Which Road: Easy or True

December 14th, 2009 by Rob Vandermark

Shaking Up the Collaborative To Challenge Our Assumptions

Lots of iterations of design

Lots of iterations of design

Someone asked a question regarding why the Collaborative is trying to work with lugs when it seems pretty clear that off-the-shelf options aren’t working for this project.  Or at least, preexisting lugs didn’t work for the Seven Cycles Shop Bike we just built.

Answering this question quickly becomes a circular discussion.  In the context of the Collaborative, an example might look something like this.  In fact, In order to explain one of the reasons why we’re committed to using lugs, and simultaneously frustrated by using lugs, I’ll provide a real world example.

But first, remember that one of the elements of the Collab’s mission is to work with lugs.  I’ve provided some of the compelling reasons we’re dedicated to lugs for this project—and I’ll be providing more reasons in the coming weeks.

On To the Example

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Bicycle Frame Lug Types

December 13th, 2009 by Rob Vandermark
Evaluating a few lug methods

Evaluating a few lug methods

Early in the Seven Cycles Collaborative we discussed the ways in which we could go about sourcing or making lugs.  Here are a few of the ways to make bicycle frame lugs:

  • Investment casting:  This is the most common method of making high quality lugs.  This is the oldest form of metal forming on the planet.  It’s a pretty amazing way of making a formed part.
  • Stamped from sheet:  This is the lease expensive way to make lugs in large quantities.
  • Bulge forming:  This has only been used a few times, relatively speaking, compared to other methods.  Basically, a steel tube is put into a lugged shaped mold and hydrostatic pressure is used to expand and shape the tube into a lugged form.
  • Welding or brazing tubes together:  This is the method that Seven Cycles is using for the Collaborative Shop Bike.  Photos to follow.  This is also the method that Seven uses on our titanium and carbon mix frames.
  • Machined:  This is not something I’m aware of for steel frames but some other lugged construction frames start with a molded part and then final machine the angles and details.  I include this on the list because it’s one of the ways that we are evaluating making lugs for the Collaborative.  However, it would be more appropriate for a production setting, not so much for the Colab project.
  • Combination:  This is very common, particularly among artisan frame builder.  Combo lugs take an investment casting and the add material, or more commonly, remove material to end up with a different look and characteristic than a raw casting.

We discussed a few other ways to make lugs but we’re keeping those ideas under wraps for the moment.

Lots of options; all with challenges.  More later.

Quotable #12

December 8th, 2009 by Rob Vandermark
Bracing for the storm

Bracing for the storm

An addendum to the “Lug Options” post:

Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the Seven Cycles Collaborative so far.  It’s from Bryan Hollingsworth. He’s managing the lug design portion of the Colab.  So, yesterday when he was he was sharing the lug search results for our Shop Bike test, here’s what he said about our available options:

“It’s a perfect storm of nothing.”Bryan Hollingsworth

If you read the previous post—Lug Options—this statement sums it up perfectly.  I just had to share it.

Lug Options

December 8th, 2009 by Rob Vandermark
Lugs, lugs everywhere and not a one to drink

Lugs, lugs everywhere and not a one to drink

So, we’re collecting all the parts required to build our first test-of-concept frame:  the Seven Cycles Shop Bike I mentioned last week.  Our intention was to source the four lugs and maybe build one from scratch; making a lug from scratch was to be part of our conceptual test.  Well, it turns out that we can’t find a single lug that will work on this shop bike—not even one.


We’ve looked at too many lug sources—through suppliers and direct from manufacturers, domestic and overseas, road and mountain, high quality and cheap—and cannot find a single lug that will work on any of the four joints that would typically get lugs.  “What the what?” This bike design is completely within Seven’s norms.  In fact, we tried to design the geometry so that we could use some standard lugs.  Still, no dice.

I’m sad to say that this is one of the more enlightening moments of the project for me—and for many others in the Collaborative.  Here we are trying to design a bike—a fairly average bike design, by Seven’s standards—and we can’t find a single lug that will work.

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Fundamentals: Make Mistakes

December 8th, 2009 by Rob Vandermark

“An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field.” — Niels Bohr

That about cover it.  We’re not experts yet but we’re well on the way to making every mistake possible.

This is one of the Fundamentals of the CollaborativeFail Fast.  This is also one of the mantras I’m known to mumble at Seven Cycles.  Interestingly, in the Colab, we have to fail fast if we’re going to complete this project.

We’re struggling with getting the fatigue testing methodology standardized.  We’re still testing the testing procedure, yipes.  Since there is no industry standard, we’re setting our own and although we often guesstimate and calculate these types of process correctly on the first try, we didn’t in this case.

I think we’ve just about got it nailed but close is not close enough.  More on that later.

Fatigue Testing Begun

December 4th, 2009 by Rob Vandermark
This is the first test fixture.  Version 2.0 is already under way

This is the first test fixture. Version 2.0 is already under way

I can’t keep up with all that’s happening.

On Tuesday—a lifetime ago—we started our fatigue testing program.  In fact, the tester is running as I type.

The tester had been running 24-hours per day since Tuesday.

Testing Ad Infinitum

We’re trying to set the benchmark failure point at about 75,000 cycles.  I’ll post more about this later.  The reason I mention it here is that 75,000 cycles takes about 21 hours to reach.  So, at best, we’ll be running one test per day.  And, we have about 100 tests we want to run for the Collaborative.  So, we’re looking at about a 20-week testing schedule—100 tests divided over a 5-day work week.  20-weeks we don’t have for the Colab.  So, we’re now in negotiations regarding which tests take priority and which tests will have to wait for Colab 2.0—or some other project.

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Fire Trucks & Collaboration

December 3rd, 2009 by Rob Vandermark

Fire truckEveryone in the Seven Cycles Collaborative has specific reasons for participating—some personal, some professional, and all of them worthwhile.  One of the reasons I’m participating in the Colab is to improve my teambuilding and collaborative work.  Hmmm, maybe it’s not so strange that the project is called the “Collaborative”—and not the “Steel-Lugged-Bike” project.

A Metaphorical Story

I’m not a story teller and I usually don’t like metaphors.  So, here’s a metaphorical story.  And it actually relates to the Collaborative.

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Tube Butting In-House

December 3rd, 2009 by Rob Vandermark
Tube butting 01

Tubing sitting in the comfy chair

I mentioned this earlier but it bears more props:  last night we performed our first in-house steel tube butting tests for main triangles.  Mike S. is managing the tube aspect of the project and he just ran with the tubular ball, worked with Jon Henig—our senior production machinist and frame builder to run some tests.  Actually, only two tests.

What is tube butting?

In short, tube butting is a process which results in a tube that has various wall thickness.  In the bike world, the most common butted tube is on that is thick on both ends and thin wall in the middle sections.  The thick sections, after the tube is coped to become part of a frame, are usually about ¼ to 1/6 of the total length of the tube.

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Test of Concept

December 3rd, 2009 by Rob Vandermark
Some of Seven's shop bikes and commuter bikes

Some of Seven's shop bikes and commuter bikes

In this morning’s Collaborative meeting at Seven Cycles Mike Salvatore suggested that we build a bike to test out a few of the conceptual ideas and assumptions that we’ve been discussing so far.

The outcome of that conversation is that we’ve agreed, as a mini project—headed by Matt O’Keefe—to build a Shop Bike that will be applying some of the work we’ve done far.  Someone set a deadline for completion of the frame, fork, and stem as Friday, December 11; six working days away.  The word crazy comes to mind, not just because it’s a new product but more because we’re doing a lot of test-of-concept work on this bike.

What to accomplish in the next six days

  • Build the first complete lugged frame under the Seven badge
  • Butt all the tubing in-house:  eight tubes.  This will be the first time we will have done all the tubing in house.  And we have a lot of tooling to figure out
  • Build a steel fork that incorporates some Collaborative aspects
  • Make at least one of the lugs from scratch.  We’ll probably end up making more than one, using various construction ideas.  More work.
  • Build a steel stem that incorporates some Collaborative aspects
  • Machine the frame and fork dropouts

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Stock Steel Tubing Options

December 2nd, 2009 by Rob Vandermark

Stock steel tube evaluationOh so limited.

In the Collaborative meeting yesterday we reviewed the high quality brazing recommended steel frame tubing options.  That’s a mouthful.  Because it’s a long set of limiting parameters, it also limits the legitimate tubing options that we can apply for this project.

Let’s start with sources:  In the bike industry, four serious sources exist for high-end steel bicycle tubing:  Columbus, Dedacciai, Reynolds, and True Temper.  I would think that, with four sources, there’d be plenty of options to mix and match.  Well, not true—at least from Seven Cycles’ perspective.

Now, which of the four companies offer tubesets that they specifically recommend for brazing—as opposed to TIG welding?  Only two of the four.*  That’s okay, in reality, I’d bet that a lot of lugged frame builders use tubing not specifically designed for lugs.

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