Zelo, the Improbable Wooden Trike


The earliest bicycles were made from wood. Nearly two centuries later, some garage tinkerers still turn to this most traditional of materials for their own creations, since welding one requires experience and tools beyond the reach of many. Resembling Gilligan’s Island props, the resulting bikes are both artistic and great fun, but not very practical for real use; often heavy, ill-fitting or lacking durability.

[Boris Beaulant’s] birch laminate Zelo, on the other hand, has cleaner lines than anything you’d see in an IKEA showroom. Not content with an ordinary two-wheeler, he’s tackled a three-wheeled recumbent trike, which requires even finer tolerances. Two months and over 1,300 miles later, the trike is still rolling strong through the French countryside, proving its mettle as legitimate transportation and not just a garage novelty. [Beaulant’s] build log (Google translation here) offers some insights into the development of this masterpiece, starting with prior woodworking projects (furniture, rolling toys and a children’s bike) and finding clever solutions to problems such as creating a mold of his own back for a custom-contoured seat.


  1. ken says:

    Bravo! I’m in favor of anything the gets people moving under their own power. This one is beautiful to look at, too.

    I disagree with the sentiment that “welding [a bicycle] requires experience and tools beyond the reach of many.” I recently completed my first big brazing project – a beautiful bicycle frame – proving that it can be done by a novice with a relatively inexpensive oxy-acetylene rig. If you can find a bike shop or framebuilder to do the “facing and chasing” (reaming, facing, and tapping) the required tools are very basic – vise, hacksaw, files, drills and the like.

  2. Jim says:

    While I agree with Ken that human-power is a goal we should be working towards, it would also be interesting to see a similar project done with a Golden Island hub similar to the E-bike across Canada for $10 article. http://hackaday.com/2009/08/19/e-bike-across-canada-for-10/

  3. Jesse says:

    very cool!

    Something that may also be of interest is this wooden supercar project by some NCSU students.


    I read about this in Fine woodworking or some such magazine and it completely blew my mind!

  4. Stunmonkey says:

    How does this work? I don’t get it. Are they actually expecting us to believe someone has come up with some radical new alien technology that makes items work without the arduino attached? How is it supposed to do anything without a micro controller?

  5. Jack says:

    I think the wood has built in arduinos in every cell. Thats how it knows how to grow and such.

  6. tre says:

    I almost want to say he cheated by adding fiberglass… But the resulting product is so beautiful that I don’t care :p

  7. Ryan Leach says:

    stunmonkey: how is hackaday supposed to win, you bitch when theres an arduino article yet whens theres not you make throwbacks to the arduino sigh.

  8. jeff-o says:

    ryan: I think he was being sarcastic. We really need a sarcasm font here.

  9. anon says:

    “IKEA showroom”
    [post invalidated]

  10. Seth says:

    There is a company actually making and selling wooden bicycles!


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