In April of this year, Dhani Ram Saggu, a 40-year-old carpenter picked up some plywood lying around his house, an electric saw, a spanner, and started building a cycle made entirely of wood. Within four months, after two failed attempts, he managed to produce a finished product that is now being sold for Rs.15,000.
Dhani Ram is not a hobbyist; he didn’t build this cycle for fun. The pandemic, and the subsequent lockdown, ensured that he lost his livelihood.
“I am a carpenter. Usually, I would get orders to build cupboards, doors, shelves, and sometimes I would repair broken fittings for residents in the area. With construction put in a full halt, and with no means of livelihood, I wanted to keep myself occupied, learn new skills, and build something different. But, my creativity was constrained to the raw materials available at home – plywood, tools, and old cycles,” says Dhani Ram.
A wooden cycle
Having been around handymen who are also mechanics, it was not hard for Dhani Ram to understand how to build a bicycle, and a cycle’s parts work.
“I spend a lot of time around cycle shops. Though I have never made a cycle before, I have seen my friends take apart an entire cycle and put it back together using the same parts or with some modifications.”
With that confidence, he first drew the design on a piece of paper; using spare plywood lying around his home he made a body, handlebars and the wheel rims. From an old cycle, he scavenged the chain, pedals, wheels, seat and the side stands and attached it to the wooden-body.
“In my first attempt, I lined the wheel’s tube onto a metal rim and placed that around a circular piece of wood. This was not very effective, and the cycle would not move properly. Also, the handlebars were made all from wood, which was not comfortable to hold,” says Dhani Ram adding that it took him over one month to finish this model.
The final product
For his second try, he modified the design a little so that the wooden frame would accommodate wheels and brakes. Dhani Ram says though this design was perfect to ride around, he wanted to further modify it so that he could fit a basket in front, and add mud-guards to the wheels.
By the end of May, he was able to procure raw materials such as a local variety of wood called Canadian wood, a new seat and new brakes. The final product weighs 20kgs and can carry up to 150kgs. The wood is water-proof, and Dhani Ram has added a layer of polish for extra shine. For maintenance, he suggests users not leaving it under the sun or in the rain for a prolonged period.
“With help from one of my workers, the product was complete in July. I did not paint the cycle because I wanted it to have a rustic finish. Through word of mouth, I was able to sell my first piece to a person in Chandigarh. Soon, I started receiving more orders and even received enquiries from individuals in South Africa and Canada. Initially, it took me more than three weeks to make one cycle; now I can finish making a piece within one week,” says Dhani Ram.
Rakesh Singh, an administrative officer in Chandigarh, is part of a cyclists group that goes on rides every morning. He had seen an image of Dhani Ram’s prototype after his friend shared it over a Whatsapp group.
He says, “I got in touch with Dhani Ram in April when the cycle was in its second prototype stage. But after knowing he was still making changes, I made some suggestions and pre-ordered my piece. Today, I take it out at least once a day either to the office, or the grocery store. Though the wooden cycle is heavier compared to the regular cycles, his craftsmanship is extraordinary. The weight does not affect mobility, and instead is like a workout for your hands.”
To date, he has got orders for 10 cycles and has completed making seven. In the future, he plans to modify the same version by adding gears and disc brakes.
If you would like to own one of these refreshingly unique, handcrafted cycles or want to know more about Dhaniram’s work, you can place an order at 7087697652.
Dhani Ram customises bicycles according to user preferences for an additional cost; delivery extra!