have a similar problem to this. Because it cost a lot of money to program the machine to cut this bike. 
Another wood issue is using aerospace cutting technology on it. It sounds like a good idea, until you consider that wood does not behave like aluminum. I'm not talking about plywood. This is about solid wood. It has a grain, or a direction in which it is very strong. But it also has a direction in which it is very weak. Cutting a curved line through a straight piece of wood gives you some strong wood, and some weak wood. On the other hand, bending those parts keeps the strong part of the wood exactly where it is needed. 
There is another problem with cutting wood on a machine that is used for metal. Solid wood won't come off the router in the shape you think it will. Wood moves. It is still like something living. It breathes. It expands and contracts. It moves more in one plane than in the plane 90 degrees to it. This makes it very difficult to cut wood parts to a specific file, and then put those parts together. The wood parts won't think it is a very good idea, and they'll tell you so. I find myself having all these silent conversations with wood. And if the wood disagrees with my idea or position, I'll loose. 
When I choose wood for a bike frame, my customers often think that I am selecting for color and grain pattern. And I am, but only to a point. I'm also selecting the wood for the part I'm making, and choosing the wood that is going to agree with me that it is going to be a good idea for it to be a different shape. I could cut it and sand it and make it be the shape I want, but the piece will be full of tension and stress. This is not what I want for your bike frame. By bending the wood for the curved parts, I am teaching the wood to be the shape I want it to be. And I've done it long enough that the wood generally goes along with what I ask it to do, if I ask the right way.
The inner triangle of my bike frames is made from a single piece of wood. It becomes the backbone, or structure for the rest of the bike. Everything is built off of it. Think of it, a triangle, in one piece of wood. No end grain. No grain run out. Only strong grain running around the triangle. This is the biggest change I have made to Renovo bike production. And it is the secret to a very strong, and very beautiful frame. One piece of wood, bent around a triangle to form a closed part. 360 degrees around. Three tight radius bends. And one nearly invisible scarf joint right about where the water bottle is going to go. This is my production secret. I build from the inner triangle, out to the rest of the bike, and it starts from this very strong foundation, and ends with a functional work of art.
Renovo by Pure Timber has just started offering frames to our customers. The first frames will be delivered in May/June 2020. Prototype frames have been on the road since last summer, when Prototype number 1, ridden by Erik Makhanov, competed in the STP. The poor guy was winded from talking to everyone who wanted to know about the wood bike. 
Renovo made about 1,000 bikes from 2008-2018. For 2020, the serial numbers started with 1001. We can sell the frame alone, or build it up for our customer. Most builds from us are going to get Force 1, or Rotor. I am partial to the Rotor myself, because I like 1x, and 13, and hydraulics. The rest of the bike is mostly Whisky Parts, Brooks, and Rolf Prima. Whisky is currently my favorite pairing with Renovo. Whisky and Wood. There is going to have to be some distillery bikes soon (and wineries, and breweries) and the former Glenmorangie model made from white oak cask staves can kick it off. I may call it the Renovo Hogshead. I know, you hate it. But wait for it. Or read more about the Hogshead at Renovo.bike. 
The bikes are a sensation everywhere they go. At Whistler last summer, while getting off the lift with my Renovo Bad Ash, an employee called into his radio...."A wooden hardtail is getting off the lift". Surrounded by high dollar enduro bikes, I felt like I had brought a vintage Chris Craft wood runabout to a fiberglass boat show. Rubber neckers everywhere. And people will come over and just pet it, like it is alive. And it kind of is. It's a living machine.

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