Daniel Strekier’s wooden mountain bike turns heads wherever he goes. Making ‘Grace’ was a complex process that took over six months. The bike has 22 gears (Shimano Alfine), three hydraulic brakes (Shimano XT) and sports midget (380mm wide) racing car wheels. The frame and handles were laminated from walnut, ash and oak.
Daniel moved to New Zealand from Argentina over a decade ago. We asked him a few questions about himself and about the making of the bike.
AWR: What brought you from Argentina to New Zealand?
DS: I really don’t know why, but ever since I was a child I wanted to live far away from my home town. I guess it is because my ancestors were from Europe and I have it in my genes. Long story short: a friend of mine told me about a newspaper article that said New Zealand ‘needed carpenters’, and two seconds later I said ‘I’m going’. I went for three months…and that was 13 years ago...
AWR: Where did your interest in building wooden bikes come from?
DS: The idea to build the bike was an ‘accident’. I was doing a favour for a friend (cutting some midget racing car tyres), and then my imagination sort of just took off. I like to learn more about my profession and I like mountain biking so I put the two together and decided to build Grace.
AWR: Do you have a background in woodworking?
DS: I have a woodworking background but I consider myself a learner with more than 30 years experience…
AWR: What makes Grace different from other wood bike builds? Is this your own design?
DS: Grace is the first bike I have made and is my own design. It differs from other wooden bikes with its large wheels and the lamination technique used.
AWR: Can you describe its construction and the most challenging part of the process?
DS: It’s hard to say, but I had to learn and figure out many processes to do special joins with aluminium, to steambend timber, glue carbon fibre, reinforce the timber with double lamination and design jigs to clamp the timber. Understanding how bicycle parts work and their mechanical engineering took a lot of thinking. I would say the rims were the most challenging part of the process because they have to maintain air pressure because the wheels are tubeless. Many parts of the project were challenging but it really was fun.
AWR: What’s it like to ride?
DS: To ride Grace…first you need a goooood breakfast....hahaha... the flat tyres don’t like uneven surfaces so you have to pay attention to what’s coming up front and change the gears all the time. To turn, you have to lean and keep pedalling. The best place to ride Grace is on dirt roads, she is very smooth on it.
AWR: How long did it take to build?
DS: The design and construction – including the helmet, chain and padlock – was like a six month holiday!
AWR: Will there be a Grace Mk2?
DS: I have started building an E-bike. The tyres are from a superbike and 260mm wide. Right now I’m doing the rims. These will each be made up of around 460 pieces of timber…I am pushing my craftsmanship again...
Daniel Strekier's bicycle will feature at the National Woodskills Competition in Kawerau, NZ. This event runs alongside Woodfest from Thursday September 26. Woodfest showcases carvers and woodturners from around Australasia.
Photos: Daniel Strekier. Click on images to see larger view and read captions.