For Alessandro, ‘Ale’ Fedeli, both the ride and the destination are equally important when it comes to designing a bike. By this I mean, the design details need to be of exceptional standards if you want to achieve the goal of a light, durable and good-looking bike. Exactly this is what Ale strives to do as he sets off to explain it all. Ale cruises down Laugavegur on his personally designed bike, passing through the crowd and appreciating the side-glances. He greets me at Prikið on a cloudy Thursday afternoon and locks his bike before leaving it outside the café. While most people only go as far as fixing their tires on their bikes, Ale has gone a step further. He has not only designed but also built a prototype of a bike, which he calls ‘The Woodbike’.
Ale, who’s usually seen wearing his brown ullarpeysa (woollen jumper) in downtown Reykjavík, arrives in full woollen armour, tonally matching his Woodbike. The bike and he are in sync which is perhaps no wonder as Ale has been working on the bike for over a year. Ale’s passion in life is to ride ‘n’ roll. His business is to design new bikes frames from maple and walnut wood. He’s captured the world’s attention for his uniquely light bicycle design and his mission is to improve the overall cycling experience. His design is unique because the frame itself is basically just a crossing of two wood chunks that meet in the middle. This makes the bike surprisingly light; it weighs just about 8 kg whereas the average bike can range from 12-14 kg! This advantage makes the Woodbike ideal in any cityscape, hilly or flat. Furthermore, the bike has proven unbreakable as it can withstand any weather conditions due to its durable materials that have been tested in the Icelandic cold and snow.
The idea of The Woodbike, he says was primarily born in Iceland. “The bike is my translation of Iceland, my sort of contribution to the country. It simply wouldn’t have happened anywhere else,” he says laughing. With the aim of selling the bike he’s exhibited it at design fairs such as The DesignMarch 2014 in Reykjavík and recently at The Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven. The visitor’s feedback has been astounding; “People love the simplicity of the design and the whole wood idea” and the list of clients keeps growing by the minute. On the streets, the bike is also its own PR team. I discover this myself when walking in the city centre with him wheeling his bike to his side; a great deal of people stop him and ask where on earth they can get their hands on one of the bikes. Ale is also thinking of adding a wooden saddle to the frame but the design is still a secret! He hopes the end result will just be a bike entirely made out of wood except for the steer and tires!
About two years ago, Ale came to Iceland to follow his dreams of working on his own projects. The wonderland of elves and mysticism is as far away from his home in every way possible as his bloodlines run through Italy, though he has spent most of his life in Venezuela and Mexico. Ale loves Iceland, and says that nothing compares to owning the good old Icelandic ullarpeysa (woollen jumper) to keep you warm in the cold. His passion for transport design has led him to the point where he is today. After having studied engineering and industrial design; he’s no stranger to the subject of bikes. Ale lived for a time in Holland before coming to Iceland and there he came to the conclusion that bikes matter.
So, what’s the story behind the bike?
”Well, it all started with myself, I had to get from A to B fast and cheap,” he says. He came up with the solution of making a cheap a bike, which then led to a design idea that he’s obsessing over, still to this day. Rethinking the concept is essential to the process. Fresh angles and ideas come to him when he least expects it, from everything and everyone. “Inspiration is all around me and it can bother me actually. I cannot take a shower, sleep or drive without keeping a pen close to me” he says laughing. We also talk about working independently and what are the do’s and don’ts if you want to keep your sanity. , He says it’s crucial not to take oneself too seriously and try to laugh at all the mistakes you’ll make. ‘Curiosity is key and I’m a bit stubborn as well so I wouldn’t be able to abandon an unsolved situation.’ He adds the fundamental thing is to have at least two gurus at your side when everything seems like it is going to hell. “ I do believe in one man’s army, but The Woodbike would never have been a thing without help.” Iceland – the biking utopia
Being a fan of the snow himself, it seems almost a mission impossible to cycle in the snow and the wind and only the bravest extremists venture out on the streets. But the cycling culture in Iceland is growing rapidly and in the summer it’s full of cyclists. With hoards of people touring around the country by bike, Ale discusses what a phenomena Iceland has become for cyclists and how nothing feels more liberating than cycling in the beautiful country that offers such a distinctive contrast between the sea and the city life. “It’s really hipster to say this but I generally think that with all the good energy that you generate when you’re happy, you can revolutionize the world. And that’s exactly what you feel when you cycle, you conquer yourself and therefore the world.” Next up for Ale is to promote the bike and get it on the market. And of course, continue rolling and enjoying every moment of it. Ale’s favourite cycling route in Reykjavík: From the city centre cycle to Laugardalslaug, dive in pool and chill in the hot pots before treating yourself with a pylsa at the sausage stand outside the pool. On the way back, cycle along the waterfront and through the harbour area and end the journey at Grandi. There, stop for a delicious ice cream at Valdís or dinner at the Coocoo’s Nest.
Ale’s favorite bike shop: Kría at Grandi. If you’re into bikes you should not miss this amazing shop that offers great variety of products.
What’s the best way to get in touch with you Ale, or if we want to find out more about the bike? http://thewoodbike.com
Tags: Alessandro Fedeli, Elín Traustadóttir, Iceland, industrial design, Kria, The woodbike
Born and bred in Iceland, a designer and a freelance writer based in Reykjavík. Sailing enthusiast, jazz lover with a passion for Portuguese spirits! www.elintraustadottir.com
The idea behind SQUARELY is a simple and wholesome one…
With the new decade, come new beginnings; fresh perspectives, that…
It was a typically cold night in Reykjavík, but the…