Thanks to Jonathan Maus at Bike Portland I learned about the latest in manly bike projects making use of lovingly crafted wood parts. I’ve seen wood fenders, baskets, rims and even a frame, but this one definitely grabbed my attention.
Seen at this year’s PDX Bicycle Show:
– By far the most talked about item at the show were these “Tree Piece” wooden bike helmets made by Dan Coyle of Coyle Design and Build in Corvallis…
Coyle hails from Corvallis and is a self-described “DIY addict” and outdoor sports enthusiast with a background in biological science and experimentation. He started making wooden helmets 15 years ago for use in kayaking. Back then he used a chainsaw to make each one. He now uses computer-aided design and a CNC machining process and he’s looking toward the bike market to expand his business.
To put safety fears to rest, Coyle has done extensive testing on his helmets. Through a partnership with the Forestry Sciences lab at Oregon State University he has found that his helmets meet and exceed the CPSC requirements. “Wood can absorb energy in a way plastic can’t,” says Coyle. Tests show that 10-20% of the impact is absorbed by a wooden shell, thus leaving less work for the inner liner.
Coyle owns the patent on wooden helmets, but he’s even more excited about his development of a cork inner liner. When his wooden shells are combined with his patented cork liners, Coyle says, “There’s a chance we can make it perform even better than EPS [expanded polystyrene] foam.”
At the moment, Coyle still makes each helmet to the custom specs of his customers, who pay from $270-$300 a piece for the unique items. Even with the CNC process, Coyle says each one takes him about 7-8 hours to complete. And much like one of Portland’s custom framebuilders, it’s a process Coyle enjoys. Customers can choose what type of wood, shape, ventilation, staps, and liner they want. While he’s looking to raise awareness for his helmets, you won’t find Coyle’s creations at your local bike shop any time soon. “I’m not looking to make tens of thousands of these, just to get the price down,” he says.