Mixing innovation and sustainability, a Dutch bicycle company aims to entice people away from driving cars.
Bough Bikes is a small Dutch manufacturer of unique wooden bicycles. To date they have produced over 300 hand crafted pedal powered bikes in use around Holland. During NYCxDesign 2014, the company staged the world premier of two prototype electric wooden bikes at GGrippo art + design in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. They chose NYC to show support for the rapid growth in cycling in the city over the past few years in part due to the expansion of bike lanes and bike share programs.
PSFK spoke with Piet Brandjes, Bough Bikes CEO and co-designrer who said that the bike came to be based on a challenge he posed to Jan Gunneweg, Bough Bikes other designer and master fabricator. Ideas were sketched and refined and soon a frame, forks, handlebar and fenders were developed all from sustainable French Oak.
Recent advancements in more powerful electric motors, smaller batteries and charging systems made it possible to create an electrified version of the bike that supplies the rider with pedal assist power. As you can guess from the photos, the bike is not lightweight, in fact it gets close to the heft of a moped, but remarkably the Bough electric will get to a top speed on flat ground of 15 mph with a range of 30 miles.
So what is it like to ride? We got to take one of the bikes out on a quick spin around Williamsburg and it is surprisingly easy to control. After a single pedal rotation, the electric motor kicks in and the effort required to cruise along is minimal. It feels a bit like perpetually riding downhill. Somehow the weight of the bike magically disappears as well, steering is quite sharp and maneuvering around road obstacles at speed wasn’t scary on a bike that used to be a tree.
Under the handlebars is a speed regulator on which low, medium or high can be selected. This functions a bit like cruise control on a car except that here you select how much pedal assist you want the bike to add. High is actually quite fast and on city streets, makes it possible to basically ride at the same speed as traffic.
There is also a battery charge display showing how much electricity is available. Bough says that the bike can be fully recharged in 3-6 hours. They are already working on a next generation version which will have energy harvesting capability from the hubs to recharge the battery as the bike is ridden.
Attached to the frame is the Abus Dutch locking system which secures the back wheel of the bike using a key.
In person, the bike has a beautiful finish and because it is all wood, it is kind of like riding around a piece of furniture. There’s no cold (or sunbaked hot) metal to touch the skin and nothing on the bike rattles. It feels comfortable to ride within about five seconds. A sentiment expressed by Jan Gunneweg himself:
If you design from nature it will always bring you something that people feel comfortable with.
Wooden bikes might not dethrone steel, aluminum or carbon bikes in terms of popularity and sales, but Bough Bikes are offering a premium alternative that functions just as good with a host of planet friendly production bonus points. The bikes also show there’s still plenty of possibility for innovation with materials as common as wood.