I’ll bet y’all done thought I’d evaporated or somethin’.
Well its actually just been the craziest, most project filled year of my life. No complaints though as its been a great time. Well, the only complaint was that my wonderful dog Norton passed away after fifteen + years of being my best pal.
Norton, ‘The King of Cool’
He was an extraordinary guy with an endless list of fans and friends and I feel totally blessed to have shared his life. “See you again someday little man.” The only upside to the sadness has been the introduction of Mr ‘Ballistic’ Benson to our lives. Acquired from Skagit Animal Rescue, he is totally full of beans and is psychotically loving.
Benson the leapin’ lizard
Havin’ a beer with Benny
Anyway, the crazy boat project continues to forward and since the last scribing I’ve had it out of the water and stripped the entire underside (with a torch and a belt sander) to bare wood….the first time in at least fifty years. Replaced some damaged planking, refilled nearly 4000 screw recesses etc etc. Mustn’t ask myself why or I might stop.
Finally all Navy Gray
Then of course there are the car projects. The most exciting has to be the resurrection of one of my all time favourites, an earlier E Type coupe. Purchased as a Christmas prezzie for the love of my life, this previously Texas owned vehicle needed (and still needs) a bunch of sorting. As an interesting bit for the bicycle keeners, The front end of a Jag E type is a space frame design, like the race cars it was developed from. This entire front end assembly is built from Reynolds 531 tubing. In fact, one of the damaged tubes I had to replace was a standard sized top tube from a bicycle. The whole thing was apart but now its heading together again….maybe in time for this Christmas.
Those 1″ rad support tubes are Reynolds 531 top tubes
But probably the most exciting thing is that Rob ‘The Wizard of all Things Carbon’ Mulder and myself have been cobbling up some pretty cool scratch-built carbon frames. Rob is known far and wide in these parts for his ability to produce some pretty wild carbon creations including some very well though out aero handlebar sets. His designed and built products have won medals in World Cup, World Championship and Olympic events. In the cycle world though, his biggest reputation comes from fixing/repairing hundreds of broken carbon bikes.
Being around his shop was something of an eye-opener to me. While many of the broken frames are products of a crash, a huge number are ones that ‘just broke’. These are all the big names too…and the expensive ones at that. Trek 6.whatevers, Looks, Cervelos by the score, Wiliers, Specialized….craziness. Many of the riders around here are thankful for his ability to keep their bikes out of the trash a bit longer.
Those that know me and/or my mindset with the modern cycle industry, know how disappointed I am with the lack of any real wide range of frame shape options for different shaped riders. Well now we can do it all. Not only tailoring the tube lengths and angles, but we also lay up different laminations to tune the frame characteristics to the rider’s needs and desires. As a further plus, while the vast majority of today’s carbon frames (carbon anything actually) are built with a 50/50 ration of carbon and resin, the carbon being the strength and the resin being the glue that keeps the carbon together, the carbon we use has a much higher carbon content. We heard that Enve composites in Utah were producing high end bicycle tubes made with hi temp, pre-preg carbon. These tubes end up being 70% carbon with 30% resin. A quick calculation shows that to be 40% more carbon per weight volume. Not only does this make for a much stronger frame, but the lesser amount of resin substantially reduces road shock. Its really weird actually. When Rob first tried the first road bike down the road, he though the tyres were nearly flat, such was the smoothness. The same comment has been repeated by all that have ridden these bikes now.
On the performance benefit side, the extra amount of carbon in the equation substantially adds to the ’snap’ of the frame. This would be the very quick response time when a frame snaps back after deflecting under hard pedal load (ie climbing, sprinting). Contrary to what current bicycle adverts/tests tell you, straight frame stiffness does not make for the fastest all around bike. Its the frames ability to ‘pump’ that energy into the back wheel like its spring loaded. Just ask any competitive sailor/sail boarder (carbon masts that deflect then snap back in gusts shooting the vessel ahead), or a pole vaulter that relies on a quick snap back of the pole to throw them higher in the air.
The frames are constructed with all tubes mitered against each other allowing for a very strong triangulation effect. All the joints are glued, then wrapped in whatever the lamination schedule calls for. Any joints that are to be ‘aero’ fillets, get special ultra light filleting foam shaped into the area then wrapped with more carbon.
In spite of the extra expense, we use only American made titanium BB shells and cable stops. Aluminum has been known to present problems when bonding with carbon and resin whereas titanium has no such tendencies. Nothing is riveted through the frame either. All frames thus far have used the fabulous Enve forks. Enve build their forks in a continuous, fully molded fashion. Even the front brake hole is molded in so as not to cut through the carbon weave as would be the case if it was drilled.
Frame in the jig getting set up for initial resin tacking.
The only downside to this little project is the copious hours it takes to make one. When you add in the fact that the material cost alone is well over double what Pinarello pays Suk Wang and Wak Yu to make a Dogma…painted no less, it makes this look like a pretty dumb business decision. Especially when we sell these for about the same price. Nevertheless, its pretty cool to make stuff like this AND to get such marvelous feedback and results.
Finished frame with ‘aeroized’ filleting and extra laminations.
Some head tube detail