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On your wooden bike!

Hit by the crisis, an Athens furniture maker has turned his skilled hand to making wooden bicycles

Kostas Koutrakis (60) has been working wood since he was 12 and the culmination of his carpentry career is a fully functional wooden eco-bike that's nice to ride and easy on the eye

Kostas Koutrakis' wooden bike at Syntagma metro station, where it caused quite a stir (Photo: Stelios Stefanou, Eleftherotypia) Kostas Koutrakis' wooden bike at Syntagma metro station, where it caused quite a stir (Photo: Stelios Stefanou, Eleftherotypia) A cheerful and energetic character, Kostas Koutrakis doesn't look a day of 60. Only his hands betray his love for wood and the tools of his trade. His career began in 1969, when he started off as a cabinetmaker, producing furniture on order for customers. He's also tried his hand at musical instruments, making three guitars. And he's dabbles in art, gifting his paintings to friends if they like them.

But now he's into making wooden bikes, rolling his first model out of his workshop in 2012, following a challenge from a friend.

"If you're that skilled, make a bike," she said and Koutrakis duly produced one, without much bother. But he wasn't pleased with the prototype and the fall-off in his specialised carpentry business as a result of the crisis gave him the time he needed to perfect it.

The carpenter, who is based in the eastern Attican town of Gerakas, came up with a new shape for the frame, which is made by gluing thin wooden strips of chestnut, beach and walnut together.

The fruits of his labour are a beautiful, varnished, no-gear bike, weighing only 13kg and which he insists is more flexible and just as sturdy as a metal equivalent.

Kostas Koutrakis on his homemade wooden bike (Photo: Stelios Stefanou, Eleftherotypia) Kostas Koutrakis on his homemade wooden bike (Photo: Stelios Stefanou, Eleftherotypia) It created a sensation when he wheeled it out in public. Taking it for a spin to Syntagma Square last December, everyone wanted to know where he had bought it.

"Every Friday, I do about 70km with a cyclists group called Freeday. Some of the others remark that my bike is so so nice that, apart from wanting to take it for a spin, they'd like to hang it up in their living room as a decoration," he says.

Koutrakis, who is working on five orders, is now designing models for women and children and is thinking of ways to get his bikes into foreign markets, like Holland where cyclists rule the streets.

So has the economic crisis had some positive side effects? In Koutrakis' case for sure. If he'd had enough orders for furniture, he wouldn't have had the time to create something so elegant but robust.

And if you're looking for one of his two-wheeled wooden wonders, which he's called WoodenBike, it will cost you €1,800. And you'll have to be prepared to wait a bit before you get your hands on its wooden handle bars.

* For more info, visit facebook.com/woodenbikekoutrakis. This article first appeared in Greek in Eleftherotypia's Epsilon magazine on 23 February 2014

Koutrakis insists his wooden bike more flexible and just as sturdy as a metal equivalent (Photo: Stelios Stefanou, Eleftherotypia) Koutrakis insists his wooden bike more flexible and just as sturdy as a metal equivalent (Photo: Stelios Stefanou, Eleftherotypia)

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