Based in Ohio, Sojourn Cyclery proves that wooden-framed bicycles can be lightweight, ultra-strong and completely functional works of art
Jay Kinsinger grew up with a love of woodworking, cycling and bike-making, but it wasn’t until 2010 that he put these hobbies together in the form of his handmade, wooden-framed, custom bikes. Every one of Jay’s wooden bikes, is an individual creation, taking its final form from a unique combination of the rider’s particular needs, the wood’s attributes and Jay’s craftmanship.
“Sojourn bikes are not just a pretty face,” says Jay. “They not only look amazing but are also incredible to ride. Wood is a natural shock absorber, absorbing a lot of road vibration, so it’s a far smoother ride than metal. It’s comparable in strength and weight to steel or aluminium and much tougher than carbon fibre. The customization I can do in wood goes far beyond what a traditional custom-frame builder can do, including tube shape, wall thickness and wood species. It’s why many of our customers say the wooden bike is their favourite in the fleet. One customer declared his Sojourn ‘the Stradivarius of bicycles’.”
Jay is a mechanical engineering professor who works at Ohio’s Cedarville University. He made his first metal-framed bike from a kit in 1981 and rode it 4,250 miles across America. As his family grew, he continued to ride and began to experiment with tandems and bikes with seats for children – putting them at the front of the bike so the child had a view other than of their parent’s backside. He also made wooden cabinets and furniture, using skills he developed from growing up in a wood shop, so his wooden bikes utilise a lifetime of experience. As well as the Diverso, an all-round single seater, he makes a tandem, a mountain bike and the Elettrico, a wooden e-bike.
“The Elettrico is the ultimate in sustainable transportation for somebody who has to commute to work,” he says. “The electrical assist gives the best of both worlds. You get some exercise, but you don’t arrive at work wringing with sweat. This e-bike is perfect for anyone of any age who wants to flatten the hills, mitigate headwinds or ride longer distances.”
Wood offers several advantages as a material for bicycles. Jay’s bikes are typically made from walnut with a rich grain and a deep, beautiful brown colour. Scratches can be dealt with in a matter of minutes, simply through sanding and applying an oil finish. Walnut is a particularly strong but flexible wood, and Jay’s frames are hollow, making them as light as their metal competitors. Wood is also sustainable, making these the greenest bikes around.
Jay’s bikes are custom-made. Guided by Jay, customers can send Sojourn Cyclery their measurements and talk through individual aspects of the design to ensure the frame will perfectly suit the rider and their riding requirements. If somebody wants to have a go at making their own bike, Sojourn Cyclery runs workshops of three or four days. All the materials are provided, and Jay will personally guide the process.
“People can come here, or we can go to them if they have a group of people who want to build their own bikes,” he says. “Last year we had a customer from the UK who was a joiner by profession. He came to our home; we made his bike together, and then he rode it part of the way back to Philadelphia for his return flight. It was a great experience. He arrived to a pile of wood, and at the end he was able to pedal off into the sunset.”