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  #16  
Old 11-28-2012, 12:02 PM
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FlashUNC FlashUNC is online now
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Ben, since William kicked us off on this topic, could you elaborate a bit on the transition to carbon? What was the learning curve like coming from building bikes in steel?

Being an layperson and an outsider, I'd assume some of the skills would transition -- geometry, etc, doesn't really change -- but I'd think working with carbon and molds and baking and epoxies is far different than flipping a torch around.
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  #17  
Old 11-28-2012, 12:58 PM
bfarver bfarver is offline
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Originally Posted by William View Post
Ben, no problem. I appreciate your joining us here.

While I've got you , I wonder if you talk to us about how you layup the Carbon fiber and join the tubes? Differences in woven fiber vs. uni-directional?

William
The Argonaut process is unique in that we lay pieces of pre-impregnated unidirectional carbon on a reusable latex bladder. Latex bladders provide high and consistent internal pressure pressure when the part is inside the mold, and laying up the part on the bladder as apposed to in the mold gives you a part that is as clean on the inside as it is on the outside.

IMG_1165.jpg

For each part we first determine a layup pattern, that layup pattern is then cut out on a large automated cutting machine, giving you a bunch of individual pieces as seen in the video you included in the beginning of this post. Those pieces are then wrapped around a bladder, and the bladder is placed in an aluminum clamshell mold, or "tool". The bladder is inflated to high pressure, and the tool is placed in a heat press, which compresses the tool and cures the resin by heating it to about 260 degrees F.

Carbon loves heat and pressure. The better and more consistent pressure, the better the individual plies of carbon adhere, giving you the strongest, most durable part.

As far as differences in weave vs. unidirectional, the cool thing about parts made with layered unidirectional carbon is that they can be engineered to flex differently in different directions, or are anisotropic. Being anisotropic gives you a bike that can do so many different things at once, but essentially "vertically compliant and laterally stiff." Much like steel or Ti, woven carbon is isotropic, or has uniform bending characteristics. Weave does a great job of absorbing road vibration, which is why we use it in the head tube, but can't be "tuned" in the same way as unidirectional.
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  #18  
Old 11-28-2012, 01:18 PM
bfarver bfarver is offline
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Originally Posted by FlashUNC View Post
Ben, since William kicked us off on this topic, could you elaborate a bit on the transition to carbon? What was the learning curve like coming from building bikes in steel?

Being an layperson and an outsider, I'd assume some of the skills would transition -- geometry, etc, doesn't really change -- but I'd think working with carbon and molds and baking and epoxies is far different than flipping a torch around.
Great question. When I decided to switch to carbon, I stopped taking steel orders and built out the remainder of my Que. I spent a good three months simply doing research, learning as much as I could about the material, and how it has evolved in the bicycle industry.

I quickly figured out a bunch of things that I couldn't, and didn't want to do. I didn't want to make carbon frames using tube-to-tube style construction. I felt like this was already being done really well by folks like Nic Crumpton and Parlee. I also saw an opportunity to do something now one had done before - make custom geometries using bladder molded frame parts, or similar to monocoque style construction. Unfortunately, the decision to pursue making frames in this style took it out of my capability to do everything in house. It simply wasn't realistic to teach myself how to make bladder molded frame parts with pre-impregnated unidirectional carbon.

So, I began looking for a provider. I talked to a ton of people in the industry and found myself in a tough spot. Anyone willing to make small quantities of specialized parts didn't have the manufacturing ability or expertise I needed, and the shops that did were to busy making stuff for Boeing to care about bike parts. Long story short, a friend in Portland put me in contact with Innovative Composite Engineering (ICE) in White Salmon, WA, about an hour east of Portland. ICE has a ton of experience in the bicycle industry. They've made tubes for just about everyone including IF, Trek, and Parlee, but were concentrating more on the more lucrative Oil/Gas and Aerospace industries.

My desire to do something new, to tackle a problem no one had solved (making bladder molded custom frames), and my concept for engineering the tooling piqued their interest. Long story short, it took us about two years, but the result is finally coming to market.

The short answer to your question is that I quickly figured out I was out of my league on my own in terms of composite engineering capability. But I brought to the table my knowledge of frame geometry, bike handling, and most importantly ride quality.
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  #19  
Old 11-28-2012, 07:41 PM
1centaur 1centaur is offline
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As someone with some large number of CF bikes I currently forget , the one thing that jumps out from the OP is the discussion of steel as a benchmark of ride quality. I left steel behind when I found CF because I found CF so superior to steel in terms of its vibration damping, thus triggering my patented phrase, "metal is metal and carbon fiber isn't" since I think Ti is so close to steel it does not make much difference and alu's not that far away.

Are you chasing the ride quality of steel with your CF designs, or are you saying ride quality is all well and good but you want more than that from a bike? Because, basically, if you succeeded in making CF ride like steel, I theoretically would not like the ride of your bikes. But I highly doubt you make CF ride like steel in terms of the way vibrations pass through the frame, since I view that as an impossible engineering ask. So you must mean something different. I would guess you mean the combination of stiffness and flex, but I don't want to put words in your mouth. So could you explain how much of the steel benchmark you try to deliver via carbon fiber, and how you try to exceed the qualities of steel in carbon fiber?

Thank you.
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  #20  
Old 11-28-2012, 08:10 PM
bfarver bfarver is offline
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Originally Posted by 1centaur View Post
As someone with some large number of CF bikes I currently forget , the one thing that jumps out from the OP is the discussion of steel as a benchmark of ride quality. I left steel behind when I found CF because I found CF so superior to steel in terms of its vibration damping, thus triggering my patented phrase, "metal is metal and carbon fiber isn't" since I think Ti is so close to steel it does not make much difference and alu's not that far away.

Are you chasing the ride quality of steel with your CF designs, or are you saying ride quality is all well and good but you want more than that from a bike? Because, basically, if you succeeded in making CF ride like steel, I theoretically would not like the ride of your bikes. But I highly doubt you make CF ride like steel in terms of the way vibrations pass through the frame, since I view that as an impossible engineering ask. So you must mean something different. I would guess you mean the combination of stiffness and flex, but I don't want to put words in your mouth. So could you explain how much of the steel benchmark you try to deliver via carbon fiber, and how you try to exceed the qualities of steel in carbon fiber?

Thank you.
Great question. My primary objective was to make a better bike than I ever could with steel. However, I didn't want to start from scratch in terms of ride quality. I wanted to take all the things I love about steel bikes and apply those to a carbon frame, but improve on the things I thought steel lacked.

When I talk about steel, I'm talking about modern thin wall tubing. There's a big difference between True Temper S3 and Reynolds 753.

An S3 frame feels great on the road. It's super comfortable and has great snap. Under really high power efforts, though, I don't think it's stiff enough. I wanted to make a carbon frame that has that same snap, but under big power efforts as well, but also soaked up the road vibration (which, as you stated carbon does so well). I think of it as steel 2.0.

That's what I feel I've accomplished with the Argonaut frame. It has a dynamic ride quality that you don't find in off the shelf carbon bikes because they're all way too stiff for most people. It's also nice and light (frames weigh between 830-900 grams), and super smooth.

The cool thing about being able to do custom layups, though, is that we can make the frame as stiff or compliant as you want.
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  #21  
Old 11-29-2012, 07:54 AM
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William William is offline
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Great answers Ben!

So, in a nut shell, when someone orders an Argonaut frame, the tubes are going to be created and tuned for each individual riders size, weight, comfort, and performance needs?





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  #22  
Old 11-29-2012, 08:10 AM
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For the Clydesdales out there like me....

Does the size of your tooling limit in any way the size of a frame you can create? Tube length and diameter? I know it does to a point, but what I mean is...what is the cut off point for frame size and/or rider weight that you can accommodate?








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  #23  
Old 11-29-2012, 05:55 PM
bfarver bfarver is offline
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Originally Posted by William View Post
Great answers Ben!

So, in a nut shell, when someone orders an Argonaut frame, the tubes are going to be created and tuned for each individual riders size, weight, comfort, and performance needs?

William
Hi William, sorry it took me a bit to get to your question.

Yes, you said it perfectly!
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  #24  
Old 11-29-2012, 05:58 PM
bfarver bfarver is offline
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Originally Posted by William View Post
For the Clydesdales out there like me....

Does the size of your tooling limit in any way the size of a frame you can create? Tube length and diameter? I know it does to a point, but what I mean is...what is the cut off point for frame size and/or rider weight that you can accommodate?


William
The smallest frame size we can make is a 51cm effective top tube length with a 100mm head tube. The larges size we can make is a 61cm effective top tube with a 230mm head tube. We can go 72.5 - 74.5* on both the seat tube and head tube.

There is no real limitation on rider weight. If you can turn a pedal, we can make a frame that will hold up.
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  #25  
Old 11-30-2012, 10:32 AM
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FlashUNC FlashUNC is online now
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When you're doing a custom layup, what are some of the common points where the build changes for lighter riders vs.heavier riders? Where are the some of the areas with maybe surprising similarities?

Are you adding more carbon in the BB area, for example, for us fat guys vs. the Pantani's of the world?
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  #26  
Old 11-30-2012, 03:57 PM
bfarver bfarver is offline
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Originally Posted by FlashUNC View Post
When you're doing a custom layup, what are some of the common points where the build changes for lighter riders vs.heavier riders? Where are the some of the areas with maybe surprising similarities?

Are you adding more carbon in the BB area, for example, for us fat guys vs. the Pantani's of the world?
The areas that make the biggest difference are the downtube and chain stays in terms of frame flex. These are the primary areas where we'll changed fiber orientation, wall thickness or number of plies, and modulus of carbon.

The top tube is one area that is pretty consistent across the board. We'll take some material out for lighter riders and add some for really big guys, but you have to make some pretty big changes to feel a difference there.

As far as the actual bottom bracket area, that's pretty consistent across the board. The layup there is more critical for supporting the bb and cranks than it is for for delivering a certain ride quality. All that stuff about BB386 and companies saying a huge BB is way stiffer is hogwash. It just allows them to be sloppier with their layup and makes the CAD work easier.

We vary the seatstays and seat mast to effect the vertical compliance of the bike based in rider weight and comfort preference.
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  #27  
Old 11-30-2012, 04:05 PM
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William William is offline
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Originally Posted by bfarver View Post
The smallest frame size we can make is a 51cm effective top tube length with a 100mm head tube. The larges size we can make is a 61cm effective top tube with a 230mm head tube. We can go 72.5 - 74.5* on both the seat tube and head tube.

There is no real limitation on rider weight. If you can turn a pedal, we can make a frame that will hold up.
Thanks for answering Ben.

So that range is due to tooling as opposed to straddling points on the bell curve?





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  #28  
Old 11-30-2012, 05:07 PM
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Here is one of the last steel bikes Ben built. He was a pleasure to work with and delivered when promised. This bike has the Ti replaceable rear dropouts so if anyone has any doubts to their durability, fear not, I am bigbill, crusher of lesser and poorly engineered products and my dropouts are straight and true. I really want one of the new carbon frames, almost bad enough to sell the other steel bike in the picture to fund it.
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  #29  
Old 11-30-2012, 06:15 PM
Louis Louis is offline
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Not mine, but I had to add these

(From Ari's FS post a while back)





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  #30  
Old 12-01-2012, 08:40 AM
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William William is offline
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(From Ari's FS post a while back)






I remember that bike! That made me drool a bit.


If Ben is carrying over that attention to detail to his new line (which I'm sure he is), there will be some fine carbon fiber Argonaut bikes tearing up the asphalt in your neighborhood soon.





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