Sunday, March 27, 2011

Fit Science :: Retul Fit System

Joining steel, titanium and carbon fiber tubes together to make a bike takes a lot of capability based on sound principles and science. Ensuring that it will properly fit the rider takes knowledge and science as well.

Just as we strive to continuously advance our frame building skills, we've recently taken steps to significantly upgrade our fitting and frame design capability. This upgrade began with bringing Jesse Fox on board to lead our design efforts. Jesse is a certified fitter and has many years of direct fit experience in top stores in NYC, Portland and DC. He has also been through several frame building schools so he can link both fit and fab skills together.

On the science side of the equation, modern technology has advanced to the point where much of the traditional intuition, and all of the guess work, can be taken out of the process. The leader in modern fit systems is the Retul 3D Motion Capture Fit System.

We recently purchased a complete Retul set-up, and Jesse and I spent three days at Retul's Denver fit studio undergoing training and conducting actual fits on paying customers.

The Retul System utilizes light emitting diodes placed on the rider in specific anatomic locations to capture the full range of motion as the rider actually pedals their bike (or a size-cycle).

A bank of cameras captures the light and processes the data through sophisticated software to precisely measure all critical fit parameters in 3D.

When combined with power measurement, traditional physical assessments, and subjective rider input, it provides the most comprehensive and accurate gauge of rider fit and performance potential available anywhere.

The data provided on this comprehensive fit summary is more than sufficient to build a frame design in BikeCAD, which, when taken together with the riders desired ride qualities, will result in a custom build that rides and fits better.
The system is also extremely helpful at dialing in the fit of an existing bike, albeit within the constraints of the existing bike's geometry. Before making changes to the contact points of an existing bike through saddle height, fore/aft adjustments, etc., it is necessary to understand where the rider's contact points are. Traditionally this involved lots of time and manual tape measurement.

Here Jesse is using the Retul Zin tool to electronically capture the exact geometry of an existing customer bike. The system captures all of the bikes measurements to be used in before/after comparisons. This greatly reduces the risk of operator error, especially considering the contoured shapes of modern carbon frames, which make it very difficult to get precise manual measures of existing frame center to center coordinates.

We are excited to be incorporating such an advanced and easy to use tool into our fit process, and look forward to helping customers design their custom dream bike, or better dial in the fit of the their existing bikes.

Jesse and I would like to thank Todd, Ivan and Holly at Retul for being great teachers and partners.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Cyclocross :: Rallycross

Don’t let the quiet demeanor fool you. Underneath his calm exterior lies a pilot light ready to go off. I first met Kevin over 10 years ago when I was living in Vermont. Since then, he has never been one to stand still. At the time, he had just started working for the Land Rover Driving School in Manchester, Vermont as an assistant driver. With his hustle and driving skills, that quickly turned into a full-time head driver position.

After years of hard work driving all over the world for Land Rover, and with a European commercial under his belt, he joined Team O’Neill Rally School up in northern New Hampshire. Coming from a mountain bike background, it only made sense that Kevin would gravitate towards rally driving.

He and I would always swap weekend racing stories; me, road/track/cross, and Kevin, rally/road/track. When I told him I got a frame building spot at IF, it didn’t take long for him to hound me for a frame. So naturally he bought a Planet Cross. In his words, “Cross racing is just like rally racing.” “You go flat out from the start and try like hell to keep things together!”

So here he is with his new “ride”. We painted the bike just like a rally car, complete with tow hooks and rally race plaques.

Building a frame for one of your best friends is the toughest challenge. But as you can see, it turned out perfectly. Thank you Kevin and much luck on the course!


Monday, March 7, 2011

NAHBS 2011 :: We win!

Some folks don't like the awards at NAHBS, but that's just because they didn't win!

Austin was a great venue, made even sweeter by Shawn taking home the cash and prizes for "Best TIG Welded Bike" for our prototype ti Factory Lightweight SS Deluxe.

Awards are handed out in essentially three categories; 1) type (e.g., road, off-road, commuter, track), 2) materials (e.g., steel, carbon, titanium), and 3), construction method (e.g., lugged, fillet brazed, tig-welded).

We've now won in every category, which is very gratifying as it shows our versatility as builders; 2007 for Best Track, 2009 for Best Carbon, and now 2011 for Best Tig Welded.

Here are some more pics of the award winning bike:

The show really is about a rendezvous of folks who share a passion for bikes and the various lifestyles around them.

Not sure what was better, winning the award, or the sweet potato pecan pie that we had for desert after our celebratory dinner.

It was a blast, thanks to Don and Lesley for putting on such a great show, and thanks to all of you who stopped by to say hello and check out our stuff.

Check out all of the NAHBS 2011 award winners here. See you all in Sacramento next year.