2015 NAHBS: Low and Cadence Mk1 Road

Andrew Low has been building aluminum frames in San Francisco since 2010. While he’s best known for his track frames, in recent months, he’s branched out into cyclocross and now, road bikes. It’s been a long path for Andrew to get this point, but after many months of design, he felt ready to enter the road market.

This particular frame is a working prototype. The aluminum tube diameters, angles and measurements for production are still being worked out but you can expect a tapered fork and a GXP-style BB. This frame in particular is a 55cm.

SRAM Red 22 and ENVE’s made in the USA rims really vibe with the custom Cadence paint treatment, which was a collaboration between Dustin Klein of Cadence and Andrew himself. I have to say, while this bike wasn’t an official NAHBS bike (it was part of the Cadence clothing booth), it was one of my favorites at the show. Available this summer from LOW.

  • Colin

    this is top. #1 fave.

  • Chris Dolan

    That is a darn perdy bike, top to bottom. I love how the paint job incorporates the graphic colors on the Sram Red groupo.

    Any info on the frame material? I see some very tidy welds so I’m guessing it’s not carbon :)

    • Aluminum.

      • Chris Dolan

        Oh wow, that’s in the article. My bad and I appreciate you pointing that out!

  • mywynne

    I know I want a modern steel road frame… But I also know how much I love my MUSA CAAD – and this is pretty much it’s spiritual successor…

    • If Cannondale’s welds still looked even better than this (they used to), I’d have bought a CAAD 10 long ago. This is a far better-looking frameset, I hope it rides as good as it looks. Curious about the price of this.

      • mywynne

        Yeah, I’ve got one of those older (~2004) really nicely finished framesets. Also quite curious about price.

      • Tommaso Gomez

        The new CAAD 10 isn’t pretty, but it weighs 1150 grams and only costs $1000. Cannondale pioneered large diameter, thin-wall aluminium tubing used in bicycles like this Low MK1. Don’t forget that;-)

        • Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten – I bought my first Cannondale CAAD 3 fifteen years ago, and still have it. Their work is precisely why I made the comparison.

        • It’s also made overseas. This one is made in SF.

          • Tommaso Gomez

            Building a frame in San Francisco doesn’t make it better, just more expensive. A small domestic builder like Low can put more time and flair into clean welds and craftsmanship details, but they’re also stuck buying standard tube sizes and specs. That limits their design options. Cannondale hydroforms tubes to their liking and has much more advanced manufacturing techniques, so their frames are much lighter. They’ve been at it for a few decades and they put aluminium frame building on the map, along with Klein.

          • I was just giving you another element to include in your equation, that’s all.

          • andrew low

            It’s not really clear to me what you are basing your arguments on:

            All our tubes are custom sized and spec’d specifically for our frames. We chose all the diameters, butting profiles and wall thickness with a full understanding of how these choices affect performance and comfort. Unlike most hand-built bikes every tube is shaped and tuned to maximize performance and comfort (you wont find any straight, cylindrical extrusions on this frame). In addition to the shaping we do on the front end, you should really get a closer look at our rear triangle, and this would be more apparent to you.

            Yes, Cannondale uses bigger machines to produce their bikes, but a better bike that does not make. It just makes more bikes faster -That is where the sophistication comes in.

            Among many other frames I have dissected for r&d, I have cut open a CAAD10 and found rushed, overheated welds and large gaps between tube junctions. You’d think that with all the sophisticated manufacturing techniques, hydroforming and engineering you extol, this would not happen. You won’t find that on any of our bikes. Our welds are cleaner than on a caad 10 because we take our time, and there are no gaps in our joints. From one frame to the next our quality is also more consistent. Also, from a performance standpoint, hydroforming has no advantage over mechanical shaping in a UCI-legal frame, unless you are building a downhill mtb. The only real advantage is from a marketing and manufacturing standpoint (more consistency in mass produced tubing, and some may say aesthetics, but I think my frame is much better looking than a CAAD10).

            CAAD10 tubes are not nearly as sophisticated as you may have been led to believe by their marketing, and the truth is it doesn’t need to be. Yes it is thin, but it is all single butted tubing, no magic or sophisticated (hydroformed) engineering there. All those tubes are shaped mechanically, as mine are. The only tube they hydroform on that bike is the head tube end of the down tube, and all that does is stiffen the front end. The downtube on the mkI Road has larger diameter all the way through, so our front end is just as stiff, the bottom bracket deflects less than a CAAD10, and our frame is less vulnerable to torsional forces. Our rear triangle is tuned as well, but is stiffer and smoother than the CAAD10’s. Our tubing is actually of a higher quality alloy than what cannondale uses (they use 6061 because it is the cheapest alloy to work with).

            The CAAD10 is still a great bike, but many of the arguments you bring up are marketing smoke and mirrors from large companies that mass produce their frames (the same applies to carbon, and aside from weight, I would argue whether, overall, it is really superior to aluminum). I’m not saying handmade is necessarily better, in fact I feel it is somewhat of a distraction from looking at a frame for what it is, but in this case I believe I have built a superior frame.

          • Kudos for taking the time to give us so much detail Andrew, hope I can sample your wares someday.

          • leeon

            To the basic minded it is just “more expensive”, but you’re supporting a local artist, originality, free enterprise, and the U.S. economy.

          • Tommaso Gomez

            You could make the same argument for any major builder that designs and engineers frames in the USA by employing way more than just one person. As for originality, Cannondale has been instrumental in the development of modern aluminum bicycle fames, so again, I’d give them some credit.

  • shapethings

    Aluminum is under appreciated. I have an aluminum Stoemper and it is one of the best bikes I’ve ever ridden.

    • Tommaso Gomez

      Aluminium is great for budget, mid-range bikes (most of my stable), but if you’re going to spend upwards of $1500 on a frame, you really can’t argue with carbon. As far as aesthetics go on project bikes, I prefer steel for its cleaner welds and smaller tube sizes.

  • Bradley Tompkins

    God, I love NAHBS time of year!

  • Western Rapid

    What is the projected on-sale date of this frame?

    • andrew low

      Hopefully mid summer. A bit late in the season, but we do our best!

  • Simon Shoebridge

    What is that bar tape and where can I get it??

    • zuhair

      pretty sure that’s made by Cadence, but I’m not seeing it on their website…

      • andrew low

        It will be available soon!

  • when I saw a Cadence booth picture and this bike I was super pissed I didn’t make it…

  • Western Rapid

    Is this project a Cadence collab, or just this particular frame? I’m other words, will it be on sale in this livery, or in a range of colours etc?

    • This is a one-off. Not a production design.

      • andrew low

        We actually plan on doing a limited run! They will be available for purchase this summer, first come first served. These photos are really beautiful, John!

  • Gabriel Lyman

    Holy mother of hell. That front end graphic though.

  • Neal Joslyn

    Looks pretty sweet. But why would you photograph a bike WITHOUT pedals, and WITH a saddle bag?

    • Because that’s how it was at the show. No pedals. Everyone hates saddle bags… what gives? Also, you have to realize. I sat there for 8+ hours a day, shooting bikes, then an additional 4+ hours editing and posting. I did this all by myself. So things like tracking down pedals, or removing saddle bags in hopes that 3% of the viewers will be happy were put on the bottom of the list. I shoot bikes with water bottles, with cages, dirty, muddy, because I feel like it’s authentic. If someone has a bike at a show with a saddle bag on it, it’s because it has special meaning to them. Who am I to remove that for the sake of aesthetics?

      • Neal Joslyn

        Whoa, wasn’t trying to incite any feelings, but I should have worded that differently. I should have said “stage a bike”. I wouldn’t expect you to alter the bikes as they are shown.

        • I wasn’t upset! Just clarifying. Sorry if it came across that way. I’m trying to answer questions / concerns off little sleep and high stress. No worries man! xo

  • Jake B Sorensen

    This is amazing. So rad.

  • zuhair

    Really digging that cockpit!

  • Kevin Ehman

    dripping style and looking FAST, congrats to Low on this rad step forward