Premium Member Rick Sigel sent me an email a while back that read:
“You should look into an article on Mark Osgood and the beautiful and unique bikes he is making. Check out his web site at www.rollingartbicycles.com.”
I did just that, and I quickly got in touch with Mark, who works out of a shop in Illinois, to ask if he would mind sharing some info about what he does, how he got started, his process for creating his wooden masterpieces, how much time it takes to craft each one, and so on.
I have always been a sucker for beautiful things made out of wood, so when I first glimpsed one of Mark’s gorgeous framesets, I was hooked. I hope you’ll enjoy learning a bit more from Mark about how he creates these beautiful pieces of “rolling art” – and seeing a few photos of his work. – John Marsh
By Mark Osgood
Rolling Art Bicycles is a one-person shop, specializing in custom wooden bicycles for riders who prize high-quality detailed workmanship. I have over 40 years of experience in woodworking and take special pride in offering wood and sterling silver inlay.
Wood is selected from sources all over the country for its figure, grain, strength, weight and beauty. Maple and cherry offer a nice compromise in domestically sourced wood. Both woods can be found with beautiful grain and figure patterns and, used together, offer a wonderful contrast of light and dark. As they age they retain their beauty.
However, the list is long of woods suitable for these bikes and, according to the rider's wishes, exotic species from around the world can be selected to offer more choice in color and grain.
My high regard for the beauty of the wood is shown in the placement of the company's name on the pavement side of the down tube instead of obscuring the grain pattern on the side of the top tube or down tube.
The wood inlay is done by the careful use of custom templates and a hand-held electric router. The background wood is removed with the router, and the contrasting inlay wood is cut and fitted.
The silver inlay is an art form dating back several centuries, and in pioneering America was used on high-end muzzle-loading rifles. The design is first drawn on the wood and then grooved out with chisels and gouges of the correct shape. You can see that dozens of chisel shapes are needed to form the design on the top tube in the photo. The chosen metal is then carefully formed and inserted into the grooves and filed smooth.
When I began building these bicycles a couple of years ago, I started by testing dozens of wood joints and adhesives to find the strongest and most attractive combination. This led to the use of blind double mortise-and-tenon joints bonded with marine-grade epoxy in the front triangle. The rear triangle joints are mortised, lapped, and epoxied also (see photo below).
I consider alignment to be crucial on my bikes. All critical steps are carried out on an alignment jig. In order to give the owner a bit of flexibility in adjustment over time, the rear dropout design uses sliders. I machine the rear dropouts (excluding the slider portion -- see photo below), the rear brake hanger, and the head tube housing so the quality can be controlled. The bottom bracket is chased and faced for the customer. The bikes are either supplied with an external cup headset or integrated headset, depending on the customer's wishes.
The frames are spray finished with a UV-inhibiting exterior coating that can be either a high-quality polyurethane or a marine spar varnish. Two coats of sealer go on, followed by at least five coats of finish.
Each frame takes close to 200 hours to build, plus any custom inlay work. The frames weigh 6 to 7 pounds, and prices start at $3,000, which includes contrasting wood laminates, modest inlay, internal cables, and the headset bearings. More detailed inlay and complete components are available at an additional fee. Complete bikes start at $4,950 for a Shimano Ultegra drivetrain, Ritchey fork and Easton wheels. To see more photos and get additional information, visit www.rollingartbicycles.com.