Remember the oak with the wooden bike from this year’s Nedbank Tour de Tuli?

Dec 30, 2013 Community and Culture
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It was mostly ash actually, and Rick Nowack was the rider’s name.

In August 2013 Rick, a 72 year-old dishwasher from San Diego, travelled 17,000+ kilometres, or 10,500 miles, to ride his wooden mountain bike through 300km of pristine wilderness in Botswana’s Northern Tuli Game Reserve, Zimbabwe’s Limpopo Valley and South Africa’s Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area.

So, something of a legend before Day 1, Rick chose to ride with standard pedals and in a long-sleeved shirt and cargo shorts every day.  Quietly getting on with it, he powered through sand and thorns, stole past sleeping lions and browsing elephants and generally left a lot of riders half his age in his dust.

Now that is embodying the spirit of the Tour!

Of course, before anybody even knew who he was, it was his intriguing wooden bike that caught everyone’s attention. For a start, who didn’t think it was bamboo?

An excerpt from David Bristow’s article in Full Sus MTB Monthly explains Renovo, the bike-maker’s construction philosophy:

‘Renovo use only American eastern hardwoods such as walnut, maple, ash, hickory and oak. Rick’s bike, a Badash 29er, is made of hickory or ash with a dark walnut central stripe for both looks and strength.

“We proved to ourselves and our test riders that our 29er frame is remarkably stiff, smooth, tough and strong, so instead of bad idea, we called it Badash…”

When a Badash was load-tested by hanging Wheeler’s 1,364 kg Volvo station wagon from the bottom bracket, it took nearly 10 minutes before the frame failed at the head tube. Test ride reports claim it rides remarkably smoothly, combining the benefits of wood (flex-like chrome-moly with added strength) with the rolling ease of 29" wheels.

“Front-end stiffness gives it incredible handling on fast single-track descents, and it climbs like a rocket. It's light enough to offer outstanding performance, but heavy enough to offer outstanding toughness,” claims Renovo’s Ken Wheeler.

So while we might not see you on a Renovo, we do hope to see you anyhow at next year’s Nedbank Tour de Tuli!

Registrations have opened and you can find out more at

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By Josephine Bestic

With a background in wildlife and conservation publishing, copywriter and digital marketer Jo has found her niche happily managing the content for Wilderness Safaris’ social media accounts.

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