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NAHBS – Sylvan’s Wood Composite Bicycles…Like Riding a Big, Fast Sustainable Pencil

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NAHBS 2010 – Looking at Sylvan Cycle’s wood composite bike, I can’t help but think of the mandatory #2 pencils from school tests and the name makes me think of Sylvan Learning Centers, leading to an very scholastic feeling about the brand.  And there’s some eco smarts behind the construction, so the feeling’s not entirely misplaced.

Sylvan harvests sustainable wood, primarily hard maple, ash and adirondack spruce, and they source locally from their Amherst, MA, headquarters.  Soon, they’ll be able to tell a customer where each tree was grown, when and how it was harvested and more…sort of like a birth certificate for each bike.  On top of that, they can (and have) use family heirloom or antique found wood that a customer may have in the form of useless furniture, ship masts, etc., and turn it into something useful…a bicycle!

Sylvan Cycle’s Sam Kelley says each type of wood has its own characteristics, and the frames combine layers of different woods in their tubes to achieve the desired ride feel…and the inside of the “tube” isn’t what you might expect. Check out a cross section and more photos of the killer lugs and details after the jump…


Sam’s finger is covering an unlaminated section that shows their proprietary layup, which he wouldn’t let us photograph until their patents are finalized.  But, you can see that what appears to be an octagonally cut wood tube is actually eight individual pieces, and each of those pieces is made up of layers of wood laminated and bonded together.  The process allows them to tune the ride however they want, controlling firmness, give and vibration dampening characteristics.


Seriously, does this not look like a pencil?  Sylvan says their tubes are as stiff as comparable steel tubes, but 30% lighter, and this bike was fairly light considering the touring wheels and fatter tires, and it had a heavy saddle, bottle cages and pedals.


Lugs and fittings are made of custom cut stainless steel, and it’s salvaged from high quality (ie. medical and tech industry) scrap when possible.


This bike is what they called an adventure road bike.  It’s set up with fender and rack mounts throughout.  This bike’s frame weight with BB30 is about 5lb 2oz (2,325g).


Framesets (frame, fork and headset) are built to order, customized for each customer, and start at $3,450.  Sylvan warranties their frames against manufacturer defects and says they can repair frames if they’re wrecked or have a bad day in the woodshop.






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Jim Nariel
14 years ago

Lovely bike and great pictures

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