Bentwood Bicycle Evokes The Classic Thonet Cafe Chair

The Thonet Concept Bike by artist Andy Martin may roll on ultramodern carbon fiber wheels but its curved beechwood frame was made by a steam-bending process over 150 years old. The result is both beautiful in execution and timeless in design, much like the Vienna bentwood “chair of chairs” first produced in 1859 and subsequently manufactured in the tens of millions.

Chairs and bicycles are very different things, of course. The former is static while the latter is dynamic, for one thing. At the same time, explains Martin, “The challenge was to take on the fairly low-tech process of steam bending and then apply it to a 21st century bicycle with highly complex engineering.”

Challenge accepted! London-based Martin was so thrilled by furniture-manufacturer Thonet's request for him to design a concept road bike featuring their trademark hot-steam wood bending process, he went ahead and made three. The bike shown here is the final design of the trio.

Like the apocryphal porridge of Goldolicks' three bears, Martin's penultimate effort was “just right” for the history hobnobs at Thonet. Martin had to use his own ingenuity, however, when it came to the requirements of a bike over those of a chair.

Mainly, Martin was forced to design unique connectors and sprung rods to absorb stress at the frame's main junctures. All this brainstorming costs, though, and he who buys is he who pays... a cool £43,000 per limited-edition bike. (via WeirdWood)