Moots Cycles: The Difference is the CNC.

I previously talked about how Moots uses their onsite CAD designer and CNC machines to make custom aluminum jigs for frame building, like these:

(that one used for bending a tube) and these:

But…it’s not just aluminum that they CNC.  They also make parts from titanium on the CNC machine.  Some parts are made from DOM tubing, and some parts are made from solid blocks of Ti.

For example, these 44mm head tubes are CNC’d at Moots, starting out as one thicker, substantially heavier piece of tubing.

Here, you can see the original hunk of tubing, before being CNC’d down to the svelte head tube.  The CNC process reduces weight by about two-thirds.

By doing the head-tube manufacturing on-site, Moots can do custom geometry from an itty-bitty bike for someone with…ahem…low clearance, up to incredibly huge head tubes on bikes for NBA all-stars.

That head tube is just as big as it looks.  It was MASSIVE.

They also use the CNC to cut threads into the bottom brackets on english threaded BBs.

Solid block of Ti on the left, neatly CNC’d finished product on the right.

Here, you can see a CNC machine doing three separate operations on three sets of parts in various stages of completion.

The end result is not only finished products, but also piles and piles of Ti shavings, which are duly recycled.

Hey, don’t look over there.  That’s just the custom, long-tail, 29+ Moots trail-building bike, freshly back from being loaned out to a trail advocacy group for actual use in building mountain bike trails.  That has nothing to do with CNC.  Oh, wait–there’s a CNC machine in the background.  Carry on.

Clamp in progress:

Seriously.  Walking the shop floor after hours was like being in an art installation.

E-gads the bikes.

They have the in-house capacity to design, test and build the parts…and the parts that make the parts.  The gents we spoke with were talking about some of the recent bikes they’ve built, where they prototyped changes in tubing angles by 1/2 degree at a time, or where they’d change the bend in the down tube ever so slightly, and prototype over and over and over again.  Moots has all of the prototyping capacities of the biggest manufacturers out there…and then they immediately translate the prototype into a finished product, once it’s perfect.

Seriously.  It’s pretty damn impressive.

The whole Moots Series:

Moots Tubing

Moots Bends

Moots Miters

Moots CNC

Moots People

Moots Welds

 

About these ads

Moots Cycles: The Difference is the Miters.

The factory floor is covered with milling machines, each one of which is set up for a specific task.

The workers take the bent tubes, load them into the custom CNC’d jigs, and slowly cut the miters in the tubes to precise angles.

After they cut, they test fit the tubing in a master bike frame jig.

If the joint is in any way imperfect, they take a hand file (such as a small rattail file), and dress the joint to perfection.  This creates two things.  It creates piles of titanium shavings from the hole saws…

And it creates joints that fit like this:

Perfect.  Impeccably tight.

Those joints aren’t welded…they’re just held in place in a jig.  You can’t even slide a piece of paper in between the pieces.

Beautiful, amazing joints that are ready to be hand TIG-welded.

The whole Moots Series:

Moots Tubing

Moots Bends

Moots Miters

Moots CNC

Moots People

Moots Welds

Moots Cycles: The Difference is the Bends.

Moots bikes are handmade in their factory in Steamboat Springs.  Each bike is handmade to a specific set of plans, based on the size and options for the bike.

Moreover, they don’t just make the bikes…they make the jigs.  They CNC their own solid aluminum tubing jigs and related hardware to use in bending and welding up the frames.

Here, you can see one of their custom jigs in action, with an already bent tube being mitered with a hole saw in a 3 axis milling machine.

Really, really beautiful Bridgeports and other vintage milling machines.

They make a lot of their own bending machines as well.

As they start to build a bike to their plan, they start assembling a pile of tubing.

That pile of tubing grows and grows, until all of the parts of a bike are there.

I was fortunate enough to be able to watch them bend some of the tubing–some bends are done by hand, and some are done with incredible amounts of hydraulic pressure.  Each bend is done with great precision, accommodating the amount of spring back that the material will have, such that the finished tubing is exactly to the right degree.

The men and women that do this work–they’re artists.  They make it look easy.  And what happens to those tubes once bent?  You’ll see in the next post.

The whole Moots Series:

Moots Tubing

Moots Bends

Moots Miters

Moots CNC

Moots People

Moots Welds

Moots Cycles: The Difference is the Tubing.

I’m going to talk for a few posts about my recent trip to Steamboat.  At the outset of those posts, I’m going to talk a little bit about why I believe Moots is an extraordinary company.  For today, I’m going to talk about tubing.

Yes.  Tubing.

Tubing is the heart of any bicycle, whether it be built from carbon, bamboo, aluminum, steel, or (my personal favorite) titanium.

It should be relatively self-evident that a tube shape is not a normal shape for metal to come in.  You can make metal in a sheet relatively easy, or can make it into a block.  You can even make it into a solid casting or forging relatively simply…or take a solid piece of metal and CNC it out into a complex shape.  But a tube…a tube is an irregular shape.

There are two common ways to make a structural tube.  The most common way is to start with a piece of sheet, bend that sheet into a tube, and then weld the seam together to make a tube.  This is commonly referred to as ERW or electric resistance welded tubing.  ERW tubing is relatively easy to make, but results in the tubing having a welded seam.  That welded seam is always a point that has a different amount of strength than the rest of the tube–it is a stress point, and a potential weak spot.  When you’re bending tubing, you try to put the welded seam in the inside of a bend, as that minimizes the stress on the welded joint.  There are two problems with this, however: 1) the welded joint is still a weak spot; and, 2) if you have a tube that bends in more than one direction, you cannot have the seam on the inside of all of the bends, so you will have a bend with a weld in the weakest possible spot.

It’s not a real disadvantage, but ERW tubing is also an inelegant solution…and if you see the welded joint on the inside, it’s ugly.  You can polish the exterior of the tube to eliminate the obvious joint, but it’s still not doing it pretty.

The other form of tubing is known as DOM or drawn over mandrel.

Moots uses DOM tubing.

What is DOM?  DOM means that they essentially take a solid block of titanium, and pull it over a heated up mandrel–think a heated up solid rod or bullet.  As the block of titanium is pulled over the mandrel, it makes the ‘hole’ in the middle of the tube.  The outside of the tube (the walls of the tube) are formed into the shape of the tubing.  You can vary the wall thickness and diameter of the tubing by changing the tooling on the mandrel.  DOM tubing may also be referred to as seamless tubing–because (as the name implies) it is seamless. Why is that important?  No weak spots.  None.  You can bend it in any direction, without having any weaknesses.  You can do complex bends in multiple directions, without having to worry about seam orientation.

There are a surprising number of bike companies that use ERW tubing.  Among those that use DOM tubing, many use imported tubing.  What about Moots?

Moots uses tubing that is made in the USA.  More specifically, tubing that is mined and manufactured in the USA.

Sandvik Special Metals in Washington makes the tubing to order for Moots, and ships it over in wooden crates.  The tubing can cost upwards of $30/foot, so a 20 foot stick of tubing represents a significant investment in itself.  A wall of tubing (as shown above) is tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.  The lead time on ordering the tubing is measured in years, not days…so Moots is presently ordering tubing that will be used in bikes that they haven’t yet designed.

In the factory, there’s tubing everywhere you go.

Everywhere.

Everywhere.

So in short, Moots is using the an amazing material: titanium.  They’re not just using titanium–they’re using DOM tubing.  And not just any DOM tubing–they’re using DOM tubing mined and made in the US.

I’m going to talk about tubing more.  Get ready for it.

The whole Moots Series:

Moots Tubing

Moots Bends

Moots Miters

Moots CNC

Moots People

Moots Welds

Fitness

I spent most of last week up in the mountains at Moots’ headquarters in Steamboat.  Fair warning…my posting over the coming days will largely consist of amazing mountain scenery and an in-depth discussion of Moots.  But before I get to that, I wanted to touch on a slightly less direct topic: fitness.

You see, I travelled with three of my best friends.  When we arrived in Colorado, we drove up to Estes Park, and headed out on a hike up to Sky Pond.  We spent the days following that riding mountain bikes in the mountains.  All this done by flatlanders from Illinois.

We hiked at a good clip, and mountain biked with locals.  Sure, our hearts pounded, but we rode and rode and rode.  I remember going skiing just a few years ago, and the act of getting out of the car would cause me to lose my breath.  Trying to hike up the mountain a bit was incredibly laborious.  I would mutter under my breath about the thin air, and would attribute my difficulties to altitude.

The point of this post, then, is to recognize that over the past several years, I’ve gotten into much better shape.  I’m not flaunting or bragging about that–but I’m recognizing it, and acknowledging how deeply thankful I am for the luxury of fitness.  I realize,  more than most, that fitness is a combination of choice, stubbornness, ability and luxury.  I have an incredibly busy schedule, but I make time for fitness (and my family lets me do so).  I have a body that has some physical limitations, but which enables me to do many things.  I have limited natural abilities, but my stubbornness enables me to stay on the bike longer than I perhaps otherwise would.  Being fit–being thin–being able…these are incredible combinations of gift and accomplishment, and it has never struck me so clearly as when I was in the mountains, just how lucky I am to enjoy them.

I’m also incredibly lucky to be surrounded by friends who make positive lifestyle choices, and whose bad habits are things like riding bicycles…instead of some of the other habits I see exhibited by people in the world around me.

So fitness.  Thank you for fitness.  Much Fitness.

Moots Psychlo X Update

On Wednesday morning, it rained 3-4 inches.  Since it’s getting dark earlier, we’ve switched from late afternoon road rides to gravel rides after dark.  With inches of rain on the gravel roads, I was anticipating a sloppy ride, and thus contemplated all of the various tasks I had to do to make the Moots ready for wet, sloppy gravel.  I put together a checklist and started to work:

  1. Reduce tire pressure from 45psi to 40psi, front and rear.
  2. Slap on rear fender.

That’s it.  That’s all.  Preparing the Moots for a 120 mile endurance ride with 10,000+ feet of climbing looks like this:

  1. Velcro on the top-tube bag.
  2. Add third bottle cage on down tube.

That’s it.

The Psychlo X is one of the most amazing, comfortable, fast, confident, all-around-awesome bikes I’ve ever ridden.  The new geometry on it means that it shreds when you want to push hard, but somehow feels relaxed and confident when you’re slogging up hills all day.  On my particular bike, the combination of components (Di2, ENVE wheels and bars, Bontrager CXO tires, Ergon saddle) means that it’s always ready for anything.  It never has a mechanical.  I’ve put several thousand miles on it, and haven’t even had a flat.  I wash it once in a while, clean/lube the chain, pump the tires, and oh-yeah…I charged the Di2 battery once.  It is a bike for all seasons, for all conditions, for all rides.  I’m sure Moots would rather that you also bought a VaMoots for this purpose, but the Psychlo X could be a very convincing road bike if you ran slicks on it.  I’ve gotten so comfortable with how this bike handles that it makes me a better rider, even when I’m tired.  It’s truly a great bike.

Next week, I’m taking a couple days and heading out to Steamboat to see the Moots factory, ride some bikes, and hang with some very good friends.  I’m sure I’ll be writing about it when I have time–it looks to be an amazing trip.

One other quick note…I’ve previously talked about the Minotaur–that mythical beast that combines a Psychlo X front end with a rear that offers more rear tire clearance (at the expense of longer seat stays).  Moots has now formally released that design for next year, as the Routt.

Photo from Interbike, courtesy of Jason at Moots.

I wrote this post on 9/11, which is a day that holds a lot of meaning for me, for many different reasons that aren’t really related to this blog.  Suffice it to say, I’m happy to be writing about an American company, building bikes in America, on this day.  I’m even happier that it’s a company that makes such awesome bikes.

Night Bison 2014

Amazing to say that this was the third annual Night Bison, and the third Night Bison ride review post on this blog.  Back in 2012, for the inaugural Night Bison, I was rolling a Ti Vaya with BPaul (on his old steel Vaya) and Aaron (on his old Colnago).  We averaged 17.2mph, and I felt like we were kings.  In 2013, we decided to ride it as a fun ride, and I rocked a lefty Spearfish and had a blast.  This year…this year I knew of surprises in store.

(Photo credit for the following photos goes to Mateusz; you can click through to his Flickr if you’d like.)

We had an amazing turnout this year–more riders than ever.

Moreover, it wasn’t just a crowd, it was a good crowd.  People were happy–smiling–jovial.  People were also buying Axletree Merch and…if you didn’t get some…it’s not too late!  We lit out at 7:57 (civil twilight), and everyone behaved going out of town–a nice uniform pack, all in the right lane, all respecting traffic.  We turned right onto Keslinger, stopped and regrouped.  There was a considerable amount of peeing that occurred at that point, for some reason.  Then, the race was on.

I was riding with Tobie, Aaron and a group of other riders.  We started with the lead group, but lost them when they were able to stop and go (before a car came) and we were forced to stop and wait (until the car passed).  We pressed on thereafter, and had a good, steady group that was riding hard.  Hard.  We were riding as hard as I could maintain.  There were about 10-12 riders, and there were about 4 of us who were taking regular pulls through the front.  I would take my pulls in large measure because I saw Tobie and Aaron doing it.  We were screaming for the first 25 miles or so…and then, we saw it in the distance.  Christmas lights and…is that a TV on the side of the road?

Yes.  It’s a TV.  And Christmas lights.  And an espresso machine.  And a trailer from…

A mid-ride expresso never tasted so good.  Seriously, this was the coolest thing to ever happen in the middle of a ride.  I have no idea how he did it, but Tobie from NCC managed to realign some planets and convince a passing Rapha road crew to hit the Night Bison.  So in the middle of the ride, we have a flat panel TV playing Rapha Continental videos, and the Rapha-rrista pulling shots of espresso.  It was fantastic.

Some riders blew by.  Some stopped, downed a shot and got back on the bike.  I have to say…I was tempted when people started leaving.  I wanted to get back on the bike.  My competitive juices were flowing.  Then I thought about it.  How often am I going to meet a Rapha trailer in the middle of a cornfield?  Probably never again.  (Hopefully next September, but hey, I’m a realist).  I lived in the moment, knowing that the bike would wait for me either way.  I hung out with the guys at the stop, enjoyed my espresso, and smiled. It was surreal.

After 20-25 minutes, we got back on the bikes and headed out.  I was feeling good–and strong.  We set a big pace, and Tobie, Aaron and I started rotating through pulls.  Again, there was a group of people who latched on and didn’t do any work–and they missed the fun of being in the front.  After a while, we lost Tobie (who had been pushing the pace huge at the start), and it was just Aaron, myself and one other rider.  Aaron and I took turns on the pulls, and pushed our speed up.  I managed to find that line where you’re riding as hard as you can ride, without riding so hard that you can’t sustain it.  I pushed beyond my limits, and rode amazingly well for myself.

We turned on the Harter B-Road, and had nearly passed through all of the rough stuff when Aaron wiped out.  He was in front of me, and he called out, ‘watch that rut.’  Of course, just as he was saying that, I plowed into the rut and wiped out in the same spot.  We both quickly got back on the bikes, and I decided to see how hard I could push.  I buried myself on Harter, and ran down a few riders.  Just as I was turning onto Lynch, I picked up a guy on a white Crux, wearing Johnny Sprockets kit.  He hung on most of the way up Lynch, and then he took a pull on Lynch and a pull on Gurler.  Having a couple brief respites was appreciated–and he rode well.  I was in the zone enough that I forgot to even ask what his name was.

After a while, Handsome Dan came riding up behind me (having succumbed first to a seat post issue and second to a couple of beers that stowed away on someone’s bike), towing another rider along with him.  We rolled into town together, and chatted on the way back to the bike shop.  We talked about what it means to have a good bike shop, what it means to have great bikes, and what an awesome guy Josh Luce is.  Dan is good people, and I miss being able to ride with him on a regular basis.

I finished my Night Bison with an average speed of 19.8mph, inclusive of the low-speed 3 mile rollout.  Of course, I had a 20-25 minute espresso break in the middle, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  That stop, in the middle of nowhere, with an espresso and a Rapha video…that stop by itself was as good as the ride was.  And perhaps equally as important for me, I was able to see what was truly important in that moment, and savor it with friends.

I rode my race, my pace, my way, and had the best Night Bison yet.  They just keep getting better and better.

I’ll drop a quick gear note so I remember what I did when I’m planning for this next year: the Moots was perfect in every regard.  I ran 3 bottles of water, but ended up really only drinking about 2.3.  The Bontrager CX0s were perfect at 44psi front and rear (running a 38c front and 34c rear tire), and the set I have on now has a Gravel Metric, a 10,000, a Night Bison, and a lotta lotta lotta training miles in between on them.  Everything was perfect, and I wouldn’t change the setup–or my riding–a bit.