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Animus: Time to take wooden bikes seriously?

Italian boat builders adapt their wood and carbon skills to create bike frames

An Italian company has used its manufacturing expertise developed in boat building to create a lineup of stunning looking wood and carbon bikes.

Nordest, who have been building boats since 1981 and who also make carbon wind turbines and table tennis bats (that’s a varied portfolio!), developed the bikes over the past two years. They’re currently called Breeze bikes although the name is being changed to Animus.

“We did not want to replicate the classic wooden bike, we wanted to create a structure that would combine the characteristics of the wood and [the material that has been] my business for over 30 years: carbon,” said Nordest’s Claudio Barbieri.

“The wood has unique characteristics: shock absorbing, vibration dampening, it is light, and consists of linear fibres. Carbon has the arrangement of the fibres in a spiral and fits perfectly with the wood.

“We have designed the frame with arched lines in order to exploit the elasticity of the form (to absorb imperfections in the road surface) while ensuring a good resistance to twisting.”

The manufacturers can alter the characteristics of the bike – the weight, the rigidity and the amount of frame compliance – by varying both the type of carbon and the type of wood. They currently use red cedar, ash, mahogany and maple. You can choose from various different veneers that the company also offer in its table tennis bat business.

They currently make two types of frame: a sports/city bike and a mountain bike. You can choose your own components and have them fitted, or you can buy the frame only and build it up yourself. The city bike is available with Zehus electric propulsion.

“Another important factor is aesthetics,” says Claudio. “We believe that an object must also create excitement.”

The smooth curves mean that the bikes certainly look cool, and they’re very distinctive. We particularly like the internal cable routing which keeps the bikes looking extremely clean.

"We produced the first ash bike 16 month ago, then the second one in June 2014, which is much improved from a technical and aesthetic point of view,” says Claudio. “Now we are producing the third in red cedar. It’s a ladies bike so the lines are naturally changed, but the style and high level of construction are maintained.”

Each bike is made in two to three weeks, depending on other work the company is doing, although it could be done in a week if necessary. The retail price is €3,000 per frame with complete bikes costing about €4,500, the exact price determined by the components and accessories each client wants.

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Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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