Sunday, October 29, 2017

How to build a titanium handlebar...

Hey folks,  want to take a look inside the process of building a titanium bar? 

Follow along in the video as I put together one of my titanium Dig It bars; a 2" rise bar with a 31.8 center clamp section, 17 degree sweep.

A few tiny things to note...

- Ti has to be meticulously clean to weld, so many of the preparation steps are outlined within

- Ti must be welding in an oxygen free environment with controlled heat input

- You must have fun!



Sunday, October 22, 2017

Sponsorship's the 411

I've received a lot of sponsorship requests through the years, many from young aspiring racers who want support, but lack understanding that it needs to be a mutually beneficial relationship.  Let me give you an example of one that came in this week...

Hey there I am (name redacted) from North Carolina currently I am a xc and gravel racer and I saw your company and I was wandering if you could sponser me with some demo or prototypes and I can test them and promote and tell many riders and fans at my races. Thanks and have a wanderful day!

Though well intentioned, I hope you can begin to see the plethora of issues with the request. 

Let me share with you my reply to this inquiry as it begins to offer a look from my side of the potential relationship. 

Thanks for reaching out, I appreciate that you want to help represent my work.

I've sponsored a race team and individual racers for over 20 years, and have participated in race promotions  for 10.  This fall marks my final season participating in both endeavors, as I am scaling back to spend more focused time in the shop.

I receive multiple requests each month for sponsorship.  Please let me share a bit of my experience with you so that you may have a greater probability of finding success.

Use appropriate grammar, punctuation, and spelling.  When asking a company for sponsorship, you are effectively representing their products and company as a whole with the public.  Affirming that you are well spoken, intelligent, and provide a positive image is important.  This all begins with your sponsorship request.  If you don't take the time to ensure accuracy in written word, you are not someone a company would feel confident about in the field.

Show that you know a company's products and why you are excited to represent them.  No one likes quickly penned form letters; giving some indication that you know the companies product range, expected market, and how you fit into that marketing plan will give you greater odds of gaining support.  Express what products the company makes that you feel would be of benefit for you to share experience and information with others.  Why are you excited about those products?  What tangible impact can you make on company exposure and sales?  

Why you?  Thousands of racers hit the starting line each week, what makes you exceptional?  Provide race results and give some demographics showing the area you frequent in your travels.  While exposure to the podium is important, it is not the defining criteria for support.  Companies want racers who represent their vision and are willing to be an advocate.  Is this something you are capable of?  If so, tell them why.

Finally, begin a relationship with your prospective sponsors.  Show that you are not just shotgunning out requests hoping for getting lucky.  Purchase one of their products, write a review, send pictures of the product in use...companies will more likely support a young racer who support them and have a measure of positive influence on others.

Good luck in your search for sponsorship, I know that if you heed some of this advice, you will find success.

It's rare to get something for nothing.  It becomes more probable when you can demonstrate a willingness and ability to positively work for the support.  Mentor, educate, share...perhaps we'll all get more out of future requests.



Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Here's the thing...

Time is not friendly to any of us, living or inanimate.  Given enough time, wind, cycles, wear, exposure, stress, eventually a change takes place.  I mean, that's how we have the Grand Canyon, survival evolution, and broken bicycle parts.

Wait, what?  Bike parts don't last forever?

That's right, I know it's hard to accept, but any material, when placed in a stressful environment, with repeated impact cycles, will eventually fail.

Yes, I agree, that sucks.

You see, the hurdle with designing bicycle parts is cutting that delicate balance point between performance, light weight, and durability for a wide range of physical users parameters.  Often, the same part that is used by a buck twenty female on a full suspension rig, cruising a flow trail, is also under a 220# guy riding fully rigid on rocky/rooty single track.  Where is the line drawn that divides durability with performance expectations, and takes into account your business needs for streamlining inventory and production?  It's hard to pin down, but we can come close.  Products are tested using FEA models, destructive testing of sample products takes place, and fabrication sequences are formulated to optimize and perfect the process.  All in an effort to stack the deck in our favor.  In the end, all this data is evaluated, but for each builder, the unique end point is different.

This is prominent in my attention span today because I've just had my fifth handlebar failure in 12 years (3 titanium, 2 steel). Bar failures are the worst.  Just like a chair, if you remove one of the four points of contact without notice, you'll be tumbling over quickly.  Now imagine cruising down a rooty single track hill when suddenly one of your hands is now floating free.  Not good.  Not good at all.

One of my greatest fears when opening my email each day is to find a communication from a customer who has suffered a failure with a resultant injury.  To think that a product I produced, intended to enrich the lives of the customer, one day results in a physical injury, truly unsettles me. There's a level of trust that is unspoken; that I will make my best effort to provide a product that delivers fun and enjoyment, doing so in a safe, predictable manner.

The problem, though, is in that last line.  In the niche of mountain biking, there is nothing that is sure fire predictable.  The variables are broad.  The risk is real.  Try as I may, I cannot control all the variables that my products are exposed to.

The customer bears a burden of responsibility as well.  Proper installation, maintenance, inspection during cleaning...all of these are part of the due diligence the customer accepts as an end user.  In a Utopian world, one hopes that product deficiencies are recognized early and the part taken out of service.  That is, unfortunately, rarely the case.  Even in Utopia, however, the tough fact to accept, is that despite both of our efforts, every part has a fatigue life and will eventually fail. Period. The End.

From a builders standpoint, this is why you MUST HAVE INSURANCE.  It is not for protecting you from potential liability, you've already shouldered that burden when you chose to hang out your shingle and accept money for your work.  It is for the protection of your customer when things do not go as intended.

Each time I am made aware of a failure, I second guess my desire to continue in this field.  Though the percentage of failures to living product is minuscule, the shear burden of potential is a heavy load to carry moving forward.  Despite how diligent I am in design and execution, how attentive the customer is to maintenance and inspection, the product will eventually reach an end of life point. When that happens, I pray no one is injured severely.

The final decision, for builder and customer alike is this;  what level of risk is acceptable to you?

Life is fragile and horrible accidents take place around us each day.  I guess, for me, I am driven to create and share because of the positive impact it has on others.  As a rider, I would not want to envision a life where cycling was not an integral part.  So, is the risk worth it?  I'm choosing to soldier on, with vigor, because these aspects define much of who I am.

What is your decision?

Monday, July 3, 2017

Titanium Hot rods...

Such a fun piece to build, but soooo much involved in the process...

Here's a short video taking a look inside the fabrication process, from the weld table...

And the finished product, complete with direct drive ring and spider...


Sunday, July 2, 2017

Nixie tube clock project...

My son recently graduated from college and I wanted to give him something special.

I've always enjoyed watching evolving technology and have wanted to incorporate some old tech into new projects, so I built Kalten a Nixie tube clock.

Nixie tubes were developed in the 1950's, a precursor to digital displays.  It is a cold cathode electrode inside a glass tube filled with neon gas and just a touch of mercury.  The numerical cathodes are stacked using ceramic insulators and when electricity is passed to the electrode, it reacts with the neon gas and glows, displaying the number.

There is still a small supply of these tubes in the Eastern Block countries, as they manufactured them into the early 80's.

I sourced the tubes from Russia, the board from a gentleman in the Ukraine, and then got to soldering.

The clock allows for 12/24 hour time display, date, and alarms.  I placed RGB Leds under each tube and the color changes during use.

The case is built out of sheet metal and was finished in an antique/distressed paint theme.

Came out pretty cool, makes me want one for myself :)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Mentoring 2017

Each year I try to give back a week of my time to a professional who wants to take their skill to the next level; learn paint, tig, new materials, etc...

This year I had the pleasure of hosting Daan from 11 Ants Titanium Bicycles.  The owners have focused their bicycle design on Pinion and Rohloff builds in titanium, a market segment that has room for growth in Europe.  Their builds for the last three years have been commissioned in China, but due to the stresses of working long distance and inability to control quality, spec, and manage expectations, they want to move the production home to Holland.  Daan came to me with 20 years fabrication and machine shop experience, but no bicycle work.  It was our goal to expose him to the fabrication process and begin to understand the unique difficulties in working with Titanium.

Over the next 5 days, we worked through language and machine familiarization barriers to reach a level of competency that will build a strong foundation for this companies future success.

Bill and I were also able to get an Accuset fixture into their hands, only the third fixture we've sent out, nice to see it go to a good home that can truly use it's accurate set up, repeat-ability, and massive access for joining.

Best wishes to Roy, Jeroen, and Daan as they move to the next step in their journey...Made in Holland!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

January/February bars going out...

Ok, so originally I was only going to update this blog with new fabrication tutorial info, but it seems like I continue to do the same stuff over and over that has already been covered.  So, here's a quick post just to see if anyone is still out there...

Spent the better part of the last two weeks knocking out January/February bar orders and crafting up some tasty titanium cranks...

Much like welding a frame, the bars have a systematic welding process to keep them aligned and flat, starting with the linear ends of each miter

The bars are the only titanium item I single pass weld, as the additional heat of a two pass process becomes a bit more problematic with alignment.  To ensure complete penetration, a higher energy setting is used with a brief pulse to drive the arc deep into the substrate and feather out a bit wider than normal...

These titanium cranks are ran through the blast cabinet so that it will provide a mechanical surface for the ceramic to adhere to...

Colored and ready for action 3 hours later...

Thanks for tuning in,