The Carbonwood Bicycle. Art or Design?

Carbonwood bike front photo

All photos: Craig Wall for Craig Galego

Design is about compromise. Art doesn't know the word. Design needs to respond to vagaries of a mass market. Art is more unfettered -- the idea comes first, the audience later. Design acknowledges the dictates of function (even it doesn't always abide by them). Art bows down only to the altar of form. But as with life, there are rarely black and white absolutes, and sometimes art and design collide. When they do, it is often art that often comes out the stronger of the two.

Take, for example, Australian designer Gary Galego's Carbonwood bike. It is a stunning piece of art. A material composite of carbon and timber, with a strength said to be equivalent to steel. Exquisite handmade craftmanship and detailing. It look great. But, at $10,000 AUD, we're not sure that it takes bicycle design anywhere that it really needs to go.

carbonwood bike side photo

Gary Galego is quoted by Habitus as saying "The intention of the design is to inspire and highlight what is possible with wood when used appropriately and in an innovative way." Yet when quoted by Workshopped he says, "Wood and carbon is a relatively new combination of materials. It allows you to strengthen the structure in areas where wood may not be entirely appropriate." Which leaves us confused as to whether this use of timber is something Gary sees as appropriate, or not.

Either way we feel the art/design pendulum swings more toward form than function. But any endeavour that brings attention to the inherent beauty (and practicality) of cycling is okay by us.

Carbonwood bike rear photo

For the technically oriented, Gary explains the carbon-sandwiched-between-wooden frame construction thus, "all the timber pieces used need to be very precisely machined, cut and moulded to shape. All the moulds were custom made to press the timber and carbon sides of the bicycle frame and to make other components specific to the frame."

Gary Galego, via a tip from Greg of the Society for Responsible Design.

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