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Industry Ticker: Renovo’s ‘John Day’ gravel bike

Posted by on March 21st, 2017 at 10:26 am

Made in Portland.
(Photos: Renovo Hardwood Bicycles)

Renovo Hardwood Bicycles has come a very long way since we first profiled them nine years ago. The company has added staff, inked major partnerships, and significantly expanded their offerings.

Perhaps most impressive is that company founder Ken Wheeler has managed to carve out a solid niche in quality, high-performance bicycles made out of wood. Renovo fits right in a city like Portland where we’re proud of our legacy of wood, bicycles, and making things.

Renovo’s latest is the John Day “adventure bike.” Check out the official press release and more photos below…

Renovo Hardwood Bicycles introduces the John Day, an elegant and simple adventure bike that moves seamlessly from paved to gravel and mixed terrain roads. The John Day’s hollow lightweight frame is engineered to deliver exceptional vibration damping, offering a remarkably smooth ride for comfort on any road.

John Day features include “longbow” seat stays, wide/flat down tube, curved top tube and hollow chainstays which augment the Total Ride Quality of wood, making this a great bike- no matter which terrain you choose. The geometry features a long wheelbase, generous BB drop and a tall headtube to let you enjoy the scenery without veering off into it…until you want to.

John Day Features:

— Hollow Frame Construction: Black Walnut, Spruce
— Cable/wiring routing: Internal, Di2 ready
— Brakes: Disc
— Drive train compatibility: Road
— Fenders and Rack Mounts
— Seatpost diameter: 27.2mm
— Headset/Steer tube: 1.125″ – 1.5″ Tapered
— Tire Clearance; 40mm
— MSRP: Frameset: $4,250 Full build: $6,150+

Get more local bike industry news in our Industry Ticker archives.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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65 Comments
  • caesar March 21, 2017 at 11:42 am

    $6k for a bike, and not a particularly light one at that. I’m sure that the wood is beautiful to look at. But this is not a viable option for any but a select few. I get it that there are dozens of bikes being priced at twice as much as this wood one, but that still doesn’t change the fact that a light, reliable, well spec’ bike can be had for much much less.

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    • Pat March 21, 2017 at 11:47 am

      How much does it weigh? I was curious about that but couldn’t find any info on their website (or maybe I just completely missed it).

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty March 21, 2017 at 12:27 pm

        They said comparable to a “custom steel frame”.

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        • Pat March 21, 2017 at 12:34 pm

          Thanks! That’s not an unheard-of price for that level of bike, and weight isn’t necessarily the #1 factor in choosing an adventure/gravel bike. I’d love to ride one someday and get a feel for the ride quality (if not for the fact that I couldn’t even pretend to be able to afford one).

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    • dwk March 21, 2017 at 11:52 am

      The price is in line with most custom bikes.
      You don’t have to buy one…..

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    • wsbob March 21, 2017 at 12:25 pm

      I couldn’t justify buying a 6K bike, but I certainly do like the ethic of using wood for frame material, rather than steel, aluminum, or carbon fiber…if wood truly does perform equal to or superior to the other big three materials for making bike frames. If wood fab bike frames can be a workable format for mass production bikes, there’s little question in my mind that major bike manufacturers would grab that idea and go with it. That could be a boon to Oregon’s forest industry.

      One of the great things carbon fiber has helped to bring about, is the return of beautiful, smooth frame member intersections, or joints. Renovo is doing this too, with their innovative wood lam frames. So many, to my eye, aluminum frame bikes with ugly frame joints, because it’s cheaper to dispense with filet buildup and smoothing, has me glad to see a company like Renovo doing what they’re doing, just for the fact alone that they’re creating bike frames with beautiful flowing lines.

      Hands down, renovo may have the other big three bike frame materials beat for recycle-ability…which raises the question for me, of how recyclable a wood bike frame is, with all the resin or whatever bonding agent is used to make the wood stick together. Most likely not similar to the decomposition process an old stump in the back yard goes through, but possibly much less environmentally harsh than steel, aluminum or carbon fiber…the latter seeming to be one of those frame materials that lasts forever.

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    • Middle of the Road Guy March 21, 2017 at 12:32 pm

      I’m guessing that someone buying a wooden bike knows there are other options out there and is buying with a different set of value in mind.

      But apparently there is a market for them if they’ve been around for 12 years.

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    • Middle of the Road Guy March 21, 2017 at 12:35 pm

      My “adventure” bike is the least expensive one I own and the only non-custom, hand built. $6k is a lot of money for something that is going to get beat on…but if I was wealthy it wouldn’t seem like that much.

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    • GlowBoy March 21, 2017 at 12:59 pm

      I don’t think weight weenies are the target market for this bike.

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    • Chris I March 21, 2017 at 3:20 pm

      One advantage: if the frame breaks while you are gravel grinding in the woods, you can just find large branches and make a repair.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty March 21, 2017 at 3:27 pm

        Be sure to carry nails; these aren’t part of most bike repair kits.

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  • Adam H.
    Adam H. March 21, 2017 at 11:59 am

    This bike looks like something BikeSnobNYC would make fun of.

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    • dan March 21, 2017 at 12:36 pm

      Not untrue, but I would definitely not turn down a chance to take one for a spint.

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      • Alan 1.0 March 21, 2017 at 2:13 pm

        excellent word that fills a true need: spin + pint = spint

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    • Brian March 21, 2017 at 12:55 pm

      He’s had opportunities, and hasn’t for some reason.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 21, 2017 at 1:24 pm

      doubt it. Eben’s a comedian, not an imbecile. He knows legit products when he sees them. Renovo is a serious company with a bike/concept that seems to have stood the test of time.
      Remember… just because you don’t like it, doesn’t mean it’s not cool and legit.

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  • Middle of the Road Guy March 21, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    Wasn’t this featured on GCN as one of the nicer NAHBS bikes?

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    • jerryw March 29, 2017 at 8:17 am

      I was at NAHBS and can say that Renovo had a great booth with several bike styles (I loved the mtn bike). Over the years at this show Renovo was the only frame maker using hardwood, this year there were 4 or 5, including a builder from Hawaii building with bamboo. Wheeler’s booth was packed most of the day I was there, I hope it turned into many sales. I personally like it when people take function and art in new directions, making a solid, functioning product so pleasing in so many ways. To garner lots of attention at NAHBS is impressive.

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  • longgone March 21, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    Used to get a beer on with Mr. Wheeler at Roots brewery when his business was a fledgling sprout. I really loved our conversations, and had an insiders glimpse at the operation a couple of times. I for one am so glad to see that over what seems like 10 years or so he is still at it.Many people like some here today will poo poo on his beautiful bikes. Their opinions are narrow minded,naive and uninformed. I will refrain from entering into the abysmal debate on frame weight and cycling performance that will certainly continue here. Suffice it to say the only reason I haven’t purchased a Renovo bicycle is that my funds for any custom bike went away in the 1990s. I am accepting sponsorships. Wood is carbon fiber as nature intended.

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    • SilkySlim March 21, 2017 at 2:23 pm

      Roots brewery! Those were the days. Haven’t thought about them in a while.

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  • Brian March 21, 2017 at 12:45 pm

    6k for a bike that can serve as a main source of transportation, is something nice to look at in the living room each night as well as a source of recreation on the weekend, seems like a great use of money to me. If it motivates someone ride a whole bunch and supports a local small business, I am for it. Nice work Renovo. Beautiful bike.

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    • Dave March 23, 2017 at 11:19 am

      Don’t forget–the less expensive the bike, the more likely it is that underpaid/exploited/semi-slave labor will have been used in its manufacturing. I have worked in the bike business for a very long time and know this for a fact.

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  • Smokey Bear March 21, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    Beautiful wood work! Very impressive.

    But, I’ll ride my $450 aluminum mountain bike. Each to his own.

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  • colton March 21, 2017 at 1:48 pm

    But it’s too beautiful to risk scratching…

    Anyone know anybody that rides one?

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    • Adam H.
      Adam H. March 21, 2017 at 4:22 pm

      I’m betting more people use them as wall art than actually ride them.

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      • dwk March 21, 2017 at 4:26 pm

        I see a couple all the time around Northeast. They are as practical as a carbon bike is…

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        • Adam H.
          Adam H. March 21, 2017 at 4:28 pm

          So not very. Gotcha. 😉

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          • Dan A March 22, 2017 at 6:34 am

            You don’t think carbon bikes are practical?

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            • Adam H.
              Adam H. March 22, 2017 at 9:51 am

              What can I say? I’m a retro-grouch. 😛

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      • Granpa March 21, 2017 at 8:15 pm

        Uh Huh. There are lots of $6K bikes on the road that get ridden and ridden hard.
        The comment smacks of wishful schadenfreude. Someone who spends that kind of money to support a local artisan AND bicycling should be lauded, not denigrated as a poser. (still that is about the most beautiful bicycle imaginable)

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  • John March 21, 2017 at 1:56 pm

    I’ve been riding one of their “pandurban” bamboo models as a daily commuter for nearly 7 years (picked it up in May 2010). Since that time, I’ve put approx 10k miles on it. The price I paid 7 years ago was about 1/4 of this model’s price today. It’s been in two major crashes (one of which sent me to the hospital with 3 broken bones), neither of which left even a scratch on the frame – I attribute that to luck. All in all, it’s the best commuter bike in the world – for me.

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    • Dave March 24, 2017 at 7:37 am

      Bamboo is a truly amazing material too–only strong enough so that it’s used to frame houses in some parts of the world!

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  • Mossby Pomegranate March 21, 2017 at 7:23 pm

    It’s a bike, it’s high quality, it’s LOCAL. What’s not to like? People griping about the price? Guess what this bike is not for YOU. For the rest of us, well we’ll just enjoy the ride. Always amusing to see the BP “goon squad” skate out to take someone down at the knees.

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  • caesar March 21, 2017 at 7:58 pm

    wsbob
    One of the great things carbon fiber has helped to bring about, is the return of beautiful, smooth frame member intersections, or joints. Renovo is doing this too, with their innovative wood lam frames. So many, to my eye, aluminum frame bikes with ugly frame joints, because it’s cheaper to dispense with filet buildup and smoothing, has me glad to see a company like Renovo doing what they’re doing, just for the fact alone that they’re creating bike frames with beautiful flowing lines.
    Recommended 2

    My 14 year old Cannondale R1000 aluminum road bike has those “beautiful smooth frame member intersections” that you extol. Seriously – they are as flawless as a baby’s bottom. An equivalent model these days sells for just under $2500. I haven’t ridden this Renovo wooden bike, but I have ridden plenty of steel, carbon and titanium frames, off road and on. Frame material and composition is not a reliable determinant of ride “quality,” despite the industry’s attempts over the years to market it at such (Zertz inserts, anyone?). Tire pressure (and width) and proper rider-to-frame fit, on the other hand, are.

    I’m not picking on Renovo here. What I am picking on is a bike industry that somehow has convinced many people that they should spend beaucoup $$ for that extra additional ineffable tech upgrade, whether it be a “revolutionary” new frame design (that will be discontinued in a year or so in favor of yet another, still better design), a new “special” composite frame material, somehow even better and lighter (by a few grams) components, etc, etc. Professional racers might derive some benefit, but as Bike Snob often says, most of us will still suck no matter how light or laterally stiff/vertically compliant our frames are purported to be by the Marketing Department. Any of us could look and feel good riding the latest sub-6.8 kg $9,000 Cervelo or Pinarello or Specialized – but Peter Sagan will still kick all of our asses riding a basic Schwinn Varsity with center-pull brakes.

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    • dwk March 22, 2017 at 9:48 am

      Not sure what your point is?
      Does the industry want us to spend money on nice bikes?
      Of course.
      There are bicycles at a price point for everyone. 6K is not a lot of money for some people and certainly not a lot of money a bike that can be used as transportation for years.
      I have a nice 15 year old Cannondale like yours. I also own a couple of way more expensive custom bikes. I ride and enjoy them all.
      I have an old used car that is worth 4-5 k.
      It is a piece of crap.
      My bikes are used a lot more and are way nicer for the same amount of money.

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      • Middle of the Road Guy March 22, 2017 at 11:58 am

        It’s kind of funny when you see a car (mine) with more value on top of the car than the actual car.

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    • Adam H.
      Adam H. March 22, 2017 at 10:40 am

      Totally agree. There is a lot in the bike industry designed to convince people into dropping thousands on the latest and greatest, only to have that replaced by something else in six months. The vast majority of people do not need a $6,000 wooden bike, making this a luxury item. I do not understand our culture’s need to flaunt wealth and turn everything into a luxury experience to lust after. Just ride your f-ing bike already.

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      • dwk March 22, 2017 at 10:49 am

        “The vast majority of people do not need a $6,000 wooden bike”

        You know, I have no idea why anyone would ride heavy city bikes either..
        Who cares?

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      • Brian March 22, 2017 at 11:48 am

        Good point. Say, you have a pretty spiffy looking bike there. How much was your saddle? How about those neat bags on the back? How about that fancy light? And dang, that drool-worthy kick-stand…..Heck, how much was the entire rig?

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    • wsbob March 23, 2017 at 5:09 pm

      “…My 14 year old Cannondale R1000 aluminum road bike has those “beautiful smooth frame member intersections” that you extol. …” caesar

      I don’t know cannondale models very well…I just know that earlier year dale’s had high level finishes, and then the company gradually moved away from that aesthetic. So did aluminum Trek and Specialized. Theories as to why, go around, but the most obvious reason seems to me to likely be the extra money in terms of labor and time, it takes to produce that level of finish. Seriously, are there many people that actually prefer the ripply welds at frame joints, to smooth? I doubt it. Easier for bike manufacturers to hit consumer price points likely to result in the best sales, so they chisel costs down by producing bikes with mediocre frame finishing.

      Cost is relative to how much disposable income the target market has; 6K is a lot of money to me, not much to a whole lot of people that have money to burn, and are in the market for something exotic to turn heads and help to strike up conversations. Same as with all kinds of essentially basic stuff out there that people buy…clothes, cars, sports equipment, booze. It’s a nutty world, doesn’t pay to try make too much sense out of it. Because of the material and technology Renovo took a chance at using successfully, the company came up with bikes that are exotic, somewhat like the Tesla is for electric cars; something similar and functional can be had for a lot less money, but the lesser cost item isn’t going to have the flair.

      With wood for bike frames, Renovo seems to have succeeded where Howard Hughes failed with the spruce goose…being able to produce working, functional production models. Wood is good material, for people that know how make it work for the use they have in mind mind. Makes great laminated beams that resist huge weight loads, as kristen t down there somewhere says…makes great bows too that flex and propel arrows very well.

      How difficult and expensive is it to use the cnc technology Renovo has applied to successfully make bicycle frames? The answer to that question is key to whether some mass market bike manufacturer might decide to try take this idea to produce wood frame bikes that cost a lot less than what Renovo is asking.

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  • B. Carfree March 21, 2017 at 8:40 pm

    The 40 mm tire clearance is kind of minimal for much of the terrain I ride. I wonder how much wider one could go if one changed to either 650B or 26″ wheels instead of 700C. I’m just so much happier when I’m rolling on 48mm or wider rubber than I am with the 37mm I’m stuck with on one of my old steeds.

    Other than that nit-pick, it looks like a gorgeous bike. I’ll have to keep it in mind for a future n+1.

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  • Alan Love March 22, 2017 at 9:25 am

    All these comments about how spending $6k for a bike is such a crazy thing. For the general public, if someone spends $60k on a new low/mid level BMW, the reaction might be something like, “Well, if you can afford it, it’s a great car!” But a used Honda Civic accomplishes the same real-world tasks for $5k. If you have the means, spending some disposable income on a beautiful product that actually improves your health (physical and psychological) and can also be a device of utility (commuting, etc.) seems like a great investment to me. Even if a Surly LHT (akin to the Civic mentioned above) is a quarter of the price, the splurge for a nice bike seems like a much better deal than the BMW.

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  • dwk March 22, 2017 at 9:49 am

    Not sure what your point is?
    Does the industry want us to spend money on nice bikes?
    Of course.
    There are bicycles at a price point for everyone. 6K is not a lot of money for some people and certainly not a lot of money a bike that can be used as transportation for years.
    I have a nice 15 year old Cannondale like yours. I also own a couple of way more expensive custom bikes. I ride and enjoy them all.
    I have an old used car that is worth 4-5 k.
    It is a piece of crap.
    My bikes are used a lot more and are way nicer for the same amount of money.

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    • dwk March 22, 2017 at 9:50 am

      A reply to Caesar.

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  • KristenT March 22, 2017 at 11:05 am

    That’s a very pretty bike! I’d love to ride it just to see how the ride compares with my other bikes.

    I’d be a little nervous about the geometry and the materials used– except that I know how English longbows are made, and if they’ve followed those principles, I’m sure it would be fine.

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  • caesar March 22, 2017 at 1:18 pm

    Alan Love
    All these comments about how spending $6k for a bike is such a crazy thing. For the general public, if someone spends $60k on a new low/mid level BMW, the reaction might be something like, “Well, if you can afford it, it’s a great car!” But a used Honda Civic accomplishes the same real-world tasks for $5k. If you have the means, spending some disposable income on a beautiful product that actually improves your health (physical and psychological) and can also be a device of utility (commuting, etc.) seems like a great investment to me. Even if a Surly LHT (akin to the Civic mentioned above) is a quarter of the price, the splurge for a nice bike seems like a much better deal than the BMW.
    Recommended 1

    I respectfully disagree. Comparing an old $5k Honda with a brand-new $70,000 BMW and making that equivalent to our bicycle comparison discussion isn’t fair. That BMW will do many things better and safer than an old $5k Honda. Better brakes. Better weight distribution and hence more stability in the curves. Better steering. Safer interior. Larger crumple zone. Nicer sound system ( admittedly a luxury, not really a necessity). Never mind the aesthetics which play no role in performance. The BMW is simply a better car. Yet that $4k wooden frame, other than looking much nicer than my apple green $2k aluminum Cannondale frame, offers no advantages. The manufacturer can claim that it’s a more supple/complaint/responsive ride, but every single bike manufacturer in the world these days makes the same claims because somehow, every single bike manufacture at that price point has figured out the secret to making the ultimate bike frame. Thus the markup is for aesthetics and, probably, to compensate for higher local labor costs (Cannondales these days are made in Asia, although mine was among the last to be made entirely in the US). There are plenty of Asian manufactured bikes branded by American and Italian companies that cost well above $6k.

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  • bendite March 22, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    People still complain/comment about the price of bikes?

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    • Dave March 24, 2017 at 7:38 am

      As a bike industry lifer I can tell you that there are VERY FEW 1% fat cats in the business. Absolutely none of the handful of wealthy individuals there are are custom frame/bike builders.

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  • caesar March 22, 2017 at 1:27 pm

    dwk
    Not sure what your point is?
    Does the industry want us to spend money on nice bikes?
    Of course.
    There are bicycles at a price point for everyone. 6K is not a lot of money for some people and certainly not a lot of money a bike that can be used as transportation for years.
    I have a nice 15 year old Cannondale like yours. I also own a couple of way more expensive custom bikes. I ride and enjoy them all.
    I have an old used car that is worth 4-5 k.
    It is a piece of crap.
    My bikes are used a lot more and are way nicer for the same amount of money.
    Recommended 1

    My I may be mistaken, but my suspicion is that this bike blog rarely promotes bicycles within the purchasing range of most cyclists in Portland. By that I mean people generally earning less than $100,000 a year. Granted, if you’re really motivated you could flip burgers at McDonald’s and save enough money to eventually buy a nice beautiful wooden bike. But most of us don’t have that sort of discretionary income. So I wonder how much it really furthers “the cause,” which I would hope is to promote cycling as a way of life, as a standard approach to commuting, as a solution to the huge problem that is overcrowding by automobiles and all of the problems and death and mayhem that they bring, to promote a bike that I believe is a luxury no matter how much we might try to make it otherwise. If bikeportland.org really really does advocate for cycling (and I know that Jonathan does) why promote luxury bikes over affordable ones? Again, if Jonathan has written stories about truly affordable bikes then I will gladly eat my words and go away for a couple of days. But I don’t remember seeing any.

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    • Brian March 22, 2017 at 1:44 pm

      No need to leave. You seem like a nice person.
      https://bikeportland.org/2017/01/17/ikeas-sladda-bike-now-available-in-the-us-213769

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty March 22, 2017 at 1:52 pm

      Next up: BikePortland reviews the latest from Huffy.

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      • wsbob March 23, 2017 at 5:24 pm

        Could be. I never owned a huff, or one of the other dept store bikes, or worked on one, but there’s certainly a lot of them on the road. There’s a market for them. Worst thing I consistently hear and read about them, is the components are junk, and they don’t tune up well. Any bike though, with shimano, probably has some chance of doing ok, if they can do their own work. If not…maybe a friend, because bike shop labor could easily approach or exceed the purchase price of one of those cheap bikes.

        Got to hand it to the manufacturers though, on one count…which is that their bikes usually have some pretty good eye appeal. Just saw one today…kent…or something like that…mountain bike-hybrid thing. Some guy, probably working, but doesn’t have a lot of money, was riding an almost new one, clean, flashy. Bike probably cost around $150.

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    • dwk March 22, 2017 at 2:03 pm

      All bikes are not the same.
      I commute 25 miles a day, 5 days a week year round.
      It is very hard on a bicycle and I do a lot of cleaning and general maintenance to keep my bike working every day.
      Inexpensive bikes may be fine for general use but doing long bike commutes in the weather here requires a better, more expensive bike.
      You don’t need a $4000 frame but you do need a good frame with good components.
      It costs money.
      Way less than a car.

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      • Andy K March 23, 2017 at 12:53 pm

        dwk – you da man. probably saving $5-10K per year on health and associated motor vehicle costs.

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    • Pat March 22, 2017 at 2:07 pm

      Or there were a few stories on these affordable bikes:
      https://bikeportland.org/cats/bike-sharing-system

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    • Pat March 22, 2017 at 2:15 pm

      Anyway, can’t we advocate for cycling to be accessible to all, *and* admire a beautiful luxury item? I think most of us are capable of such complex thought processes.

      Besides, one man’s “You spend $6000 on a bicycle?! I would never spend more than $500!” is another man’s, “You spent $500 on a bicycle?! I can barely scrape together $5 to feed my kids!” As long as you can afford a computer with which to argue with people on the internet, you’re not going to win the one-downmanship game.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty March 22, 2017 at 2:23 pm

        That other man spluges $5 to feed his kids?!? Is he made of money?!?

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      • GlowBoy March 22, 2017 at 2:48 pm

        Don’t assume everyone on here owns a computer. Some people might be using cellphones, and others might be logging in for free at the good ole public library.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty March 22, 2017 at 3:08 pm

          Personally, I just stick my finger in an ethernet jack.

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  • Pete March 23, 2017 at 9:41 pm

    Termites.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty March 23, 2017 at 9:43 pm

      Ugh! The bane of the woodcyclist.

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  • Smokey Bear March 25, 2017 at 10:05 pm

    The first bicycle, in 1817, was made almost entirely of wood – 200 years ago:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_bicycle

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