Is wood strong enough to make a bicycle frame? This award-winning 2-wheeler says yes
If wood is strong enough for buildings and furniture, why not use it for bicycles too? That’s pretty much the thought process that led Masateru Yasuda to design the Moccle, a bicycle that relies on the flexible yet sturdy properties of bent plywood sheets. Traditional Japanese buildings have taken advantage of wood’s flexibility and vibration-absorption properties to build structures that have survived earthquakes, Yasuda points out. “I wondered if I could make a bicycle that takes advantage of the characteristics of this wood,” he adds.
The Moccle is a fun bicycle with a unique aesthetic that puts the enjoyment of riding front and center. It doesn’t come with gears, a dashboard, or even shock absorbers (funnily enough, there’s no bell on it too), but rather, uses a bent-wood frame to achieve shock absorption. Held in place using metal fixtures, the bent plywood frame flexes in response to pressure, helping absorb any sort of stress by undulating surfaces or bad terrain… just the way traditional buildings in Japan would weather earthquakes by absorbing tectonic stress.
Designer: Masateru Yasuda
Yasuda makes a rather interesting point about how wood is basically carbon-fiber, but occurs naturally. Trees, like all living organisms, are carbon-based… which makes wood more similar to carbon fiber than you’d think. To make the frame, Yasuda first created his plywood, sandwiching thin sheets of carbon fiber between sheets of wood just to make the frame age-proof and resistant to shrinkage or cracking. The final ply was then cut into its desired profiles, before being bent into shape using steam. Finally, the wooden frame was plugged into its metal holders, giving you a bicycle that’s sturdy yet flexible, and designed to last long.
“Moccle is a bicycle that you can easily ride in casual clothes. A simple design that anyone can ride without a complicated transmission,” Yasuda says. “Just pedaling with your usual sneakers, you can spend a relaxing time at your favorite cafe. The bike’s simple design highlights its use case perfectly. It isn’t made for performance, or for terrain. The Moccle is a purely recreational two-wheeler designed to just enjoy life. The project started in 1999 and the 1st wooden bicycle was made in Osaka, Japan. The 2nd model was made in Nagano and named Moccle in 2012. The 3rd model wooden bicycle started production in 2019 and was exhibited at the Wood Collection Show in Tokyo in January 2023.
The Moccle is a Gold Winner of the A’ Design Award for the year 2023.