Riding the ‘Wooden Horse’

George Stempinski, a carpenter, built this sweet ride to prove a point. It’s a rarity — and it can go mighty fast.

Not just any motorcycle, either. Working in his spare time over eight months, Stempinski constructed a nine-and-a-half foot, 300-pound, five-speed motorcycle from the scrap wood in his garage. His “Wooden Horse” is a sight to behold — and a rarity.
“It’s not completely unprecedented,” said Zack Courts, executive editor of Motorcyclist Magazine, “but it’s pretty out there.”

Courts pointed out that the first motorcycle was made of wood. In 1885, German inventors Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach developed the internal combustion engine and cobbled together a crude wood bike to carry it.
“They weren’t even trying to make a motorcycle, just some conveyance to test an engine,” A Google search yields a handful of wooden motorcycles built by curiosity-seekers, but Courts and fellow Motorcyclist editor Ari Henning said they’ve never personally encountered one.

Jon Szalay, who owns Early American Motorcycles in Barnegat, said he’s only seen antique wooden motorcycles from the 19th century.
“I’ve never heard of anybody building one,” Szalay said.

Stempinski had no blueprint or kit, so he winged it. He corralled the engine, tires and handlebars off of eBay. He used Douglas fir pine and clean poplar, and bent the exhaust pipe around a tree in his front yard. The biggest challenge was fabricating the brackets so he could mount the motor, which like all motors is designed to go on a steel frame.
“All I needed was a chop saw, a table saw, a good drill and an angle grinder,” he said. “And you have to have patience. It’s a labor of love.”

When asked how much the project cost, Stempinski declined to cite a figure but said it was the equivalent of one week’s salary. The bike is not for sale, although he’s willing to build similar models for potential buyers.
“I wanted to challenge myself with something different, prove to myself that I could do it,” he said. “And also show the younger generation of kids that are 12, 13, 14 years old to get out of the house and go do something, go build something.”

So how fast can this thing go? Stempinski estimates 80-85 miles per hour on the highway. Right now he’s limited to motoring up and down the Manahawkin street where he lives until he can get the Wooden Horse inspected, registered and insured.
“You’re not going to Daytona Beach on this,” he said. “It’s for cruising around the neighborhood.”

For safety purposes, and maybe just to tickle his inner 4-year-old, Stempinski built in an obnoxiously loud horn — an air horn on steroids.
“The neighbors love this,” he said, idling in his driveway. “They can’t believe I did it.

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