Designers are a bit of a strange group of people. The fact is, we live in a world where there is an abundance of amazing stuff already designed, so this strange group is now tasked with coming up with new ideas in a world where the bar is pretty high. Sometimes the new ideas are absolutely revolutionary, more often than not the ideas are a repurposing or fusion of existing ideas. I mean, the phone is an old idea, the television is an old idea, recorded music is an old idea, and the iPhone changed the way we live our lives by putting those ideas together. Another great frontier that designers are always innovating on is the use of new materials or the use of old materials in a new way.
The designers at Renovo Hardwood Bikes have taken the original material used to make bike frames in the 1800's, combined them with modern computer aided drafting and CNC machining, and brought old right into the future.
Why hardwood? It's heavier than metal or carbon, so weight can't be the reason. It isn't stronger, is it? It therefore must be for pure aesthetics. And if that were the case, then they have succeeded superbly at accomplishing their mission. Renovo's bikes are an astounding piece of furniture to sit astride. The wood grain shows beautifully through gorgeous finishes, all combined with the best components that the bicycle industry has to offer. But, no.
While the bikes at Renovo are the most beautiful frames you can buy (expert source of this opinion... me), they are specifically designed for performance. They tend to weigh more than metal or carbon frames, and offer comparable not increased strength, so the idea of this being built for competition seems ludicrous.. But then Renovo hears that people riding their bikes are putting up personal records, how can that be? Here is where you learn that performance is not exclusively about weight and quantifiable numbers that you can compare on a spread sheet. in the racing game, it isn't "how fast can it go?" but instead "how fast can you ride it?" The answer, fast. There is something magical that this ancient raw material possesses that its modern counterparts don't, a cellular structure that acts as a natural shock absorber (or dampener, if you will). This gives the pilot of a Renovo bike the comfort needed to put the miles under their asses with less fatigue, whatever energy the bike takes without translating it to the body to absorb can then be used by the body to pedal like a driven road warrior! And you can do this road warrioring while looking better than anybody else on the road!
I met up with John Rasmussen right as they were opening up on a Friday morning the other week. John came from a woodworking background, but building one of these frames is not quite like what you learned in wood shop, because your bird house never had to go off of a jump with an adrenaline junkie on board... Oh yeah, they build mountain bikes as well. They currently produce about 3 frames a week, and have a backlog of about 80 orders! The next step for them is to secure capitol to allow growth. They want to add to their custom frame business, expanding to build production bikes which will be showcased all over the country for you to walk in and buy.
We were having a great time looking around the shop, John telling me all about how they build their frames. Awesomely for me, in the back of their shop they have a photo studio! They had a white seamless background and a set of monolights and softboxes where they do their product shots. Now, I'm not specifically a product photographer, and I don't think I have the OCD necessary to be good at it... But damnit! I'm a photographer! I'll try anything! So as John sets up the bike, I set up my gear. First thing first, I'll need to change lenses (CLUNK!). That was the sound of my favorite lens falling out of my bag as I remove it's neighbor. Ouch. You can read about that lens in my blog, but you aren't going to. Next thing, once I'm done trying to pretend that I'm not really pissed at myself for dropping my lens, is to set up even more lights. They had 2 big studio lights, but with a white background you need to light it separately to keep it from turning gray, so I took out my 2 flashes and aimed them at the background, the result is the photo at the top of the page. Not a bad product shot for a people photographer, but a quick critique from my friend Jason who used to design catalogs pointed out how much room for improvement still exists. At this point I could keep learning how to get the details exactly how I want them, or I could go back to portraits... anybody want their picture taken?
Currently the target customer closely resembles the people working at Renovo. A bike enthusiast through and through with a strong background or love of design. Is this you? Then why aren't you #81 on the wait list? Check out more of the photos I took and find out more about Renovo bikes on The Superslice (Including an awesome vid of the bikes being built and used). Also check them out at Renovobikes.com.