While a number of car makers, including BMW, Mercedes-Benz and McLaren, have sought to leverage their brand and technical knowledge to produce vehicles of the two-wheeled, pedal-powered variety, they tend to opt for the same high-tech, lightweight materials used in their cars, such as carbon fiber and aluminum. Audi has done the same thing in the past, but for its latest bicycle offering Audi of America has taken a different tack by teaming up with Renovo Bicycles to create the "duo" – a line of bikes that feature monocoque frames made of hardwood.
Renovo's wooden frame bicycles are designed to offer the smoothest ride of any bike frame material as wood absorbs shock and vibration better than metal or carbon fiber. Additionally, the weight per cubic inch of wood is about a quarter the weight of aluminum, making the duo lighter than most bicycle frames, while still offering equal or superior stiffness, durability and toughness. And of course, the duo's frame is also recyclable and biodegradable. Carbon fiber and aluminum aren't left out of the equation altogether though – these materials are used in the bike's components.
Audi is releasing three models of duo bicycles to suit different cycling needs.
The duo City is designed as a daily commuter for casual cyclists and sees the rider sitting in an upright position to provide comfort over short distances and visibility while cruising through traffic in urban areas. It has wide puncture-resistant 32 mm tires, LED lights, fenders and a rack. To ensure the rider doesn't arrive for work with the pants covered in grease, the bike's drivetrain features a grease-free Gates CenterTrack belt drive coupled to a Shimano Nexus 8-speed internal hub gear. It retails for an all-inclusive (shipping and handling is included on all duo bikes) US$6,530.
The duo Sport is intended for those spending a little longer in the saddle. Designed as a fitness/long distance commuter, the Sport drivetrain also boasts a grease-free Gates CenterTrack belt drive but it is coupled to a Shimano Alfine 11-speed internal gear hub. For greater comfort over longer distances the bike also features drop bars as well as minimum fenders and medium-width, puncture-resistant 28 mm tires for reduced rolling resistance. The duo Sport retails for US$7,350.
The last model out of the bike rack is the duo Road, which as its name suggests is a performance road bike aimed at club and century rides. It sports narrow tires, no fenders, minimal accessories and an SRAM Red, compact 20-speed gear train. It retails for US$7,460.
The woods used to make the frames are all selected to match the look of Audi vehicle interiors and all bikes are hand-made at Renovo's Portland, Oregon, studio. While Audi says it is launching the duo line of bikes as "an embodiment of its core principles or progressive innovation that also blends craftsmanship and styling with performance and technology," don't hold your breath for an Audi four-wheeled vehicles to feature a wooden chassis any time soon.