Drangan, a small village in a very rural part of rural Ireland. All that it shares in common with Dublin are the first and last letters of its name. The main street has a Church, a shop, a few houses and a garage with a petrol pump right outside on the street. However, just like many other places in Ireland that require plenty of zoom in clicks on google earth to find, Drangan has much to be proud of.
Having previously taken a Woodelo for an impressive test ride I was delighted to be invited by Liam Murray for a visit to his workshop to see how an ash tree can become a bicycle.
Liam had given me his mobile number in case I had trouble finding the workshop. I drove into the main street, looked around, and over a few rooftops spotted the Woodelo logo on the side of a building perched up above the village at the height of the Church Spire. There were not many places to get lost in Drangan.
Walking into a comfortable showroom with a nice couch and a coffee table with the latest editions of Rouler and ‘Cyclist’ Magazines I knew that I was in the right place.
A number of models out on display gave a feel for what can be accomplished with wood when combined with a very creative passionate cycling mind and the analytical brain of a former Land Surveyor.
A wooden ‘Fixie’ aka ‘Special Branch’ with a Campag Record Chainset and large flange hubs would turn heads big time heading down Oxford street in London or hanging out in Greenwich Village in New York.
The ‘Leaf Speed’ alongside, with upturned TT bars had an off-centre bottom bracket shell to aid wheel removal and fitting on the horizontal drop outs. This combined the latest in modern bicycle technology with the most ancient craft of hand carved wood.
The ‘Leaf Speed’ Road bike with ENVE carbon forks and a Campag 11 speed groupset was what really caught my eye.
As we ventured into the workshop where the bike assembly takes place I was greeted by an array of Park Tools on the wall. A bike mechanics paradise.
Then we ventured into the heart of the manufacturing process itself. In one corner was a rack full of cut timber, like you might see in a lumber yard but this had already gone through a strict elimination process to even get this far. Alan Sugar would be proud.
A CNC machine in another corner was joined by a frame building jig alongside.
Workbenches had plenty of pieces being worked down by hand to create the exact desired effect.
The entire process from start to finish takes 5 weeks to make a single frame.
The frames have been tested in every way imaginable and have always passed with flying colours. For the oversize nature of their build they are deceptively light. Of course they are heavier than a high end carbon or aluminium frame but they are well within what would be acceptable to get over pretty much any climb. The big advantage of wood is the comfort aspect. The absorption of road vibration is excellent. So much work has gone into the design that they handle like any normal road bike and have plenty of stiffness down around the bottom bracket too. The other selling point is its uniqueness and rarity.
I could see and really grasp the pride in Liam’s eye and in his voice as he guided me through every intricacy of the design and manufacturing process. To take a piece of an Ash Tree and turn that into a bicycle that you can actually ride out on the open road yourself must be an incredible feeling. To turn that into a viable commercial business is another level again.
To find out more check out www.woodelo.ie