I think a lot of Vulfpeck fans are really musically talented people. I am probably tone deaf so I can’t share in some of the wonder of Vulfpeck but I still think their entire vibe is fantastic and this album just sums up what a collaborative music experience can be.
- Make a new tubeset; thinner, lighter and a bit less visual bulk
- Refine some of my skills and processes
- Have a new road frame for the summer and any shows coming up
- Build it a lot quicker than previous frames
- Rim brakes
- 28mm max tyre clearance
- Aim for well below 1000g frame weight
The bicycle frame is a hard design to improve upon. This is a fact that plagues many bicycle designers out there and it’s probably why we see so many criticisms aimed at new tech. I love new tech, pushing the limits and failing and experimenting to find if there are improvements out there. But sometimes, it’s nice to enjoy the simpler things. One of those things for me is the feel of a lightweight rim brake road bike. Dancing up climbs or sailing along a smooth bit of tarmac is a feeling that feels just a little muted on gravel bikes.
I have a long list in my head of road frames that I consider to be my inspirations. I have covered lugs in my 001 build but now I want to move ever so slightly more modern towards frames like the Cannondale Supersix Evo, Specialized Tarmac SL5 and Cervelo R5. These frames were prevalent when I really started riding and watching the world tours. I think everyone has a soft spot for certain evolutions of the bicycle and this is certainly one of mine.
So, I have covered some of the more abstract elements of the designs but what did I actually produce? And where did I start? I knew I wanted lightweight so achieving the right balance of things was vital. I drew a fair few mockups in CAD and made minute tweaks to tube profiles to get exactly the lines I wanted. The design is nuanced and to most it probably looks like a few round tubes, but consider that a baker can marvel at the layers in a croissant while a hungry tourist has already devoured it, both have received enjoyment from it. My enjoyment is that of the bakers’.
I went abstract again. My bad. The tubes are not round, and each has a small taper to it. The toptube tapers all the way back to the seattube junction and the downtube starts large at the bottom bracket and comes down slightly to reach the headtube, this is reversed to all my previous frames but I actually enjoy how it looks and I think it has a good balance to it. It actually pulls a fair bit of stiffness towards the BB which is always good. All of the tubes are designed to be roll wrapped as this means I can produce a tubeset in a day, allowing me to meet one of my aims and improve my production time. This means the chainstays and seatstays can’t be quite as funky shaped as some previous builds. But I like the limitation it has created in the design process and I think the finished result really works.
One last part of the design is that I spent some time rendering all the little ancillaries and the paint design. It has been exceptionally useful to be able to refer to this for motivation and measurements. It Took a bit more time but I worked a fair bit on getting the parametric setup correct and now 90% of this design can be edited from a set of geometry parameters. Pretty slick.
As I was finishing 004 I knew I had an event coming up in a couple of months. So I started little bits here and there for this frame. But the primary work began a few weeks before the full build needed to be complete. This all arose because the lovely folks at Wera tools got in touch and asked if they could have a bike to display on their stand at The Cycle Show at Alexandra Palace. I of course had to say yes, in the space of a year I have gone from treating myself to my first set of Wera L-Keys to being invited to collaborate with them! The entire setup was however a little rushed. The show I was planning this build for was after The Cycle Show and I had left myself a nice window of time however to have this build ready for Wera I needed to take 10 days off my timings. Crunch time.
I produced the toptube, seattube, downtube, headtube, BB, and chainstays in about 4 days. That’s including actually making the mandrels which each require a few hours of hand sanding. My arms were very tired. The most challenging part turned out to be the seatstays as the design required a 10mm internal diameter. I have a few polished steel rods that I use as mandrels to make these but they have always been tricky. Working with prepreg and a £50000 roll wrapping table these are simple to do but with “DIY prepreg” they are a little more challenging. It took a few days to nail the layup on these but I refined some crucial skills along the way and have a few ideas in mind to make it a bit easier in future.
The dropouts are a tough one as I personally haven’t ever seen a derailleur hanger design that I think is perfect for composites. SRAM’s new UDH is sweet and I can’t wait to design around it soon. But UDH obviously doesn’t fit the bill. Sometimes you have to take the good with the bad. A silver lining does exist in the form of a four legged supplier; Bear Frame Supplies produce some really nice UK made pieces and I met them at Bespoked and they were very friendly so I wanted to work with them. They sent over the CAD for their hanger design and I was able to create a nice dropout and hanger combo which I think from an engineering perspective is a good balance as it doesn’t leave and precariously thin sections where bolts go through and the holes aren’t directly in any load paths. Thanks Aaron and Sarah!
From there I really had to get my head down and I put in 3 straight 12 hour days to get the frame mitred, bonded, laid up and sanded in time. I took a few pictures along the way but they are in a very messy workshop due to the fast paced chaos of a deadline! So I will refrain from showing them. Through the process I kept weighing the parts and adding things up and estimating what the final weight would be. My original expectation was around 850g with paint but I overestimated the weight of the final overwrap and far exceeded that with a final weight of 765.8g for a fully painted frame!
At Bespoked I saw an enormous display from a paint supplier called Specialist Paints. I never got to speak to them so I hope they are nice people. That doesn’t entirely matter as the quality of their paint is fantastic and since Bespoked I have had my eye on a particular colour from their range; Novak Purple from their Pearlz range. I bought a few cans and they have been waiting for a personal build for a while and now is their time to shine. For 001 I attempted to embed a cherry blossom in resin but didn’t quite nail it so that idea has been shelved for when I have more headspace. I still really like them and it’s just cusping over into the season for them so I thought it was fitting to use blossoms in a paint job again. I spoke to my foster mother who has far more skill with a sketchbook than me and she drew up some cherry blossom ideas for me from my description of the stencil process I wanted to use. It’s lovely to incorporate her into my work as she incorporated me into her family.
I know a shop that does vinyl cutting and signage work and they have been really fantastic at cutting stencils for me from their offcuts. I brought my designs to them with my tight deadline and we got some stencils produced. I set up my paint booth (sideways tomato greenhouse) and got to painting with less than 24 hours before the fully assembled bike needed to go to London. I’m thankful the warmer weather had arrived by this point!
I like to admit my mistakes and there is a fairly glaring one with this paint job. I planned to have a single large logo up the underside of the downtube as the renders above should show. However in my fatigued state I managed to apply it the wrong way around. So it goes from the headtube to the BB where it should have gone from the BB to the headtube. It’s on the Wera stand which their branding slogan is all about being a tool rebel so I’m definitely going to try and pass it off that this was not a mistake and simply a rebellious decision.
I assembled this bike very carefully and tried to delicately manoeuvre myself around the paint. I have put the seattube bottle bosses far too low and they interfere with the front derailleur clamp, bit of a shame but I can always fix it. I was literally wrapping the bartape when a man with the same name as a famous movie star came to pick it up. So saying I made it by the skin of my teeth would be very true. I wheeled the bike outside and mercifully the sun was in full force for a 30 second photoshoot. This means I haven’t even been able to throw my leg over the bike and see how it rides. I couldn’t nail the front indexing so it’s probably due a bit more time in the stand before I ride it. But I will be sure to add an update or a new post when I do get to ride it!
One thing I would like to cover in this conclusion are some of the improvements I managed to incorporate into this design.
Internal Routing – I love external routing for many reasons but I just wanted a bit of extra flair for this build so I opted for internal routing on this build and I am really happy I did. The way the cables flow into the tube is very satisfying. Still some improvements to be had as the cables are all full length housing and the front derailleur cable has to contend with a fairly nasty radius under the BB. But you have to try these things to improve.
Brake Bridge – The brake bridge on 001 was ugly. I didn’t like it at the time and it has never grown on me. I spent a while designing this new one and I think it shows.
Integrated headset cups – A set of EC44 Chris King bearings have undeniable bling but the sleekness and lightweight of having integrated composite cups is much more fitting on this build. I thought they would be a nightmare to manufacture but they actually turned out to be very easy to produce and allow for greater design flexibility as you will see on future builds.
Weight – I’m getting more and more familiar with the materials that I have available to me and how they work as a complete assembly. This frame is probably pushing the limit but for a personal build I’m happy to experiment a bit.
All in all I am really happy with this build and I am super thankful to Wera for supporting me and hosting me on their stand. I hope the show goes well for them and if you’re reading this from the show, hello!
Thanks for reading