Though Portlanders have long espoused the wood bike frame, the rest of the world generally sticks to the standard carbon, aluminum, or steel (... or whatever this is). But woodworkers in the north of Spain, faced with an economic slowdown that's affected their business, have taken up frame building as an alternative to construction.
Spain has been hard hit by the global recession that's affected many neighboring European countries as well. Just today, Spanish officials announced the country has "tipped back into" an official recession, after a slow recovery that began in 2010. The construction industry has been particularly impacted by the bust: unfinished buildings dot the countryside, while massive high-profile projects like Peter Eisenman's City of Culture complex have been abandoned as "expensive mistakes."
As the outlook for the country's construction workers worsens, some craftspeople are simply pivoting their businesses. The owners of one such business, Txirbil (a name derived from a Basque word that means "wood shaving"), are using their joinery to build high-performance wood road bike frames. According to the woodworkers, the tubular fibers of wood are "perfect" for making frames that are as light and stiff as carbon frames. Of course, wood frames aren't the most practical of choices, but for some cyclists, the impracticality is a fair trade for the "bespoke" look of wood bike.
Whether or not you subscribe to the wood frame gospel, Txirbil's story is an interesting example of how the "cottage industry" model is reanimating traditional businesses plagued by the ongoing global recession. More here.