I Am Not Impressed By Your Wooden Bike

02.6.2008 | 10:22 pm

I swear, if one more person emails me a link to that high school kid who built a wooden bike, I am going to lose my mind.

For the lucky ones among you who haven’t yet received this email chain, an online woodworking newsletter has an article about Marco Facciola, a 16-year-old kid who built a bike — even the chain — out of wood.

Here he and his bike are:


And here’s the detail of the drivetrain.


Sure, I can understand why some people would be impressed by a project like this, but I have more exacting standards. So, Marco, here are a few questions I have for  you.

  1. speed1c Where are the derailleurs? I suppose if you’re lazy, single speed was an option, but I think that if I had a bike like that, I’d want to at least set it up as 3 x 8 (though I think we can all agree that a nine speed cassette would be required if you want an A+ in the project). Or maybe — if you’re feeling like just phoning it in — make a nice wooden 14-speed internal-geared hub. Diagram included for your convenience.
  2. Isn’t that bike too heavy? Looking at that bike, I would estimate it weighs at least 30 pounds. It’s going to climb like a pig.
  3. No suspension? I expect a wooden bike is going to have some measure of vertical compliance built in, but if you want to do ledge drops, you’re going to want to build your next wooden bike with wooden suspension. Perhaps you might want to look into some sort of wooden leaf-spring system. Or something.
  4. 26" wheels? Dude, all the best wooden plate wheels are being built as 29-ers now. Get modern.
  5. Is your pedal system acceptable? I suppose some casual riders are OK with a wooden platform system, but next time you might want to build some wooden Speedplays. I’m thinking a nice mahogany-color.
  6. No kickstand? What’s a modern bike without a kickstand?

Stuff I Have Built Bicycles Out Of
I’m sure some of you are thinking, "Well, Fatty, if you’re going to lecture this kid on how he should have made a better wooden bike, you’d better have done something equally impressive.

As it happens, I have.

Here is an abbreviated list of the materials from which I have built bicycles.

  • Money. I once built a bicycle using nothing but US currency. Curiously, that bike still cost less than half as much as the Arantix.
  • Pasta. I was surprised at how easy it was to build a bike using nothing but dry pasta. By wetting the pasta a little bit, it would flex, adhere to itself, and then reharden. Unfortunately, I found the ride quality of the bike problematic. Dry pasta provides a stiff, brittle ride, which is to say, it felt exactly like a GT.
  • Tinker Toys. This was almost too easy. Took like twenty minutes. And the cool thing was, when I got to a water crossing I took the bike apart and made a bridge out of it.
  • Granite: This was the most beautiful bike I ever made, but it climbed terribly. The nice thing is, when I decided to abandon it, I just leaned it against the side of the mountain and walked away. I’m pretty sure it’s still there.
  • Bubble Wrap: I built this bike in answer to the question, "What if a bike protected you when you fall?" The bike was also remarkably light. The biggest problem with this bike, in fact, was that if I turned my back for even a minute, riding buddies would start impulsively popping the bubbles, and then I’d have to walk home.
  • Kryptonite: The only time I ever beat Kenny on a ride, I was riding my Kryptonite bike. You do the math.
  • Duct tape: Taking the statement "You can fix anything with duct tape" to its logical extreme, I figured I could also build anything with duct tape. And it turns out you can. As an interesting side effect, I was constantly being pulled over by other less-fortunate cyclists who needed a piece of my bike to fix their bikes. I never stopped using this bike per se; it just got assimilated into a multitude of other bikes.

I’m certain you’re grateful for my guidance in this matter, Marco. You’re welcome.

PS: Just to be ultra-clear, I’m joking. I’m amazed by Marco’s wooden bike.


  1. Comment by MBonkers | 02.6.2008 | 10:26 pm

    Dude, at least be impressed by the wooden freewheel!
    Personally, I’d have used pretzels. Good salty snack when you need it, and good traction from the salt studs.

  2. Comment by Mirco | 02.6.2008 | 10:43 pm

    ok, ok, I shall spare the scathing criticism of the scathing criticism, as I understand that it is in jest. I hope. But here’s my own criticism: While I am impressed with the freewheel, where’s the brakes? The kid’s own testimony states that he put it in so that he could coast down hills. All well and good, but a fixed gear would allow him to CONTROL HIS SPEED on same hills. intersting. Cudos to him.

  3. Comment by Mirco | 02.6.2008 | 10:45 pm

    Although a bit of creative cut-out on the wheels would have been nice… maybe some simple woodburning on select parts? He is a master of his trade, but not an artist. That is a key ingredient.

  4. Comment by bikesgonewild | 02.6.2008 | 11:08 pm

    …don’t push that kid…you KNOW he could build a wooden rolhoff hub knock-off…but he’d be 21 yrs old by the time he’s done, it’d be really big, weigh 75 lb’s & you’d probably get splinters as karmic retribution for suggesting it…

    …pasta bike, hah, you lie !!!…you built it, smiled & put it in a pot before you even road a mile…

    …duct tape bike…now that i believe…if you can fix anything w/ that stuff, why not build anything w/ it…

  5. Comment by Smeghead | 02.6.2008 | 11:39 pm


  6. Comment by Weean | 02.6.2008 | 11:50 pm

    I’d have liked to have seen some shaping & external butting on that down-tube (down-stick?), instead of a broom handle.

    And I’m with Mirco on the whole freewheel thing. Everyone knows fixies are where it’s at (just ask BSNYC). He coulda put in a flip flop hub in for very little extra effort.

    And this is all perfectly fine coming from me, the guy not even trusted to use a bandsaw in high school.

  7. Comment by Big Mike In Oz | 02.7.2008 | 2:13 am

    I just can’t believe that kid didn’t go to effort of proving how good his product really is. Is it too much to ask that he put a powertap or SRM on the thing?

  8. Comment by Mike Roadie | 02.7.2008 | 2:59 am

    Think about it…..no flats!

    My Cervelo doesn’t have a kickstand–or a bell, for that matter!

    Smeg–good catch on the brakes. I’ll bet the steering ain’t too good either!

  9. Comment by Big Boned | 02.7.2008 | 4:45 am

    I think he should ship that thing up to Jill. That way if she runs into a bad storm out on a training ride, she has an abundant supply of fuel for a fire. It’s really kind of irresponsible of her not to own one of these…

  10. Comment by eunicesara | 02.7.2008 | 5:53 am

    Hhmpf. Obviously a Norm Abrams – biscuit joiner-jig-on-a-bandsaw wheel. Roy Underhill would have shaped the felloes, shaved the spokes, and built the hub – all with hand tools. Also, full suspension mountain bikes have a suspension set-up suspiciously like that of a Kentucky Breaking Cart. Hmmmm.
    Are those STORE BOUGHT dowels?

  11. Comment by Al Maviva | 02.7.2008 | 6:11 am

    That bike is a total pathetic piece of crap, with crummy workmanship rivaling… well, what Canondale will become now that it’s been bought out by a company that makes department store bikes. Can’t wait to see a Magna monoshock incorporated into the Canondale Rush frame… it’ll be sweeeeet. So too the left fork, when it shows up on a 33 pound Huffy road bike.

    For a starter, he used dowels to make this thing. A really well designed wooden bike would be strictly dovetail joined. For another thing, it appears to be mostly pine and birch. Any true craftsman sticks to classic hardwood like oak, or hard-to-work exotics such as African Purple Uum-Pa-Pa Mao-Mao blackwood. Then there’s the finish. It appear to be a simple Minwax wood stain. Where’s the Danish Oil? What about the Stickley 3 step pickling process? Oh, this thing is lame.

    Plus I hear that its handling on long descents is a little bit wooden.

  12. Comment by Lifesgreat | 02.7.2008 | 6:19 am

    Just LOOKING at the seat gives me pain. Slivers-ouch!

  13. Comment by Turbodago | 02.7.2008 | 6:27 am

    This kid needs a girlfriend pronto. Not the kind of wood I was dealing with at 16.

    Keeping it real Marco.

  14. Comment by Sprocketboy | 02.7.2008 | 6:35 am

    So, Fatty, you made a bike out of money? I thought all our bikes are made of it.

  15. Comment by TIMK | 02.7.2008 | 6:44 am

    I think the freewheel was probably a good idea. I seem to recall that rubbing two sticks together could start a fire – this chain would burst into flames on a quick descent.

    And when did Jams shorts come back in fashion?

  16. Comment by je | 02.7.2008 | 7:27 am

    funny you mentioned the arantix.

    I was going to ask which you’d rather own, the spider bike or the wood one.

    Methinks if little Marco had a mechanical failure in the middle of nowhere and was stranded, at least he’d have kindling to start a fire and keep warm for the night.

  17. Comment by SteveW | 02.7.2008 | 8:27 am

    I think the most amazing thing about this is that it started out as an ash tray….

  18. Comment by BunE | 02.7.2008 | 8:41 am

    Dude, those aren’t Jams, they’s Madras. Jeez

  19. Comment by sans auto | 02.7.2008 | 8:51 am

    Someone convinced me to submit a bicycle I made out of corn-starch packing peanuts to the local art gallery. I went there last night and the handle bars had fallen off. I just couldn’t bring myself to walk over, lick the handlebars and stick them back on.

    Marco, That’s one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen, but boy it’s got to ride rough.

  20. Comment by axel | 02.7.2008 | 10:07 am

    no more flats!
    he surely could have added brakes in the style of the old dutch coaster bikes – a plunger that pushes down on the top of the wheel.
    Also, a hole and a little dowel could disable the magnificent freewheel and turn it into a fixie.
    No wooden top tube protector?
    You may want to add woodglue and woodscrews to the essentials to bring on a bike ride – duct tape doesn’t work great on wood.

  21. Comment by JimD | 02.7.2008 | 10:11 am

    What does one use to lube the chain?

  22. Comment by bikemike | 02.7.2008 | 10:37 am

    ridden exclusively by Team Terminex.

    i could also add something about the Dutch and wooden shoes but i won’t. you’re welcome.

  23. Comment by Clydesteve | 02.7.2008 | 10:43 am

    I do not think that bike has ever been riden. I am pretty sure the chain and cranks would not handle any kind of ascent at all – like up the driveway from the road.

    I dismissed this thing out of hand. With that uncomfortable-looking saddle at that ridiculous up angle, the whole thing testifies that while Marco is certainly clever with his hands, he don’t know Jack about bikes.

    He might as well have made a car rack out of sawdust.

    Sheesh, look at this thing – The Q-factor is too wide with that suspicious looking bottom bracket, and is he using wood to lubricate his headset, wheel bushings and BB? I daresay, no – He probably will have every mutt in the neighborhood after him to lick the bacon grease off his wheelset. And no grease zerks to renew the bacon grease after Fido cleans you out!

    And another thing, he has wheelie pegs off the back axle. What is up with that? Is this thing supposed to be a BMX? If it is, where are the front pegs? Huh?It would never survive a crossed up landing, much less taking a jump and pulling a whip.

    Marco, my lad, I’m afraid you are a poseur.

  24. Comment by Clydesteve | 02.7.2008 | 10:54 am

    Fatty, I put in a granite tile countertop. I have to hand it to you, granite is difficult enough to work, that you beat Marco all to smithereens in the “clever craftsmanship, but worthless to use” category.

    Maybe you should submit a picture of it to the “Lankashire Granite Quarterly”, and obtain some true and deserved fame.


    On another note, I started fund-raising yesterday for my June 29th Portland 2008 LIVESTRONG Challenge ride. Up to $2400.00 already. http://portland08.livestrong.org/stevpete We need to pick up the pace here with Mike-Roadie’s Fund. Mike – yer laggin’, buddy – better get a letter out! ;-))

  25. Comment by db | 02.7.2008 | 10:57 am

    What does one use to lube the chain?


  26. Comment by bikesgonewild | 02.7.2008 | 11:36 am

    …db…i was gonna suggest we all send him our old leftover & never finished bottles of ‘white lightning chain lube’ cuz he could use that waxy buildup…

    …& i heard the kid got so depressed reading comments from mtb-ers & roadies, that his next project is gonna be a recumbent cuz that crowd will accept anything…

  27. Comment by L'Hippo | 02.7.2008 | 11:55 am

    Hey, all the young guys go for fixies nowadays! Beats the magazine stands we used to make…

  28. Comment by blinddrew | 02.7.2008 | 12:00 pm

    Fatty, with regard to the gears and suspension (or absence thereof), he obviously logged on here, checked what you were riding this season and thought, “single speed – check! hardtail – check! 29″ wheels? Goddamn i just cut these! Besides which, everyone knows 29″ wheels are just a fad…”

    *** runs and hides before the storm breaks ***

  29. Comment by Judi | 02.7.2008 | 12:23 pm

    Verrrry cool.

  30. Comment by Mocougfan | 02.7.2008 | 1:15 pm

    How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

  31. Comment by Scoops | 02.7.2008 | 1:34 pm

    The post today, has an obvious branch that was not taken.
    As I read down to the build up of what othere food items I have or can make a bike out of, the question was posed of what items or articles have we made from bikes and bike related parephenalia?

  32. Comment by graisseux | 02.7.2008 | 1:41 pm

    It’s alright I guess. Now, if he had whittled the whole thing out of a single block of wood I’d give it a second look. You ever have a scoutmaster who could do the little ball in the cage or carve an unbroken wooden chain? That’s talent.

  33. Comment by Albert A Rasch | 02.7.2008 | 2:27 pm

    The kid is clever I’ll grant him that.

    I wonder if anyones made one from ice…

    Albert A Rasch
    The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles

  34. Comment by Tyson | 02.7.2008 | 2:27 pm

    I failed wood-working in school because the little wooden box they made me build had no square angles… and the lid didn’t fit..

    Nice to see the universe has balanced out my complete incompitence with his completely amazing skills.

    And also, If i could get one of these i’d hang it on my wall and call it art- mayeb with a darker stain..

  35. Comment by JB | 02.7.2008 | 2:31 pm

    I’m always amazed and amused at the posts. Fatty’s mind is a marvellous thing.

  36. Comment by Beast Mom | 02.7.2008 | 2:49 pm


    that just cracked me up.


  37. Comment by Madisonian | 02.7.2008 | 3:23 pm

    Great article Fatty! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this bike…it’s good to see someone finally pointed out its limitations. My question is this: what if you got caught in the rain? Could you coat it in sealant? Maybe stain it? I think I nice cherry stain would be ideal.

  38. Comment by Jill | 02.7.2008 | 4:00 pm

    I love it when just the titles of your posts make me laugh at loud.

    Honestly, I’ll be impressed when I see the YouTube video of the kid riding that thing.

  39. Comment by Mark | 02.7.2008 | 4:12 pm

    Fatty! oh my god I cannot concetrate anymore – this post led me to the Assos and His Swiss Highness Dr Lemmler posts – too funny. Keep up the wit! PS hope Susan is doing well today.

  40. Comment by Rocky | 02.7.2008 | 6:16 pm

    Wow! That would be such a cool decorative piece for the front room. The kid has talent. And you could only come with a pasta…silly, silly man.

  41. Comment by Jim Masters | 02.7.2008 | 7:04 pm

    I’ve been reading your site for some time now, but never felt the overwhelming need to comment…Hilarious, dude!

    Keep up the good work…

  42. Comment by Mike DeWalt | 02.8.2008 | 3:27 pm

    I sure hope his LBS has the right tools to maintain the thing … a wood lathe, bandsaw, and drum sander to name a few.

  43. Comment by Lorie | 02.8.2008 | 4:38 pm

    …and I thought my kid’s Skuut was cool…

  44. Comment by Jason | 02.9.2008 | 7:18 am

    I think a good stain would really add to any wooden bike. Personally, I’m a fan of mahogany.

  45. Comment by Mark | 02.15.2008 | 10:41 am

    Where is his helmet? That kid forgot to make a wooden helmet.

  46. Comment by Jdog | 02.21.2008 | 4:03 am

    I got woodbikekid news item forwarded to me by a well meaning relative. A key feature discussed in the article was the biodegradablity of the thing. Yep, a few months lying on the ground and it will be indistinguishable from the rotting carcasses of the animals that lived in that Madagascar forest the ebony came from.

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  49. Comment by Rahul | 06.16.2010 | 2:19 pm

    Wow….this is some impressive work. This kid should launch a novelty bicycle business.


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