In 2010, Robert Penn penned an awesome book titled It’s All about the Bike, the story of his journey to build a custom bike by visiting the makers of each component, from the Campagnolo factory to Brooks England for the saddle and Rourke Cycles for the frame.
In 2016, he released another tome called The Man who Made Things out of Trees, where he takes the wood from an ash tree to traditional woodworkers who turn it into the tools that have shaped man’s evolution. He could’ve combined the two by writing about Mike Pecsok of Grainworks in California, who makes the most incredible wooden bikes.
Mike Pecsok was born and raised in Camarillo, CA, and has followed a path of passion for woodwork and its tools. All of his projects are mitred and assembled with the same precision as any frame builder who works with metal. His wooden bikes, especially, embody the romance of the material, as much as a well-balanced boat.
Mike was generous enough to answer some questions about his art for our readers:
How long have you been working with wood? Where did you learn to do so? What are you usually building?
Since a child really. I always enjoyed taking things apart and working with my hands as a kid. I started seriously perusing the craft at about 16 thanks to a spark of interest from a friend’s father. The learning process happened in phases throughout high school and college but the majority of learning was on my own accord.
My best friend and I built my current workshop building when I was 18 and I have been using it and modifying it to fit my needs since that day. I consider the shop in its fourth iteration now. Typically I build functional furniture but find myself building more and more kinetic objects like bicycles.
Why did you want to build a wooden bike?
It all started based on a challenge from a good friend who owned a bike shop at the time. After originally refusing based on what I thought was an insurmountable task, I was pressured again and decided to give it a try. What came to be was beyond what I thought I was capable of and essentially opened up many more possibilities for my work.
What wood is it made from? Why was this the best choice?
This bike, in particular, is made from cherry with some walnut accents. While certain woods would be undesirable, I chose cherry for this frame based on aesthetics and also knowing it has similar properties to my previous builds in walnut and maple. I prefer to use domestic hardwoods for my builds.
How did you come up with the design?
I chose a hardtail geometry set, which included the headtube angle and other critical bike dimensions and went from there. I incorporated my flowing designs to connect the dots — if you will. I’ve always concentrated on making pleasing transitions between parts and I believe that the bike is a good example of blending.
Why did you choose these components?
The item that this bike was designed around was the red belt drive. I wanted to have red accents, which also lent itself to using cherry. As far as the Shimano Alfine 8, my original builds were all single speeds and this allowed for a more enjoyable cruising experience without sacrificing the aesthetic simplicity of the belt.
There’s room in my garage for one. What do you think?