Phil Wood may not ring a bell to newbies to cycling, but the rest of us will morn the passing of the first name in sealed, cartridge-bearing hubs and bottom brackets. Phil left his position as a problem solver at Food Machinery Corp. to found Phil Wood and Company in 1971 after wrestling to repair a cheap hubset. Sealed-bearing hubs and cartridge bottom brackets are today’s gold standard, but when Phil Wood introduced the concept, Campagnolo’s old-school cup-and-cone items were considered by the racing elite to be the only worthy design. Phil’s hub was pressed and threaded together, and was instantly recognizable by its oversized center-section and medium-diameter spoke flanges. Against the opinions of the sport’s influence peddlers, Phil Wood’s sealed bearing components gained traction among the racing and touring community.
Phil Wood demonstrating his spoke machine. Photo stolen from HERE
When the mountain bike sprang onto cycling’s radar, Phil Wood and Co responded to the need for wider bottom bracket and hub widths required to maintain tire clearance and proper chain lines. Wood’s inventive products were pivotal to the pioneer mountain bike movement. Later, Wood invented a multi-plate hub brake which was a favorite for Tandem bikes, and also a beautiful hand-operated took that cut and threaded spokes with a single turn of its crank handle. The spoke machine made wheel-building less expensive and time consuming because shops that previously had to stock spokes in a multitude of lengths, could stock one spoke length and fit them to every wheel application.
The original Phil Wood hub. Photo from First Flight Bikes
Phil sold his company in 1991 to Peter Enright and a group of investors in order to be with his grandchildren. He died on his farm in , yesterday at 84.
When I first met Phil, I was surprised to discover that he wasn’t an avid cyclist. I had imagined that the inventor who made so many of my components would be, but like Leo Fender, the guitar maker who never learned to play one, the lesson learned was that the imagination has no boundaries as long as its owner has the courage to pursue it. Phil Wood will be missed, but his gifts will ride with us long into the future.