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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

Tech News – May 12, 2005

Edited by John Stevenson

Got tech? Send press releases, news, and tech questions to the Cyclingnews tech desk.

Juan Manuel Garate (Saunier Duval) aboard his lightweight Scott
Photo ©: Scott
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Scott claims lightest TT bike

Scott is claiming that as well as being easily built into a sub-6.8kg road bike, its featherweight CR1 carbon fiber frame is also breaking records for the lightest time trial bike ever weighed by the UCI.

At the prologue of the Giro d'Italia on Saturday, UCI commissaire's were checking bike weights, as they usually do, and found that most of the TT bikes about to roll out for the 1,150m dash down the Lungomare Italo Falcomata' were over 8kg. The bike of Saunier Duval-Prodir rider Juan Manuel Garate tipped the scales at just 7.4kg, according to Scott.

No doubt there are readers out there who have built lighter TT bikes, though. Let's have 'em! - and feel free to send pics.

More info: www.scottusa.com

Crank Brothers Quattro
Photo ©: Kristy Scrymgeour
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Crank Brothers rainbow

Spotted at Sea Otter recently was this selection of Crank brothers Quattro pedals in a range of colours for the various teams Crank Brothers supplies with pedals. We particularly like the pink ones, though we're wondering when we'll be able to get them in purple to go with the rumoured rebirth of purple anodizing being planned by the secret cabal that controls cycling component fashion.

In case you're wondering, red pedals are team issue for Davitamon-Lotto, while the green pedals are issued to Kodak Gallery/Sierra nevada riders. Jittery Joe's-Kalahari get orange, yellow goes to Monex and blue is the colour for the Fast Freddie team.

More info: www.crankbrothers.com

All the colours of Hydrapak
Photo ©: Kristy Scrymgeour
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More custom packs from Hydrapak

Speaking of all things colourful, here's more of Hydrapak's range of custom-printed drinking systems, also spotted at sea Otter. That's not the recurn of fluro colours we're seeing too is it? Looks like 2006 is going to be 1988 all over again...

More info: www.hydrapak.com

Vanilla Bicycles MTB
Photo ©: Kristy Scrymgeour
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More pink
Photo ©: Kristy Scrymgeour
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Even the hubs and rims are pink!
Photo ©: Kristy Scrymgeour
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Warning - pink content

The tech desk is having a real trip down Memory Lane today and the latest inspiration is this fully-rigid, totally pink mountain bike from Portland, Oregon manufacturer Vanilla Bicycles. One of my favourite bikes of all time was a pink road bike, equipped with a Sturmey-Archer ASC three-speed fixed-wheel hub that was stolen from outside a pub in Leeds, England in about 1989.

That fixie, however, had nothing on this deep pink paint-fest which also boasts pink hubs and rims.

More info: www.vanillabicycles.com

Carbon fiber shortage looms

Bike prices likely to rise as aerospace demand increases for composites

A few years ago a downturn in US defence spending led to a glut of high-end bike components as former defence contractors turned their CNC machines to making parts for bikes instead of fighter planes. Now it looks like the opposite is about to happen as demand for carbon fiber increases in the aerospace industry.

Carlton Reid of UK bike trade website bikebiz.co.uk got this rather alarming news from Dr. Kuan Chun Weng, who runs Composite Technology Corporation of Taiwan (C-Tech), the company that makes carbon fiber frames for Giant and is about to start making them for Colnago.

Weng is very familiar with the aerospace industry's need for advanced composites: in a former life, his PhD in composites technology was put to work in Taiwan's missile-making programme, part of the delicate military balance that exists between Taiwan and the Chinese mainland.

"Missiles are easy to make from composites. They're long, straight tubes," said Dr. Weng. They're also built to self-destruct and have not been designed to ascend and descend Alpine cols piloted by pro bike riders.

Moving from missiles to bicycles was therefore quite a career change for Dr. Weng, and a more taxing one. The stresses and strains a pro rider puts into a road frame means the job the carbon fibre is given to do is a multi-tasking one. Sprinters want lateral stiffness, col climbers torsional stiffness.

C-Tech was originally part of Giant, but while the parent company still owns 78 percent, it has operated independently since 2000 Dr. Weng came on board. It has 200 employees, with 22 in its research and development department in Taipei.

Ninety percent of C-Tech's production is for Giant, though the first production run of Colnago's non-Italian mid-range carbon frames is planned for late July or early August.

However, there's a global shortage of carbon fibre, with composites factories all over the world having to cope with rationing of the fibres that go into making carbon fibre. This is due to the expansion of the Chinese economy, the building of the Airbus A380 and Boeing's 7E7 Dreamliner, top-secret US air force projects, and the proliferation of windfarms across Europe. Every windfarm blade of 50m or more is made of carbon fibre. Shorter blades can make do with cheaper, heavier glass fibre.

Instead of some pauper industries - such as the bike industry - being denied access to the raw materials, the main Japanese suppliers of the specialist polyacrylonitrile (PAN) fibres have restricted supply across the board.

According to Toray Industries of Japan, the demand for PAN-based carbon fibre for 2004 was estimated to be about 22,000 tons and the demand is forecast to grow at an annual rate of more than 10 percent in the future and is expected to exceed 30 000 tons in 2007.

In a statement issued in January, Mitsubishi Rayon of Tokyo, another of the world's leading suppliers of carbon fibres, said:

In January of this year, Mitsubishi Rayon of Tokyo, another of the world's leading suppliers of carbon fibres, issued a statement urging carbon fiber manufacturers to "establish their production systems to ensure future stable supply" in the face of increasing demand.

According to Dr Weng this 'future stable supply' did not materialise and that from April this year, shortages started to bite. He believes the rationing will last through to June and perhaps beyond.

Price rises inevitably follow any materials shortages and Dr Weng believes carbon fibre bicycle frames (and tennis rackets, golf shafts, fishing rods and other carbon fibre products) will start to cost more later this year as suppliers pass on some of the extra costs to consumers.

Dr Weng said the price hike will last for up to two years, limiting the mass market potential for carbon fibre products in the bicycle industry.

The first consequences of the forthcoming price hike can already be seen, claimed Dr Weng. He said his R&D team have come across Asian bicycle components made from cheaper glass fibre, 'wrapped' in carbon fibre. Last year's trend was for carbon fibre sheathing over aluminium cores, a shady practice but one that's easily proved to be taking place (so long as you can bear cutting into your 'carbon' handlebars, that is). However, glass fibre cores can be dyed to look indistinguishable from the carbon fibre outers and it needs specialist testing to spot the duds.

Dr Weng said consumers should be made aware that carbon fibre bikes will not be coming down in price any time soon and that cheap-as-chips carbon parts and frames may not be all they seem.

Mavic to reintroduce Helium wheels

Cyclingnews' US sources tells us that Mavic is preparing a reintroduce its Helium wheels. Heliums were a popular choice for their light weight before the company's Ksyrium wheels took over the world, and we hear that the new incarnation will also be targeted at the gram-saving set. The new Heliums will have carbon fiber hub shells and titanium freehub bodies, we hear, though there's no word on the exact materials of rims and spokes. One of the spokes will be red, however, in the same stylee as Mavic's centenary Tour de France Ksyriums of a couple of years ago that had a single yellow spoke.

More info: www.mavic.com

NiteRider goes Li-Ion

Lighting maker Niterider is planning to introduce two new HID lighting systems, both using the latest in Li-ion battery technology. The Flight will be similar to the company's current Flamethrower model (which uses a nickel-metal hydride battery) with a combination of HID and LED lighting elements and similar runtime, but at a fraction of the weight with all of the reduction coming out of the battery. The battery is reputed to be "about the size of a pack of cigarettes".

Endurance racers, particularly soloists, will be interested in the MOAB (Mother of All Batteries). This system is, again, a combination of HID and LED lighting elements but with a whopping twelve hour burn time. Both systems are designed for helmet or handlebar mounting, with both options included.

More info: www.niterider.com

New Cervelos roll out

Bjarne Riis (left) and Andrea Peron (center)
Photo ©: Peter Donato
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Team CSC mechanic Alejandro
Photo ©: Peter Donato
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Cervelo P3 time trial frame
Photo ©: John Stevenson
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Bike maker Cervelo has been busy lately, with the first production of its P3 carbon fiber time trial bike rolling off the production line and company founder Gerard Vroomen delivering one of the first of the new Soloist carbon frames to the CSC frame just before the recent start of the Giro.

Our local Cervelo rep dropped by the Cyclingnews office with a P3 for us to drool over, and we took the opportunity to throw it on the scales. The bare frame weighs 1410 grams, which isn't stunning by general road frame standards, but is very light for a specialist time trial frame. The matching fork weighs 600g with an uncut steerer while the very aero special seat post comes in at 235g.

More info: www.cervelo.com