When Mike Mahoney started Savvy Cycles, he was taking years of experience and craftsmanship and honing it into something new. Mahoney has been a wood worker his entire life as well as a cyclist, but it wasn’t until after he had created another company that he started Savvy Cycles. What started out as a skateboard factory in the industrial area of Grand Junction (with DT Swiss and MRP just around the corner) has become a one man frame building shop. Mahoney spent ten years building Honey Skateboards, high quality skateboards but then he transitioned to mountain bikes, his first passion. He began using the large wood presses to make bike frames, one side at a time and the stays separately. It’s these presses that set him apart from most of the other frame builders making bicycles from wood.
The attention to detail that goes into each frame is impressive. The process starts with hickory and ash, ash being slightly lighter in weight; the darker wood, used mostly for the striping aesthetics, consists of sepele (from Africa) and walnut (from the US). The use of the large presses is notable during this process, as most companies building wooden bikes use clamps instead. Savvy’s wood presses provide even pressure on all surfaces of the wood laminate, creating uniform strength and stability in the frame. For the front triangle of the bike frame, Mahoney takes sheets of wood, layered in a crossgrain fashion, to prevent warping, and laminates
them into two halves of a bicycle frame. After the press, Mahoney takes the two sides of the f
ront triangle of the bike and places them in a CNC machine. The automated machine then goes to work, carving and hollowing out the wooden tubing, leaving more material at the junctions of the seat tube. top tube, and head tube, producing a butted effect. The two halves are then laminated. The seat stays and chain stays are cut from the same layup and
pressing to insure consistency on either side. Again, attention to detail is apparent in the way the seat stays are layered horizontally to allow vertical flex, while the chain stays are oriented vertically for a better transfer of power along the drivetrain.
Once the wood is pressed, shaped and glued together, Mahoney adds his custom CNC’d dropouts and other components that make the mating of metal and wood work. The result is nothing short of art. The graceful lines and wood grain compliment each other and there is no doubt that this a labor of love. It’s a trailhead head turner. The $1800 starting price for a frame seems a pittance for a sculpture that can be taken on the trails.
So, how does this rolling work of art perform? In short, it’s a very capable piece of art. It has done just about everything that I’ve asked it to with a certain amount of sure footedness. The most fun I’ve had on it has been in the high country, but it has handled the Kokopelli Loops and the Lunch Loops admirably. I’m very impressed with it’s ability to climb, not surprising, as it is a hardtail and a 29’er, but the transfer on power in the drive train is easy on the legs. The Savvy is a stable descender and nimble enough to manage the twisty technical trails without twitchiness. The ride quality is different from anything I have ridden, somewhere between steel and aluminum. The wood definitely dampens the small vibrations, but it’s not quite as lively as steel. So far the frame material has not impeded me, it has held up just fine, and yes, I have crashed it. The finish does scratch and there is a ding, but no more than I would have put on a normal frame.
There are a few issues with the design that I would like to see changed. As of now, all the Savvys are 1×11, Mahoney has yet to mount a front derailleur on one of his frames. This bike has great potential for long distances and big climbs, it seems a shame not to have more range in the gearing. The tire clearance could also be better. I like big fat tires, a 2.2 Continental Trail King is not going to have enough space to play in the rear stays. And finally, something specific to the small frame, the seat tube is a 27.2, limiting the choices of seat droppers, the other frames have a 31.76 seat post. The smaller seat tube allows the rear chain stays to shorten just a bit more on the smallest of the Savvy frames. And yes, some people do like seat droppers on their hardtails.
So who might buy this piece of art? This is not a race bike, the small with an 11 speed drive train sits at about 25 pounds. Most likely the customer base will consist of the riders that already have a quiver of bikes in their stable. They want to add a unique bike that offers a ride quality that isn’t harsh like aluminum but has a faster transfer of power than steel. Or maybe they just want their bike to turn heads as they tackle the singletrack at hand. I picture the long time local that just wants to ride all day and knows the trails like the back of her hand jumping on this bike and just rolling with it. This is not a flash in the pan bike, this is a bike for long term relationships forged between bike and rider.
Mahoney has already added a fat bike to the line and can put a belt drive on his frames as well, thus he has covered a couple of the niche trends. In the future he would love to build a gravel grinder or road bike. In fact, he thinks that a road bike is a great application for a wooden frame. And on the other end of the spectrum, he may just try his hand at a full suspension as well.