zarko bubalo: sustainable wooden bicycles
zarko bubalo: sustainable wooden bicycles zarko bubalo: sustainable wooden bicycles
oct 07, 2013

zarko bubalo: sustainable wooden bicycles

žarko bubalo: sustainable wooden bicycles
all images courtesy of žarko bubalo




influenced by shipbuilding and aircraft design, serbian designer žarko bubalo has made two models of wooden bicycles ‘perfect day’ and ‘imagine’. the combination of the natural wood with reinforced glass fiber and epoxy produces a smooth riding experience with a high-level of vibration absorption. the product offers a series of contrasts; traditional and modern technologies, natural and high-tech materials, vision and engineering and experience with innovation. 3D design technologies using a numerically controlled manufacturing process is coupled with passionate and careful handcrafting to create the sustainable wooden bikes.



‘paris design week 2013 ugljesa vrcelj & zarko bubalo’
video courtesy of superdotbg



the bicycle frame is based on aircraft and shipbuilding construction



CNC manufactured and handcrafted



detail of ‘perfect day’ that has had six layers of polyurethane varnish applied



designer žarko bubalo with his wooden bike



designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.

  • Looks great.
    But I fail to see how any form of using wood and wood conglomerate for a design that can be done out of other abundant and fully recyclable materials like steel is sustainable.
    Using wood = taking away a necessary resource thats hard to grow back.
    I think we are too often confusing sustainable with something natural…
    A sustainable bike might be a steel frame done 60 years ago, passed to me by my grandad, which I can still use and maybe my kid too, and if at some point the design becomes outdated functionally, it can be melted down… reuse! refurbish!:)
    still amazing aesthetics on this one

    pineanas says:
  • My first thought: Renovo bike. Oh wait…

    poli says:
  • Just in case nobody said it yet, this is very similar to a renovo bike. even the detail of the connection below the saddle…

    esig says:
  • @pineas
    Agree with you that this looks quite neat. regarding sustainability I also agree with you, that using a product a long time (ride the bike of your grandpa) is the best way to use a product sustainable. Regarding steel beeing the more sistainable solution I think you need to look deeper. Of course steel ist better then composites like carbon due to recycability. But the energy used to produce a steel frame (or recycle it) is very high compared to wood. If you use sustainable grown wood you have way less energy needed to produce a frame and additionally the would serves as an carbon-storage. So I guess it very much depends on what wood is used and how it is manufactured….

    hu says:
  • Please explain how plywood with epoxy and glass fiber is more sustainable than steel.
    Can you recycle plywood? With epoxy coating?
    Also, isn’t there a ton of energy going into plywood production as opposed to solid wood?
    Also, given that this is CNC’d plywood, i assume there’s a lot of waste?

    Is it as stiff as steel?

    I know i sound negative, so please enlighten me, and i will take it all back!


    felix says:
  • @pineanas, exactly what I thought as well.

    laz says:
  • Lovely work but why did it need to be sustainable?
    Shouldn’t we be concerned, with all of the sustainable products abounding these days, that we might run out of sustainability?
    I think that this is a question whose time has come.
    What will we do when all of the sustainability is gone.
    Think about it.

    Ron Smith says:
  • @felix, I totally agree with you.

    Very good-looking bike, but “sustainable” is really the worst way to describe it.

    In my opinion it’s simply a very expensive piece of wood

    miocugino says:
  • Interesting reading all the comments. And interesting to see the different views on sustainable. As always context is everything I think. If a guy picks this beautiful bicycle over his car to go to his work every day I would say it will help the earth to sustain. But doing nothing is even more sustainable. If you just look at production and design of the bicycle you could say there is some questioning to do to get an outcome that is sustainable. But there are also a thousand ways to get there. If you build this bike out of stainless steel it will last for ever and no more sources are needed. So maybe all that energy is worth to put in if the product is used for ever. If on the other end u use less sustainable materials you should think about the energy needed to produce and after it’s lifetime to recycle in order to help the earth to sustain.

    Ro says:
  • @ felix
    maybe there is a misunderstanding in my comment. I don´t what to defend this bike against criticism at all. It´s indeed very questionable if this bike with its epoxy-coating is more sustainable than an ordinary steel frame bike. I just wanted to emphasize that you have to look deeper regarding sustainability. For example taking into account the energy needed to produce a steel frame. If you criticize the epoxy coating (and you are right) you should not forget that steelframes are coated as well….

    hu says:
  • The term sustainable here is purely for the selling sake, just trying to be more sellable. Just the shear lack of material here used for the frame of the bike is so insubstantial, even if thousands of them are produced. It is an interesting design but the label sustainable is just too used up. The computer or laptop, or whatever, that you are using to read this article probably used up alot more resources than one of these bikes in production…

    Justin C says:
  • No easy answer to whether this deserves a ‘sustainable’ description or not. I like the assertion that the raw materials are more readily available, vs steel or other traditional frame materials. And the CNC process, while inherently wasteful, just results in wood chips. I find it curious that the designer stopped with the frame, and even built the bike up with mountain bike components like a suspension fork and disc brakes! There could be ‘sustainable’ or wood options for those parts – anyway they muck up the lines of the frame.
    Agree with the above posting – just make it from wood, call it ‘beautiful’, and quit the greenwashing.

    slippyfish says:
  • I find it funny calling “sustainable” to a wooden bike… The moment you have to chop a tree to make a bike, this is no longer sustainable… Unless they use recycled wood, but I see this bike is made of perfect, high quality wood… It can´t be recycled, so… Again like in many other projects, putting the trendy word next to the name so it looks sustainable…

    What? says:
  • another view at wood and sustainability:

    If you chop down one tree to make something, and at the same time you plant two or more new ones in it’s place – it is sustainable. If you chop off a part of a healthy tree to make something – new branches will grow out at the same place. Still seems pretty sustainable.

    Extracting ore from the ground is tedious process, and once it is extracted.. it is gone.

    Wood rots in time, but can be easily protected with quality finishes. Metal rusts but it can be protected by coats of paint. Nothing really lasts forever. For most products sustainability is is just a matter of perspective.

    N/A says:
  • This should be bamboo.

    Calfee makes some of the nicest, but many people make bamboo bikes already. Bamboo being one of the fastest growing, “sustainable” materials and needing the least amount of processing as its natural hollow structure is great for a lightweight bicycle.
    I’m a woodworker and an avid cyclist.

    Mark says:
  • The video remind me of Treinspotting from the first second to the end, it’s a bit sad..isn’t it?

    I like the frame! Finally a good-looking, aerodynamic, modern wood frame and I think it’ll look very elegant on a simple single-speed city bike. It’ll be awesome also on a cycle cross commuter.
    It’s a great combination of technology and natural material. There is so many benefit if you use this frame on your commuter bike. You can also keep it in your living room, like a design object… it’ll looks cool.

    It’s not eco-friendly, it’s luxury.

    NB: I understand the Brooks saddle on any bike.. but on a mountain bike?

    Albert says:
  • bamboo is sustainable it grows approx a meter a day, any material that grows on surface of the earth is replenish-able, steel is recyclable, but a huge amount of energy is required and co2 production is massive, the wood is used in fibre form to form a matrix composite so is extremely strong, replenishable materials are the way to go

    sean says:

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