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Photo ©: Bettini
North American Hand Made Bicycle Show
San Jose, California, March 2-4, 2007
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Part 5 - Carbon fibre and other bits and pieces
By James Huang in San Jose, CA
Craig Calfee seems particularly adept
at creating showpieces,
Photo ©: James Huang
As in years past, steel and other metals were the predominant material of choice
for most of the builders on hand at the NAHBS. However, the nature of the show
requires that frames be "hand built", not "hand built from steel,
aluminum, or titanium". Just as in the ranks of the professional racing
world, carbon fibre's impressive list of properties also made it a nearly irresistible
choice for a select group of smaller builders on hand at the show. Other than
the tubing itself, the carbon frames at NAHBS still satisfied the requirements
of being hand built, one at a time (and, by that argument, none of the builders
can be credited with drawing their own metallic tubing, either...). Although
their appearance was decidedly high-tech, the pieces were artisan-built nonetheless
and the builders' hands were just as dirty and weathered (albeit with a different
kind of 'dirt').
Rüe Sports is still a new brand name, but company head Brent Ruegamer
is no newcomer himself, having served with renowned carbon fibre framebuilder
Craig Calfee. Ruegamer was clearly an attentive employee there as he displayed
one of the most technically impressive booths at the show, one of the highlights
of which (there were several) was his Zen Überlight road frame, claimed
to weigh just 600g.
Brent Ruegamer's600g Zen Uberlight
Photo ©: James Huang
According to Ruegamer, the entire Zen Überlight frame is made with a unique
"super high modulus" carbon fibre that was recently declassified by
the United States. Regardless of the source, "modulus" is really Young's
Modulus, which roughly translates into stiffness when used in reference to carbon
fibre. Typically, high stiffness in carbon fibre is also associated with high
brittleness (i.e. cracks propagate more easily), but Ruegamer insists that this
newly available material is not only stiffer, but also lighter and more durable.
The Zen Überlight is a nearly 100% carbon creation, using aluminum for
only the down tube shifter bosses (yes, the owner plans on using down tube shifters)
and the replaceable rear derailleur hanger. Integrated headset bearings drop
directly into the head tube, and sealed cartridge bearings specifically sized
for a THM-Carbone Clavicula crankset are pressed directly into the bottom bracket
shell. We obviously weren't able to ride the frame at the show, but a quick
squeeze revealed surprisingly rigid tube walls (substantially stiffer than most
sub-900g or even sub-1000g tube walls we've played with) as well as an impressively
laterally rigid rear end. How's it ride? We can only speculate.
Sitting at the technological opposite end of the spectrum at NAHBS was the
Brooks line of leather saddles and accessories. Although Ruegamer's carbon creations
are still hand built by definition, there are few things in cycling more traditional
in most every sense of the word than Brooks leather. The UK-based company occupied
a double-sized booth this year, and based on the amount of stuff it displayed,
it needed it.
Possibly the most ornate of Brooks' collection
is the B33.
Photo ©: James Huang
Brooks currently offers 33 different leather saddle models (plus two Limited
Editions) as well as a deep selection of other accessories, and all of the saddles
are still fully hand built in England. Even the rivets are hand-hammered, and
the edges are hand-chamfered. Given the traditional nature of the line, it's
not surprising that Brooks was, by far, the predominant saddle brand mounted
on bikes at NAHBS.
According to Clay Lundgren of Highway Two (US distributor for Brooks), the
popularity of Brooks is due to "the nature of the customer and builder
both wanting traditional, handmade items. The saddles just follow the detail
that goes along with the types of bikes that they're showing here that the customer
Interestingly, the popularity of the Brooks like has more than doubled in recent
years, according to Lundgren. "The biggest reason is that it's reaching
an entirely new demographic. Instead of it being just the randonneur crowd,
it's now reaching into the younger, urban market. Brooks is cool again! It's
not just for the traditionalists; there's a resurgence in quality handmade stuff
across the board, and Brooks is a big part of that. It's not that the market
they've always had is growing, but they're reaching a whole new customer."
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Bottle cage? What bottle cage?
Calfee integrated the bottle 'cage' directly into the structure of the bike.
Not one to leave things well enough alone,
Calfee crafted his own crankset in the same fashion as the rest of the frame.
Like the bottle cage,
the front derailleur mount is integrated directly into the frame.
Craig Calfee seems particularly adept at creating showpieces,
such as this 'spider bike' made by wrapping a carbon yarn around the critical hard points. Does it work? Calfee says so, and he's even considering putting it into moderate production.
There is no head 'tube' per se on the spider bike;
even the steerer tube of the fork itself is clearly visible through the frame.
Brake and derailleur lines are routed directly through the structure.
Nick Crumpton showed this incredibly light carbon fiber creation
at Interbike, but its seven pound total weight was still striking.
Partial credit for the unbelievably light seven pound total bike weight
belongs to the Zipp 300 crankset and Aerolite pedals.
A front American Classic disc MTB hub
was specially modified with a track-specific rear axle, and a unique cog utilized the existing six-bolt disc rotor holes.
Another beautiful track bike from Crumpton Cycles
utilizing the relatively rare Nimble three-spoke carbon wheels.
Edge Composites? Get used to the name,
because you'll be seeing more of it soon.
In addition to wheelsets, Edge Composites
will also offer its own carbon fiber fork.
A midsection carbon wheel complements
the deep section model.
The faired-in crankset blends in almost seamlessly
with the rest of the frame.
Ruegamer orientated the fork blades horizontally
in order to reduce the bike's frontal profile.
The unique 'fork' of Brent Ruegamer's Blackbird concept
is designed to smooth the airflow coming off of the front wheel.
Where'd it go?
A minimal frontal profile was one of the goals of Ruegamer's Blackbird.
Brent Ruegamer's Blackbird concept bike
was one of the most striking of the show.
The rear of the frame closely profiles the rear wheel.
Rüe Sports sponsors Jacqui Lockwood
who set the US hour record in Manchester.
Lockwood also scored three US National titles
while captaining a Ruegamer Yin and Yang tandem, along with stokers Sue Adkins and Tina Shields.
Display it proudly.
Rüe Sports-sponsored athlete Jacqui Lockwood holds the hour record in her 35-39 age category.
Travel bikes equipped with S&S couplings aren't terribly unusual these days...
...but ones that are made from carbon fiber are!
Rüe Sports also operates a full in-house paint service.
Almost a crime to ride something this pretty.
Brent Ruegamer of Rüe Sports built and painted this bike
for his wife, Sheena.
Sculpted head tube badges
have become somewhat of a Rüe Sports trademark,
Mavic's Mektronic system has been out of production
for some time now, but with this elaborate paint job, this set of components better last a long time!
A Bushnell eccentric is mounted in the front
of Brent and Sheena Ruegamer's personal Yin and Yang carbon tandem.
Brent and Sheena Ruegamer recently raced this Rüe Sports Yin and Yang tandem
in a time trial.
Another example of gorgeously detailed paint work
from Rüe Sports.
Lightweight wheels on a tandem?
Sure, why not?
Rüe Sports built this Zen Uberlight frame
specifically around a THM-Carbones Clavicula crankset.
Carbon dropouts, naturally.
Brent Ruegamer says his 600g Zen Uberlight
(yes, we said 600g) is made from recently declassified super-high modulus carbon fiber.
Integrated headset bearings drop directly into the head tube.
The classic Brooks B-17, complete with titanium rails and frame.
Brooks also offers several women's-specific models,
denoted by the "S" suffix.
Women's models are both wider and shorter
than the comparable men's editions.
Brooks offers 33 leather saddle models
not even including the Limited Editions. This B18 Ladies boasts a much flatter profile than usual.
An elaborate spring system supports the rear of the saddle.
Possibly the most ornate of Brooks' collection is the B33.
Lots of chrome!
In addition to saddles, Brooks also offers a line of leather handlebar and saddle bags.
Note the mirror-image springs on Brooks' Flyer Special saddle.
Brooks says this ensures the rear of the saddle compresses evenly, and it claims to be the only company to do this.
Unique leather grips are actually made
of piles of small leather 'donuts' that are linked together.
Spokes and nipples are used to hold everything together.
Grip width is fully customizable based on the number of leather sections installed.
Tanned-to-match Brooks leather handlebar tape,
complete with cork and wood end plugs.
The Swallow Limited Edition is equipped
with a full titanium frame and rail system.
Brooks introduces the Swallow Limited Edition '07
of which only 999 numbered copies will be produced.
Brooks accessories were peppered throughout the NAHBS venue,
such as this leather mud flap.
Does it say 'Brooks' on the tools, too?
You bet it does.
A set of tools awaits inside the leather pouch.
The Brooks tool set
is naturally housed in an expertly crafted leather seat pack.
Who says wool is old-tech?
fi'zi:k offers its saddles with classic leather covers to match the hues of sister company Brooks' handlebar tape...
...but old-school looks don't necessarily have to come
with old-school performance as demonstrated by this fi'zi:k Carbon Twin Flex base.
Paul Components introduced a fixie-specific one-finger E-Brake lever,
seen here mounted next to classic Brooks tape finished off with string.
Paul Components' classically-styled single-ring
crankset was found on a number of bikes at NAHBS.
A burly-looking fixed-gear lockring tool from Paul Components,
complete with replaceable teeth.
Paul Components seems to have found a niche
in old-school designs that are combined with new-school technical features.
Everyone usually thinks of Phil Wood components
in their typical polished silver finish, but multiple anodized colors are available as well.
Gold-anodized Sansin track hubs?
Where do you get those?
Schmidt's Original Nabendynamo generator front hub
is said to be the best of its kind. Based on its frequency at NAHBS, that's probably true.
German-made Schmidt front headlamp to go along with the hub!
Selle Italia's new Thoork road saddle.
The rail system on the new Selle Italia Thoork saddle
offers slightly independent movement similar to that offered in the Signo. Selle Italia claims the improved biomechanical efficiency saves 10 seconds over a 40km time trial.
The new Yutaak mountain bike saddle from Selle Italia
is covered in a durable Kevlar/Cordura material.
Vibram is used under the nose of the saddle
as well as at the rear and bottom of the sides.
White Brothers' new Rock Solid 29er rigid carbon fiber fork.
Multiple tooth options are offered by White Brothers
for use on its splined fixed-gear cog system.
White Industries showed up a prototype fixed-gear hub
that uses a splined attachment system for easier swapping of cogs.
This variable bolt circle diameter crankset from White Industries
enables the use of just about any inner chainring.
Wooden rims are back!
These are available from Ric Hjertberg, formerly of Wheelsmith Fabrications fame and now with FSA.
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