God-Made: Embracing the Father’s Material to Build Bicycles

Jay Kinsinger, professor of mechanical engineering

Kinsinger has always loved woodworking and has been building steel bicycle frames for thirty years. Because of this, it was an easy jump to creating wooden frames. Photo credit: Scott Huck/Cedarville University

by Public Relations

June 15, 2011

We live our lives surrounded by man-made products. Most things we use—from the plastic in our toothbrushes in the morning to the polyester fiberfill in our pillows at night—are man-made. Jay Kinsinger, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, was struck by this fact when he was looking for light, inexpensive bicycles for his family to ride across Europe. He set out to make the bikes out of his favorite God-made material: wood.

“Sometimes in our haste to embrace the latest technology, we bypass superior technology or materials,” he said, pointing to the fact that 100 years ago, bicycles were made of wood. Since then, they’ve been made of steel, aluminum and carbon fiber. He pointed out the advantages and disadvantages of each, saying that steel is the most reliable of the three. Carbon fiber, the “latest craze in bicycle frame material,” is so popular because of its light weight and ability to vary tube thickness at stress points.

Kinsinger believes that wood should be allowed a closer look as a building material for bicycle frames. “There are wooden bridges and wooden structures that have survived many centuries,” he said. “It is truly miraculous how the same material that can sustain the impact of a 110 mph baseball can also be used to create ultra-light aircraft. Wood frames can be built without complicated and toxic chemistry.” Like carbon fiber, wooden tubes can be made thicker at stress points to help strengthen the bike’s frame. This summer, he is putting his knowledge to work to show the world how amazing God-made materials can be.

Kinsinger has always loved woodworking and has been building steel bicycle frames for thirty years. Because of this, it was an easy jump to creating wooden frames. Much of the work on the frames was done in the engineering project lab on campus, where students could watch, learn and participate in the whole frame building process.

The wooden bicycle project has more than just educational value, however. Because wood is a natural God-made material, it is also green and completely renewable. The beautiful frame also naturally absorbs vibration, making a smoother ride, and is lighter than some competitive bicycle frames. All of the materials used for the project were purchased locally, and they are inexpensive, coming in at about $75 a piece.

Currently, Kinsinger and his family are on a 60-day bike tour of Europe—using these wooden bicycles. They were able to dismantle them to fit into suitcases for the flight, which also saved the cost of shipping bikes overseas. This family vacation functions as road testing for his new frames.

Kinsinger plans to write articles about the process of building the frames and to submit them to woodworking and bicycling magazines. Publications like these often use the term “Mother Nature” to refer to natural products such as wood, but Kinsinger makes a point to always refer to wood as “God-made,” even in his writing. Through this process, he hopes to show the world how valuable God-made materials can be.

Visit Kinsinger's Bike Europe Blog » 

 

Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University attracts 3,200 undergraduate, graduate, and online students to more than 100 areas of study. Cedarville is a Christ-centered learning community recognized nationally for rigorous academic programs, strong graduation and retention rates, accredited professional and health science offerings, and leading student satisfaction ratings. Visit the University online at www.cedarville.edu.

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