Posts Tagged manufacturing

Do You Like Messing Around with Bikes?

As a kid, I was always fascinated by how things worked.  A broken toaster was an invitation to explore:  I had to take it apart to figure out what made it pop.  Discarded TV sets, clocks, lawn mowers, electric mixers, and tape recorders were some of the subjects of my screwdriver autopsies.  With my knack for mechanical things, bikes were a breeze.  When I was 12, I assembled my new 3-speed right from the box.

Yes, I got my driver’s license when I was 16, and anything with an internal combustion engine had a certain allure.  But cars were too big, dirty and expensive to mess around with.  Now, a bike – I could store that in the kitchen or carry it into the basement.  I could clean the chain, disassemble and repack the bearings, or adjust the derailleurs just about anywhere.

My first real racing bike was a Gitane Tour de France, orange with chromed fork tips and stays and gaudy Mylar stickers.  That bike taught me what it means for a bike to be alive (especially compared to the Schwinn Varsity that I took on my first century ride).  Turns out those old European racing bikes from the 1970s were great all-around rides, which is partly why you see so many of them resurrected for duty around town today.

I was constantly experimenting with my gear, trading one bike for another, always searching for the “magic ride.”  I worked for awhile brazing frames at Trek, when all of their bikes were lugged steel, made in Wisconsin.  I made my way through school wrenching in bike shops, because I had a passion for bikes and a talent for fixing them.   I also loved to ride bikes, and working around them gave me the opportunity to try hundreds.  Later, when I could afford it, I began collecting lightweight racing bikes, many from the 1950s.

One thing I always wanted was a bike frame that could do just about anything on the road or a light trail.  A kind of universal bike.  About 10 years ago, I noticed that people started buying cyclo-cross bikes, but not for racing.  The extra clearance in the frames for muddy knobbies also made them suitable for fenders and puffy road tires.  Like the old racing bikes from the 1950s, 60s and 70s.  Although a C-X bike is a lot better than a contemporary road racing bike for the riding that 99% of us do 99% of the time, it still involves some compromises.  There must be a better way, I thought.   How might a bike frame be made to work for every rider in a variety of situations?  I decided to design a frame that could be a flexible platform for any type of drivetrain and a wide variety of riding styles.  A frame that would expand a rider’s choices now or in the future.  I thought, “What if we made it modular?”  I began experimenting and made a prototype of an interchangeable dropout system that would meet the particular demands of belt drive, but could also be used with derailleur gears.

All those years of experimenting inspired me to create Speedhound Bikes.  Our patent-pending Speedhound Dropout System is a unique departure from conventional thinking.  With this system, the ONLY ONE offers a degree of flexibility not found in any other bike frame.  Now, you no longer have to settle for one type of drivetrain or brake system.  You aren’t stuck with a track frame when you decide you want gears.  Want to go low maintenance, ditch the chain and go belt drive?  Be our guest.  You pick the drivetrain you want and build your Speedhound in any configuration you like.  Cantilever brakes or calipers?  We don’t make any decisions for you.  And if you want to repurpose your Speedhound to do something completely different, the choice is yours.  If you like tinkering with bikes, you get it.  “Go Your Own Speed” is our motto and the principle we live by.  The quest for the magic ride never ends.

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Speedhound in Popular Mechanics

That’s right, we’re in the May 2011 edition of Popular Mechanics magazine, in an article titled “DIY Underground.”  In early February, PM’s Associate Photo Editor flew out from Hearst’s New York office to see us and the rest of the crew in the Peacock Groove space.  She brought a local free-lance photographer and his assistant, who took hundreds of pictures, including some hot welding and brazing action.  One photo made it into the article:

Chris Cleveland and Chris Kvale inspect a Speedhound frameThe caption reads “A Speedhound frame built by Peacock Groove gets the once-over from Speedhound designer Chris Cleveland (left) and Chris Kvale – frame builder, neighbor and member of the Minneapolis bike-building community.”

Photo:  Darin Back

 

 

 

 

PM describes the Speedhound ONLY ONE as having a “Swiss Army Knife vibe.”  We couldn’t agree more.  We’d link to the article, but it’s subscription only.  So if you’re at a newsstand in the near future, take a peep at page 77 of the May 2011 Popular Mechanics.  Or better yet, buy the mag.  We hadn’t read it for years, and were pleasantly surprised to see it’s had a major makeover.

Here are some of our own behind the scenes shots of the session:

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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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Powder Coating – Why We Don’t Paint.

Powder coating is a type of coating that is applied as a free-flowing, dry powder. The main difference between a conventional liquid paint and a powder coating is that the powder coating does not require a solvent to keep the binder and filler parts in a liquid suspension form.

The coating is typically applied electrostatically and is then cured under heat to allow it to flow and form a “skin”. The powder may be a thermoplastic or a thermoset polymer. The most common polymers used are polyester, polyurethane, polyester-epoxy (known as hybrid), straight epoxy (fusion bonded epoxy) and acrylics.  Powder coating creates a hard finish that is tougher than conventional paint.

Here’s a bowl full of Speedhound’s TRO Orange “paint” waiting to be applied.

TRO Orange powder

There are several advantages of powder coating over conventional paint.  In addition to the durability of the coating, this process is very green:

  1. Powder coatings emit zero or near zero volatile organic compounds (VOC).
  2. Powder coating overspray can be recycled and thus it is possible to achieve nearly 100% use of the coating.
  3. Powder coating production lines produce less hazardous waste than conventional liquid coatings.

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