Builder Profile: Splinter Cycles
Meet Josh Warner, the bike builder, designer, engineer, and destructive test dummy of Splinter Cycles in California. We first met Josh on Instagram and then in person at the North American Handmade Bike Show in Sacramento in March 2019. Josh was keenly interested in how wood bicycle builders approach the different construction methods and we talked extensively about the alternatives.
Josh start with building wood bicycles while studying mechanical engineering at college.
"While studying mechanical engineering at Cal Poly SLO I took an upper division class called Single Track Vehicle Design. Basically, this was a bike design class. The focus of the class was on quantifying the way a bike’s geometry affects its handling using the Patterson Control Model, an engineering model that relates key geometry parameters to measurable handling characteristics." Josh Warner
Josh was intrigued that, on an engineering level, it was possible to design a bike that would be at least comparable to a steel or aluminum frame in terms of weight, strength and stiffness.
"I personally have a lot more experience woodworking than welding, so I decided to go with the wooden bike and began diving down the rabbit hole. Also, I love woodworking." Josh Warner
For Josh, building wood bikes is a hobby right now but who knows what the future will bring! Josh shared several great behind-the-scenes photos with us about his first build.
Read on to learn more about Splinter Cycles and Josh Warner.
WBS: What is your favorite bike that you've built so far?
Josh: I’ve only completed one as of now, but I do have another bike in progress. So, that kind of makes the first bike, I named it Woody, my favorite by default, but I think that the second bike will probably be my new favorite when it’s finished, and then my third, and so on.
WBS: How long did it take from start to finish to build the bike?
Josh: Woody took 5 weeks from first cut to first ride. Then it took me about 8 months to actually put a coat of finish on. Once I had it ride-able, I just didn’t want to take it apart because I loved riding my bike, and I was using it almost daily as my commuter, but when NAHBS rolled around, I knew I had to get the bike show ready.
WBS: What was the biggest challenge to overcome?
Josh: I definitely encountered issues along the way building Woody. The time constraint of the class I built it for was both a blessing and a curse as it forced me to actually work on it and the hard deadline for being rideable put good pressure on me finishing the bike. On the other hand, certain things were not perfect/were rushed because of that time crunch. The rear triangle was a complete failure on my first attempt and I only had 3 days to rebuild it before the bike was due, so it’s not quite perfect, but is definitely good enough.
I also crashed and broke my frame about a year after completing it, which was partially a design flaw, partially manufacturing issues, and partially rider error (but hey, those three guys are all me, so I guess it’s really all my fault). This was frustrating, but ultimately a blessing in disguise as it shed light on a design flaw in my frame that I came up with a fix for and Woody is back together and stronger than ever. This also informed my design of the next bike I’m working on.
WBS: What information/resources do you wish you had at the beginning?
Josh: As far as resources I wish I had at the beginning, I would probably say someone who had done this before to talk to and bounce ideas off. I found a couple of builds online that other people had done and used them as a guide but there are always problems, and nothing goes 100% according to plan.
WBS: Do you plan to build any more in the future?
Josh: Yes! I’m actually working on a hardtail mountain bike currently. It’s still mostly only in the computer, but I’ve already made all the tubes similar to how Normal Bicycles makes their tubes. I’m using cherry as the species for this bike based on some modeling and analysis I’ve done, and the pieces I’ve made look stunning in my opinion.
WBS: What do you wish people knew about wood bicycles?
Josh: To anyone out there thinking about building a wood bike, do it! There’s nothing more satisfying than riding a bike that you built with your own hands. Wood is a fun and forgiving material to build with and there are more and more information and resources on building wood frames every day. You don’t need many tools to build a wood bike and the experience requirement, while somewhat high is not an impossible hurdle either. Reach out to any of the people on here and they will be more than happy to help you out.
WBS: Where can people learn more about your projects?
Josh: I’ve got a website that I’ve put together with some information on the builds I’ve done and on building wood bikes in general: www.splintercycles.com
Also, I’m on Instagram: @splinter_cycles