sustainable pallet bike

This thesis is born with the aim of getting closer to a production reality and model like the one represented by the cooperative, in which design has not a widespread practice. This was for us an opportunity in witch we could experiment with innovative relationships between raw materials, pallet wood, and a complex product such a bike.

The project is in collaboration with the Cooperative UNLUS “Il Cammino” based in Biella, which aim is to promote the occupational integration of disadvantaged people. In particular, we have worked in the carpentry workshop.

The analysis was followed by a piratical phase, influenced by the opportunities aroused from the material the goals related to the bicycle and the possibilities of the carpentry .

The choice of pallets wood was determined from the cooperative activity, which consists in the recovery of disused pallets . The pallet is a humble and cheap material but rich in communication features. After trying to recovery the central part of the pallet, we meet the first difficulties: it was heavy, exaggerated in size and in very bad conditions. We then decided to use the virgin wood used by carpenter. After some cardboard models, we started realizing different prototypes, with the aim of outlining the final design. The first prototype allowed us to understand how reliable the material was and if the project was feasible by the workshop. The bike obtained was stable and light but it gave the idea to be a big game. After some more studies and drawings we figured out a second prototype, in which we add the bottom bracket and the chain, creating a working model. The next step was to find the balance between the playful spirit of the first prototype and the functionality of the second. At the end we outlined the final model: expression of an alternative way of production and consumption. Even at this stage we have maintained a continuous dialogue with the cooperative, always referring to their possibilities and constraints of production.

The thesis starts with a phase of analysis in which we explored the realities of production of the Cooperative and identified a number of case studies of wooden and of folding bike that we, after took as a starting point and inspiration point. We catalogued the different wooden bike cases trying to figure out design purpose, the construction techniques and the used tools. We, then, divided our catalogue in three areas: the bikes that were born as manifest objects of luxury or of sustainability; those related to the self-made movement, experimental projects in which alternative production processes are designed, and those from the high quality manufacture where projects are characterized by the care of the technical performance, ergonomics and materials. This analysis led us to define recurrent geometries, emblematic of their construction techniques . It is at this stage that we took into consideration the possibility of creating a three elements frame, both for the availability of the construction techniques of the Cooperative and for the expressed simplicity. Proceeding with the same method of analysis, we classified the cases of folding bikes, focusing on the folding techniques and their portability.



Graduation project:


Vicky Katrin Kuhlmann

Veronica Toppino

tutor: Cristian Campagnaro


September 2013,

Politecnico di Torino - IT




studio vickykatrin