01 November, 2012

Axalko wooden-frame bicycles

Wood is a material very close to Basque culture. The musical instrument, the Txalaparta is made from ash-trees and this strong tradition of working with ash has provided Axalco company of Spain with a deep understanding of the material as they bicycles' frames.

Two kilometers from Zerain, in northern Spain is the Larraondo sawmill. There, wood and technology is combined in the Axalko "Bat" frame to delight bicycle and nature lovers. The superb qualities of wood (its natural character, surface and microporous texture) and the various possibilities arising from the combination of different types of it, make wood a unique material whose fineness and magnificent mechanical properties are there to aid the enjoyment of cycling.

Aptly named after a quick-witted fox from a childhood fable, the Axalko bike boasts a lightweight hollow frame and micro-lamination for improved resistance. The bike is the inspired design of two brothers, Aitzol and Andoitz Tellería, who joined forces with Enrique Ardura in the north of Spain six years ago to test the natural durability of the ash wood, and to construct a bicycle that would be both fast and sturdy.

Wood is an organic material, a natural composite of cellulose fibres (which are strong in tension) embedded in a matrix of lignin which resists compression. The lignin makes the cell walls rigid with a compressive strength of 2,400 kg/cm2, higher than concrete. Cellulose fibres held together by a lignin binder, with tensile strength of 10,000 kg/cm2,  superior to steel. The fact is ironic, that those two elements provide a magnificent weight to strength ratio, at the same time that new materials appearing on the market (composites, epoxy, fibres) are trying to accomplish the same results, with this technology already found in nature. So far the bike has been road-tested in races in France proving that, as anticipated by the designers, it withstands high levels of vibrations and heavy riding.

Built mostly by hand and to professional standards, the bike is available in several types of wood, including the striking purple-coloured amaranth or striped zebrawood.

Axalko have started a joint venture with Yamimoto to develop an exclusive frame for an electrical model. Yamimoto is Spain's internationally acclaimed electric bikes manufacturer.

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