The Thonet Bike mixes steam-bent wood with carbon fiber wheels, an ode to Thonet’s famous chair craftsmanship.

It’s mostly old-world craftsmanship, but a CNC handled finishing the wood and constructing reinforcement joints.

The bike itself is fixed-wheel, meaning that the pedals are always in motion as the wheels spin.

There’s no squeeze brake, either. Instead, riders need to use their legs to thwart momentum.

Ultimately, the bike is an updated ode to the famous chair company.

And it can be yours, for $70,000.

Co.Design

A $70,000 Wooden Bike, Crafted Like A Century-Old Chair

Thonet, which makes one of the most famous chairs in the world, commissions a high-end bike to show off its wood-bending process.

The Thonet Chair Company must have been astonishing to see at the 1851 World’s Fair. In presenting simple seats made of gracefully curved, steam-bent wood, they bucked centuries of convention, countless generations of heavy, formal, carved furniture. But it was in 1859 when the company introduced their most famous model that you’ll undoubtedly recognize today, the No. 14 chair. It became the quintessential cafe seat. So by 1930, 50 million No. 14s had been sold and the aesthetic of furniture had been changed forever.

Andy Martin is a London architect who was tapped to reimagine Thonet’s steam-bent heritage in a new light. His studio designed the Thonet Bike, an absurdly beautiful beechwood bicycle produced in much the same way as Thonet’s chairs were over a century ago. “Initially we designed something along the lines of a Dutch traditional bike, as we thought this to be more on-brand, but soon saw the parody in the proposal,” Martin tells Co.Design. “We started to develop concepts moving away from the tradition and focusing on the material and the bending process.”

What Martin eventually created is the bike you see here--not a kitschy nod to the good old days, but a complete reimagining of Thonet’s hand-bent wood construction. It’s basically a Thonet chair with off-the-shelf carbon-fiber wheels, and somehow, it’s entirely lustable. “The raw formed Beechwood is very tactile and has a slightly 'nude’ feel to it,” Martin explains. “We wanted the bike to have a progressive aesthetic and still feel handcrafted.” Indeed, if the bike were made of metal, it’d be right at home in a sci-fi film. Instead, it just looks like a fresh and fast piece of art.

Of course, Martin did turn to a few modern technologies to craft the bike. While the wood frame is enitrely steam-bent, CNC machines finished contours while carving the critical reinforcement joints. But beyond these loose notes on the construction process, we’re told, “the rest is a secret.” If you’d like a Thonet Bike of your own, they’re available in a bespoke limited edition for $70,000 apiece.

[Hat tip: mocoloco]

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20 Comments

  • Nick Taylor Xylonbikes

    I think it is rather silly.
    Check out xylonbikes for a rideable 600 euro bullet proof bike :-)
    Nick Taylor
    Xylonbikes

  • J2cervin

    This is a disgrace.  As a designer, there is nothing I despise of more than terrible product design being labeled as 'art' because it otherwise has no legs to stand on.  For the love of god, dont call this design, because it is hard enough to prove the worth of the field to others (beancounters and CEO's).  Things like this is where we as designers take a step backwards in the push for better design.  Here are things I find most appalling   1. exactly what kind of sorcery is holding that dropout in place? 2.  ergonomics (any real designer would pick out the flaw in those handlebars)  3.  How exactly are you extruding carbon fiber for the wheels?  4. What sort of headset is that?  5.  ValVerde should be embarrassed about the awful photoshop job (nice shifters)

    To sum it all up, spend some time looking into proper design.  Just because you know how to use the pipe command in CAD doesnt make you a designer (you may also want to look into material mapping)

  • Josh Walker

    u could be a "designer" but i'm a mechanical engineer, so one up from u in regards to validating if it's "structurally sound". ergonomically speaking, the handlebars might not be as "ease of use" compared to a "typical road bike", dude don't call that a flaw, he wasn't designing those handlebars to be typical. "the wood frame is entirely steam-bent, CNC machines finished contours while carving the critical reinforcement joints".
    it was designed to be simplistic and still functional for it's purpose. they hold in the "dropout place" as u mentioned completely fine. If you don't have a great knowledge in "trusses & beams components, stress & strain calculations, steam treating material properties", don't question about the structural rigidity and also carbon fiber extrusion.. cause u clearly don't.
    i bet u don't know why this is a great design do u? to integrate "Thonet’s steam-bent heritage" but conceptually "moving away from the tradition and focusing on the material and the bending process.” is a great innovation.
    Do not to critique if it's structurally ergonomic, that's what engineers do.

    CAD as u mentioned is not "CNC", this article never mentioned CAD, please look it up.
    By u saying "Just because you know how to use the pipe command in CAD doesnt make you a designer" shows u have no idea, to bend materials (especially wood) but retain the strength and rigidity in the structure is no easy feat.

  • Bernd Vonau

    I built 2 wooden bikes, lightweight and rideable and with all respect to Thonet, this will not work! dimensions are to small to withstand the forces coming in from all directions. Nice design though!

  • Cglaister

    So so so tired of companies, designers and worst of all journalists, trying to sell renders of concepts as real products. This is plain, straight up lying.

    Above all it directly insults the people who have spent the time building real design skills grounded with an understanding of the engineering, craftsmanship, time and effort required to build a working product. Especially a bicycle. Especially a wooden one.If its a concept, say its a concept. This is an excellent piece of concept work. It is not a real product and it can not be for sale. Don't lie to you readers.

  • Kevin Hyer

    It's not a funtional prototype, it's not a usable bike, it's a work of art. quite beautiful if you ask me, and I've been an avid cyclist for 40 years.

  • mcheung5

    Good joke. My favorite part is where the bike cost 70k and they picked Walmart Huffy pedals to go on it.

  • Guest

    is the 70k price tag bc it only exists in rendered form and therefore discourages orders and having to actually build one?

  • tobi

    that is exactly it!

    this has clearly not been developed beyond concept. It would take a lot of work to get this to market (and it would not end up looking like this)

    they pulled this figure out of thin air...

  • ettschioppa

    The more I see the more I believe that the traditional diamond frame is the best. In illustrations (and renderings) everything is possible...

  • Shawn Harrington

    But is it adjustable in any way. It'd sure be a gigantic waste of effort if you can't adjust the seat height or swap out the stem. 

  • Fogg

    With the fixed wheel gearing evident in the photos the rider might not be able to go too much faster than one would on a kiddie's trike. But then speed would hamper the savouring of those elegant curves by any who may behold such a graceful machine in motion. Yummy!

  • oliver jet

    first of all, $70k? thats just effing retarded. second, a bike make of wood? I know beech is a very hard wood, but you go over one big bump (and get any type of air like 2-3 inches) and this snaps in half. although if some spoiled little rich kid gets this and that happens, i want to be there when it does so i can do my best Nelson imitation "Ha Ha"