When I visited the guys at Ruckus Components last month, they gave me a set of their new CNC-machined carbon coasters and etched bourbon tumblers. Have I been using them? Fuck yeah. And now you can pick up a set of your own. Where? Right here at Ruckus.
Last week I introduced you to the process Argonaut Cycles uses in fabricating their 100% custom carbon fiber bicycle frames. Through working with ICE, or Innovative Composite Engineering, in White Salmon, Washington, Ben has developed a new process that sets Argonaut apart from other manufacturers. When we left off earlier, we had fresh parts for a frame, straight from the molds. From there, Ben takes the frame parts to Portland where he joins the tubes with a Hysol specialty aerospace epoxy and then bakes the frame to cure the adhesive.
Once the frame is cured, it’s off to the painter for a clear coat or graphics treatment. Frames can be either custom painted, or with stock logos. For my frame, Keith Anderson painted a scheme I mocked up. Once coated, Ben can either build the bike up with the parts kit a client orders through him and ship it out, or just send the frame out to his client. For me, picking the bike up and going on a ride was the best experience I could have wanted.
I am far from a carbon fiber expert, but I’ve been enthralled in this whole process. It’s hard to not be enthusiastic over this whole project but as my bike keeps racking up miles, I’m a believer. This is the first carbon frame that I’ve felt any sort of attachment to, but that’s because I’ve never had one tailored to my specific riding style. The Argonaut process made that easy.
Now, there were a ton of comments and questions in last week’s post, so if you missed Ben’s replies, I updated Part 01 here.
When Ben Farver from Argonaut Cycles decided he was going to make the switch from building custom steel bikes to custom, made in the USA carbon fiber frames, he needed to find some local experts. The team at Innovative Composite Engineering, or ICE, were located just over the river in White Salmon, Washington state. Their expertise lies in everything from SUP poles to products for the aerospace industry. A few phone calls later and they began to meet to discuss a new, proprietary system for manufacturing custom carbon fiber bicycle frames.
ICE and Ben began to collaborate. They both were motivated to develop the frame using the best and most advanced molding technology, and to bring something new to the industry. They both pushed each other to do this without compromise or cutting corners, deciding on a few key points: There would be no vacuum forming, no tube to tube carbon lug bonding and no real hand finishing needed. The process would be streamlined, efficient and most importantly, customizable. While I can’t show you the juicy details, which I can assure you are juicy, I can show you snippets of the Argonaut Cycles process.
It begins with a roll of carbon, which is then cut out based on digital CAD templates on a large cutting bed. Each piece is based on the individual parts’ dimensions. From there, the carbon is inserted into aluminum molds, around a bladder where the resin layup occurs. Then, these aluminum molds are heated, allowing the resin to cure. This is repeated until all the parts are finished. When it’s all said and done, the frame is ready for assemblage.
Shot at ICE, these photos lay out the process used in manufacturing a 100% made in the USA carbon bicycle frame, like my Argonaut Cycles road.
EDIT: see a reply from Argonaut below that answers many questions everyone seems to have…
Since I can’t make it out to every rad event that takes place in SF, It’s nice to have Mike Martin of Mash to offer up some choice photos from the The Bicycle Art & Design of Garrett Chow: All Chips on the Table gallery show and Cutty Cross race. This show looked amazing and these photos will serve the purpose of introducing you to Garrett’s work if you’re unfamiliar.
Also, don’t miss out on a few shots of Garrett’s Specialized Concept Venge road bike after the show photos.
So now that we’ve seen what Ruckus’ shop looks like, how about a look at one of the frames that Shawn from Ruckus has built. This is his own single speed cross bike, laced with a rather healthy component group, a sick paint job and some of those Ruckus vibes. I love the tag line on the downtube, the painted ENVE components and the cross bash guard. You don’t see a whole lotta flat bar monster cross bikes but when you do, they’re drool-worthy.
Bring the Ruckus! Of course that’s a Wu reference. At Ruckus Components the team is in their fourth year of designing, redesigning, repairing, and manufacturing carbon fiber products. The guys there have a strong belief in bicycles, sustainability, local manufacturing and with two robots and two degrees they tend to get “stuff” done. “Stuff” like repairing a crashed Colnago and painting an ENVE fork to match the original. “Stuff” like building a bike or two. “Stuff” like fabricating cross bash guards. “Stuff” like adding fender mounts to your carbon fiber road bike. Just really cool “stuff”.
Entering Ruckus’ facilities in SE Portland, it’s hard to not crack a joke about a torture dungeon. You head down the sketchy staircase and suddenly, the space opens up to a sprawling 3,000 sq/ft warehouse, where in the back, Ruckus’ shop lies. At any given moment, there will be a dozen frames from all over the US in queue for repair and repaint.
I spent some time with the guys and shot some photos of their work space. Check them out in the gallery!
I’ve been trying to type out a few introductory sentences for this bike for the past few minutes and honestly, I have no idea where to begin. So let’s start out by me saying that it is by no means the first carbon fiber bike I have been offered but it was the first that had a compelling story attached with it, something I’m always intrigued by and will ultimately make for a better piece of journalism.
For the past year or so, I’ve been watching Ben at Argonaut Cycles reinvent his modus operandi. He made the shift from building steel bikes to developing a new fabrication system with a local carbon manufacturer. Unlike anything else currently being manufactured domestically, or overseas, the new face of Argonaut is focused on the future of bicycle design. But that’s not to say that Argonaut’s steel past had been cast aside.
Before he even began to sketch out his design, he met with the carbon engineers, who reverse-engineered some of his favorite steel tubesets, and improved upon their weaknesses. Ben wanted his bikes to have the same ride characteristics of his steel bikes, just more technologically advanced. He came to loosely call this “steel 2.0” but you should take that with a grain of salt because let’s face it, carbon fiber is not steel.
This bike is however a by-product of domestic engineering and fabrication. The carbon weave is from the States. It’s cut to shape, moulded by a proprietary process, assembled and finished all within an hour drive from Portland. The process used produces very little waste. There’s no hodgepodge assemblage, no messy resin and it’s 100% custom. Basically, it’s a streamlined process that utilizes technologies that allow each frame to be engineered to a customer’s specific needs.
That’s what had me intrigued in Argonaut and so I agreed to come on board. Soon, I started to hear the echos of “steel is real” in the back of my head, however. I knew my Bishop is as perfect as a steel bike could be. The geometry is dialed and I’ve never ridden anything like it. So I approached Ben with the idea to make the exact same bicycle, just with his new carbon manufacturing process.
Dimensions, trail, geometry, were all the same, just the profile changed a bit to a racier silhouette. Even the tube’s proprietary layup were influenced by the same steel that my Bishop is built from. Bottom line is, I wanted to be able to subjectively compare the two materials.
After I filled out my ride journal, had numerous talks with Ben and designed the paint, the bike was done. Last week, I arrived in Portland and immediately got to check it out. First thing I noticed was how much of a stellar job Keith Anderson did on the paint. The build wasn’t bad either! Rotor cranks, SRAM Red group, ENVE tapered fork, ENVE bars, Thomson stem, Fizik Kurve saddle, Chris King hubs to H+Son Archetype rims (built by none other than Sugar Wheel Works), Chris King PF30 ceramic BB and that special I8 Chris King headset. It was a dream build.
But what about the ride? The first day, we did a nice 25 mile ride up Saltzman, then Saturday, we headed out towards Mt. Hood for 75 miles (then Billy broke a spoke and we had to call it quits). My initial reaction is very optimistic. The ride is what I can only call “light and responsive”. It handles like my Bishop but even better. Descents are faster and it climbs with little or no qualms. There’s no jarring feel when I hit rough terrain. Everything feels dampened and smooth.
My previous experiences with carbon rental bikes like Cervelo, Specialized and other brands were always harsh. The bikes were stiff and I didn’t enjoy the ride. I’m not a racer, I don’t need a bike engineered to race. I need a bike that rides how I want it to, when I want it to and that’s what Argonaut produced for me. It really is like steel 2.0… So what about my Bishop? There’s nothing on this planet that would make me stop riding it. That’s a fact. Steel is still, real but this new experience has been loads of fun. As for the bike itself, it’s very easy on the eyes.
The bike weighs 15.5 lbs as seen here (minus bottles). With middle-grade LOOK pedals, 32h wheels and 28c tires, that’s not bad at all.
See more photos in the gallery!
For 2013, Parlee introduces their new Z0 road model, the pinnacle of their US-made carbon fiber frames. While the standard road caliper model was stunning, their new Z0 disk road caught my eye. With its proprietary, Parlee-made, tapered carbon fiber disk fork, the Z0 has plenty of stiffness up front to counteract the disk stopping power. Seen here in an early prototype, the Z0 road will be available in 2013. See more photos below and I’ll post more details as events warrant.
Click on the above photo to launch the gallery, or here to open in a new tab.
In a world where a majority of carbon fiber bicycle manufacturing is overseas, it’s rare to see someone not only building frames Stateside, but approaching customization in an entirely different way. That’s what Ben from Argonaut Cycles is doing with his custom carbon fiber road bikes. Everything from the weave to the molds is proprietary and made here in the USA. I got to spend 111 miles next to (well behind) this bike and I gotta say, it’s drop dead gorgeous in motion. Which is probably why I had a hard time photographing the thing at a stand still.
If you’re at the Dirt Demo today at Interbike, you can see this baby in person. If you can’t make it out, check out more photos below.
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What would make a steel frame builder want to switch over to building bikes with locally-sourced carbon fiber? A new assemblage process, that’s what. Argonaut Cycles is currently developing a new carbon fiber frameset, unlike any other and last weekend, I got to visit the facilities where the frame pieces are created and the shop where the bikes are built.
More on this soon! All I can say is that I’m very honored to be a part of this roll-out. The parties involved with this project are all incredibly talented. If you really want to check out a cool photo, head to the Argonaut splash page…