Sojourner Cyclery

Could it be that Cedarville, Ohio-based bicycle builder Jay Kinsinger, a professor of Biomedical and Mechanical Engineering at eponymous Cedarville University, would build with any other material than wood?


Well, maybe.


Although his hometown and employer’s name are perfectly appropriate for someone who builds bicycle frames from wood, Kinsinger’s background is in building prosthetics from the latest composite materials.


So why, then, would an engineer with access to the latest carbon fiber and metallic technology choose a seemingly anachronistic material for his bikes?


“Wood is the most exciting new-old material to hit the bicycle market. Incubator bicycles built two centuries ago were made of wood. Modern computer aided manufacturing, adhesives, and finishes have ushered in a renaissance of wood as a fabulous material for frame building. Attributes of a wooden frame include but are not limited to sustainability, indisputable beauty, smooth ride (wood absorbs road vibration/noise), extreme toughness and weight that compares favorably with aluminum and lightweight steel. Wood cannot compete with carbon-fiber for lightweight. But, in the toughness and longevity category, wood is the hands-down winner. There are some wooden boats, over a thousand years old, still in service. This will unlikely be said about steel, aluminum or carbon fiber,” says Kinsinger.


Wood’s sustainability makes it an attractive and responsible choice for the eco-minded professor.


“Sustainable design is the most exciting trend in all industry, not only the bicycle industry. We must think about the global carbon footprint and the humanity footprint (this may be my own term) of all of our consumer goods and services. Many countries have horrendous environmental practices and dubious reputations for human oppression. I hasten to say that these evil practices can also be found in our own backyard. We must leverage the freedom and resources we enjoy to mitigate human suffering and the violation of our planet,” says Kinsinger.


Being “green” does not mean that wood is a fragile choice as a frame material, and Kinsinger has both laboratory data and field testing to support his claims about wood’s strength.


“I have access to state-of-the-art testing equipment which I employ to test my frames and frame components. My students are engaged in analyzing, building and testing wooden bicycle frames as their cap-stone senior design experience. I have four years of personal field-testing on my frames including a cross-country, self-supported tour on a wooden tandem with my son.”


To strength and sustainability, add beauty as another of wood’s attributes. Although he’s trained as an engineer and not as an artist, Kinsinger’s two-wheeled creations have won awards at the Dayton, Ohio Artistry in Wood competitions in 2011 and 2012.