Archive for November, 2010

What We’re Made Of

Steel is Real

The ONLY ONE frame and fork are made of chromium- molybdenum alloy steel, often referred to as “chrome-moly” or “cro-mo.”  We use True Temper brand for the fork blades and steerer, the main tubes, head tube and seat stays.  Our HouseBendTM chainstays start as straight, oversized 30X16 mm oval-to-round tapered tubes, which we manipulate to achieve our special shape.   This careful forming gives the ONLY ONE generous tire and fender clearance along with the ability to run a 55 tooth Gates belt drive sprocket on a narrow chainline.  We also bend our fork blades in-house, which gives us control over the rake and location of the bend.

The steel in True Temper tubes comes from mills in Pennsylvania, where it’s drawn into seamless, plain gauge stock and then shipped by rail to True Temper’s plant in Amory, Mississippi.  This is where the transformation to lightweight, high-performance bike tubing takes place.  By drawing the steel through dies, rollers and mandrels, the tubing is butted or tapered to suit each location in a bike frame.  After being formed to shape, and depending on the application, the tubes are then stress relieved, heat treated, or air hardened.  We use a mix of True Temper tubes, including air-hardened OX Platinum, heat-treated Verus 4130, and stress-relieved Verus 4130.

The main tubes in the ONLY ONE are double-butted, meaning that the wall thickness is greater at each end than in the middle.  This gives extra strength where the tubes are joined and reduces weight in the middle, thinner section.  The top of the seat tube is externally butted, so the transition in wall thickness can be felt by hand and seen as a subtle increase in outer diameter.  All of the other butts are internal.  The fork blades and stays are taper-gauge, with the wall thickness tapering from one end to the other.

Our selection of tubing diameter, wall thickness and butt length, together with the ONLY ONE’s geometry, gives the Speedhound a ride that’s taught, plush, responsive, predictable, lively, and tough, all at the same time. We’re convinced that modern steel alloys give the best combination of performance, weight, durability and value.  It’s what we’re made of.

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Speedhound’s Graphic Inspiration

At Speedhound, we’ve long had a passion for lightweight British bicycles from the early post-WWII era, when cars were scarce, gas supplies short, and the club riding scene flourished.  There were mass-produced brands, of course:  Armstrong, BSA, Dunelt, Hercules, Humber, Norman, Phillips, Raleigh, Rudge, and Sun, but the really special machines were from the boutique hand builders, particularly in the London area.  Some of the notables included Bates, Gillott, Ephgrave, Hetchins, Hobbs, Maclean, H.R. Morris, and Paris.  You can see some stunning examples from these and many other artisanal makers on www.classicrendezvous.com.

We have to admit that we’ve borrowed a bit of the graphical style from the bikes of  this era.  The headbadge and seat tube graphic of the ONLY ONE draw inspiration from coats of arms, which were a common theme in British commercial design.  Although the font for our downtube decal is more 1950’s Frigidaire than English script, it’s understated and elegant.  Perhaps our best muse is Hetchins, with its heroic cast metal headbadge and seat tube shield wreathed in laurel.  The photos show details of a bike in Speedhound’s collection, a 1956 Hetchins Experto Crede Vibrant in original, unrestored condition.  This old steed still rides wonderfully, a testament to the enduring quality of steel.  For more vintage eye candy, go to www.hetchins.org.

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The ONLY ONE is Short for Its Size

Many factors go into proper bike fit, but one thing is certain – you want to be able to comfortably clear the top tube with both feet flat on the ground!  The distance from the top of the top tube to the ground is the standover height of a bike.  Bike frame sizes are generally expressed as the length of the seat tube, but you can’t assume that two 56 cm bikes will have the same standover height.  A 56 cm frame measured “center-to-center” will be taller than a 56 cm frame measured “center-to-top.”  In addition to seat tube length, other variables that affect a bike’s standover height include bottom bracket drop, slope of the top tube, seat tube angle and the size of the tires.

At Speedhound, we measure frame size from the center of the bottom bracket shell to the top of the seat collar.  The ONLY ONE seat tube extends 30 mm above the top tube, which has a 3.9 degree upslope.  We also use a relatively low bottom bracket (75 mm drop), because we like what it does for stability and handling.  This all adds up to a standover height that is low for the stated frame size.  For example, our 51 cm frame has a standover height of 74.8 cm (29.4 inches), which is lower than the standover of some frames that are sold as 46 cm!  So you could say the ONLY ONE is short for its size.

Speedhound ONLY ONE Standover Height Chart

Frame Size (cm) Standover Height (cm/inches)

51                                                            74.8/29.4

54                                                            77.4/30.5

56                                                            79.2/31.2

58                                                            81.1/31.9

61                                                            83.9/33.0

These standover heights are based on a 700 X 23 tire.  For a 700 X 35 tire, add 0.7 cm (0.28 inches).

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Why belt drive?

Why Belt Drive?  It’s like a human-powered motorcycle!

Belt Drive CranksetThe unique Speedhound Dropout System takes the fuss and muss of chains, derailleurs and chain lube out of the daily commute by accommodating a belt drive.  The unique slot in the dropout receiver makes installation and removal of drive belts a snap.

Why would someone want a belt-driven bike?  There are good reasons, especially for commuters.

  • Low maintenance  - Belts do not rust and are more resistant to debris than chain drives.
  • No grease! – Lubrication is not required, making the bike ideal for commuters – no more pants straps!
  • Light weight
  • Durability
  • Smoother, quieter operation. A belt’s teeth completely engage into the system for decreased friction.

History of the Belt Drive

Bridgestone PicnicaThe Bridgestone Picnica belt-drive bicycle was introduced in the early 1980s. It used a tooth-belt drive like auto timing belts and Harley-Davidson drive belts, along with a novel two-part chainring that increased belt tension with increasing load. The Picnica was a folding bicycle, and part of the appeal of the belt drive was cleanliness. The Picnica was a small wheel bicycle, so belt tension may have been less than on a bicycle with standard-size wheels. The Picnica was apparently successful, but was offered mainly in Japan.

In 1984 and 1985, Mark Sanders, a designer who had earned his degree in Mechanical Engineering from Imperial College, London, designed a folding bicycle as part of his graduate studies in an Industrial Design Engineering program.  He collaborated with a design engineer from Gates Corporation to outfit his bicycle with a belt, rather than a chain.

Possibilities for belt-driven bicycles have widened as hub gears inside the rear hub, were applied. In lieu of a derailleur, the hub gear allows riders of belt-driven bicycles to shift easily. Major internal hub makers include Shimano (Nexus), SRAM and Rohloff.

Suggested belt drive build kit:

The late, great Sheldon Brown posted an excellent summary of belt drive systems on his site.  It’s worth a read.  Check it out here.

Belt drives recently “dropped” with some mainstream press in the NY Times, too.  Read the article here.

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