This week we’re re-sharing one of our favorite podcast episodes, and we’ll be back next week with an all-new show.
Joe McEwan is a career aerospace engineer and carbon composites expert who founded Starling Cycles in 2014. The brand’s bikes are developed, engineered and handmade for the demands of UK trails, and the bikes have been well received among both the media and athletes.
In this episode we ask:
- What first piqued your interest in building steel bikes? Have you tried building bikes with other materials?
- Is it true that that steel absorbs road and trail vibration better than other materials, and if so, can the average rider feel a difference? Do fat tires and suspension have more of an affect on ride feel than frame material?
- How do you go about making a steel tube stiffer in one direction than the other?
- Are there any design considerations that are unique to steel full-suspension frames?
- Why are most steel frames single-pivot?
- Why do some bikes like the Murmur Trail need a brace between the top tube and seat tube?
- Some Starling products are made in the UK, while others are welded in Taiwan. How do you decide which bikes to build in house, and which ones to outsource?
- Are there advantages to a gearbox over an external drivetrain that go beyond broken derailleurs?
- What are your thoughts on the rising popularity of mixed-wheel bikes?
- What’s next for Starling Cycles? Are there any steel ebikes in the future?
Check out the full suspension steel mountain bikes at starlingcycles.com.
This episode of the Singletracks podcast is sponsored by Explore Brevard.
Professional mountain biker Adam Craig says it’s one of the top three places in the universe he’s ever ridden. Where is this magical mountain biking nirvana? It’s none other than Brevard, North Carolina, home to Pisgah National Forest and DuPont Recreational Forest. The area boasts over 300 miles of peerless singletrack, not to mention hundreds of miles of gravel roads, creating a near endless array of routes, terrains, and challenges to explore. Four vibrant bike shops will get you sorted, whether you need gear, service, or a top notch rental. Top it off with an array of craft breweries, cafes and gathering spots that have earned Brevard the title as one of the best small towns in America in 2021. It all adds up to a premier mountain biking destination you’ll want to experience for yourself. Find out more at ExploreBrevard.com.
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Hey everybody. Welcome to the Singletracks podcast. My name is Jeff and today my guest is Joe McEwan and Joe is a career aerospace engineer and carbon composites expert who founded Starling cycles in 2014. The brand’s bikes are developed, engineered and handmade for the demands of UK trails. And the bikes have been well received among both the media and athletes. Thanks for joining us, Joe. So tell us how did you get into mountain biking.
I think when I grew up, my house was opposite a bit of woodland. So my childhood was spent bobbing around the word so my bike various bikes, BMX is and ride bikes, but not not really mountain biking as it was. So I rode bikes in the woods. But it wasn’t until I actually then had a big period playing golf until my mid 20s. And then, so I was I was quite a good golfer for a while, and then got fed up of that and thought I needed to get a bit fitter. So I thought, why I’ll start riding my bike around the woods in Bristol, and then just kind of got hooked into it and bought my first mountain bike, and then just started riding more and more in Bristol and loving it more and more. And then it’s gotten warmer. Become the thing I do.
Yeah, yeah, that’s funny. I always joke that mountain biking is the new golf. And yeah, I didn’t actually know that people did that, that people like transition from golf to mountain biking. But that’s awesome that you did. Yeah. Well, so tell me what first piqued your interest in building steel bikes, you know, looking at your resume, it kind of seems like an unlikely choice for someone who’s a carbon composites experts. So why steel, why not carbon.
I think I tried to get some projects as part of my job. So I was working at a research facility in Bristol when I was trying to convince my boss to let me build a carbon bike as a as a project as a kind of learning for us all. But they just they just weren’t interested, it was too much of a distraction from from the day job. So I thought I still want to buy make a bike. I’m an engineer. So I always make the things that I do. So when I played golf, I actually made a few golf clubs and made golf clubs. Before that I was skateboarding a lot, and I made a couple of skateboard decks. So it’s always something I’ve done is made made bits for the hobbies I’m interested in. And the easiest way to get into making bikes is to go on a frame building course. So all the all the frame building courses tend to be steel, because that’s the easiest thing to start with. But I’d always wooden steel bikes as well. So I’ve always had a steel hardtail or something I’ve always had my first proper mountain bike was a steel hardtail I had a few steel. So I suppose when I when I started doing this, there weren’t really that many steel, enduro bikes or trail bikes, they just didn’t exist, kind of doing it. But there were a couple of companies doing steel downhill bikes, had an SWD, which is an American company, doing really small scale steel, mountain bikes, so I went downhill bike, so I actually bought one of them off pink bike. And then I bought a Doberman, Stella, which was a Canadian brand, I think during downhill bikes. And I bought it they’re still downhill bikes. So I just felt I love the love the feeling of the steel downhill bike, so just fell down. They felt great. And so the obvious thing to make a bike was to start making steel because that’s the easiest thing to get into. But I’ve also always been a lover of steel bikes. So it just it just makes sense. carbon carbon is very difficult to do in your shed. Wherever Steel’s festival.
Right, right. Have you tried building bikes with other materials like titanium or? I mean, I guess that’s a totally different game. But
yeah, I suppose that in terms of welding, the only welding I can do is bracing. So that’s the skills I’ve got. We’ve now got people in the workshop who can take so we could potentially do and he’s done a bit of tiny work. He’s done a bit of stainless work. He’s done aluminium, but we haven’t got the equipment to do that. But yeah, we were looking at other materials. We’re always trying different stuff out, but steel steel is good. Nothing wrong with steel Ray.
Yeah, yeah. Well, you mentioned the right feel, and know, you know, it’s really good for all types of bikes, you know, from, you know, people think of hard tails first, but obviously, you know, Steel’s used for all kinds of bikes, from trail to enduro to downhill. And a lot of people say that, you know, they like steel because it absorbs sort of the trail vibration better than other materials. I want to know, is that true? Like, can the average writer really feel a difference between steel and say, another material like aluminum or titanium?
I think what’s going on is it’s because steel is stronger, and it’s heavier. You can make it with smaller diameter tubes. So I constantly get this thing on my bikes. If I post up an image, somebody comes back and says look at the seatstays there says Get a it’s gonna snap. I’ve never, I’ve never had a seatstay snap, snap, it’s a very, very strong material. So because it’s strong, you end up with small diameter tubes. And those small diameter tubes are more flexible than larger diameter tubes. And it’s a, it’s kind of a, it’s a cubed term or it’s a squared term, the stiffness of aluminium carbon fiber lighter materials, you can get away with bigger diameter tubes, and there’s, there’s always this belief that stiffer is better. So automatically, they go to the bigger diameter tubes, because it gives us an infrastructure for the same for the same way. So I think it’s, it’s not because of the materials themselves, it’s because of the way you use the materials that results in results. So typically, steel frames thin tubes bit more flexible, a bit more giving it aluminium carbon, bigger tubes, bit more stiffness. But there’s there’s also some other behaviors that I haven’t quite got my head around, so hysteresis, hysteresis, hysteresis, which is kind of how materials give back their energy. So I think aluminium and aluminium fatigue and the reason it fatigues is because as you bend it, and you let go some some of the energy is kind of, I don’t know absorbed. And the same with carbon fiber, it’s it’s got lots of fibers as you bend is sort of damps out the. So you lose a bit of energy in the bending of steel and aluminium, aluminium and carbon fiber as you bend it, but okay, whereas steel gives all its energy back, or much higher proportion of its energy back, which, which is the reason you have steel springs, you don’t have aluminium or carbon springs. So that’s what gives steel a little bit of zing, I think, I think that as you as you push it into it, all the energy comes back out. And it sort of gives you a bit of zing a bit of life a bit of feeling about it. Yeah. And then I’ve got keep going some other things as well, the, the small diameter tubes, acoustically are kind of better, if you’ve got a big tube, it can, it can make all the noises, all the rattles in the frame louder. It makes them it’s like a sandbox guitar. So it makes
like a second aluminum baseball that you think about that, like when you hit a ball with that, man, that’s a very distinct sound. And you do hear that on the trail rocks, pinging off of the bike, gay, all sorts of things.
I’ve never had baseball bat, but I use it I use a golf analogy, which is when I play, when I play golf clubs, that tiny little heads now everything’s massive, and the noise they make is awful. It just sounds like something smashing some kind of say, I think that that acoustic element contributes a lot to the ride feeling as well. If your bike sounds silent, if it sounds, you know, if you’re not hearing these awful noises, you feel more confident. And you’ve you’ve sort of believe in it a bit more. So this Yeah, lots of aspects why steel has a bit of life? Or has that a perception that it has some life to the ride compared to other materials?
Yeah, that’s awesome. I’m gonna have to make a mental note of that too, like thinking about sound in terms of ride feel, you know? I mean, yeah, we reviewed bikes and products all the time, and we talk about ride field. But sound I guess there’s something that I never really associated with that. But you’re right. Like that gives the product a feel. I mean, we may not be talking about like, since a retouch, but we’re talking about just sort of the overall like, what do you think about it? What do you feel about the product, and that’s really interesting.
So if you’ve, if you’ve ridden a bike that’s absolutely silent. And then it starts developing a rattle, you almost lose confidence in it. It’s that silence is so important to allow you to concentrate as well. And it’s a mental sport, isn’t it? Cycling really, however good our bikes are, we only go as fast as our brain lets us go. So everything to give us confidence in the bike is important.
super interesting. Well, do you think as it’s applied to mountain bikes, and specifically when you get into like the longer travel bikes, is the material as noticeable? I mean, obviously, you’re gonna have fat tires and suspension, other things that are going to play into that. And can you still feel that that difference between steel and another material?
Yeah, I think he kind of silenced we, we just talked about that. So that’s, that’s an obvious one. But so I talk a lot about when your bikes going in a straight line. And the suspension is acting in the plane of the bike, then you want the bike to be stiff, so the suspension works properly, but it’s not the it’s not the tube diameters that dictate that it’s the the overall depth of the frame. So the frame is 12 inches between takim and downshift. That’s what gives the whole frame is bending stiffness vertically. So you get in that in that, that sort of direction. You want the bike to be stiff, but then when you lean the bike over the bike case is bending sideways. So if you if you put the bike at 45 degree late lean, only half of the suspension for only half of the bump forces are acting to do the suspension, the rest is acting to bend the bike sideways. So if you’ve got a massively stiff bike, it means the bike can’t bend. But as you go around corners, it can mold it can move in the plane of suspension, but not in the other plane. Whereas if you have a bike, which has got a bit of give and a bit of movement to it, it’s almost acting like a sideways suspension. So the more you lean the bike over, the more you want the bike to have that suspension, and I saw somewhere in my crazy head, I’ve got a design for a bike with sideways suspension bends in both planes. Yeah, this, this people saying our Steel’s rubbish because it’s got compliance. So therefore your suspension doesn’t work. It’s rubbish. It’s absolutely rubbish. The steel frame and its hole is plenty stiff enough. But you’ve got this idea of movement going sideways. But you write about the thing, big fat tires do, perhaps did they dominate? I don’t know. I’ve never done that equation. But I think I think when you start looking at deflection in wheels is quite important tires is important. The frame is important. All of these components add up to the whole. Yeah, it’d be interesting to know what what those components are, what, you know, what, what the contributions are, those different things are, but definitely know, any reviews that have been done on my bike always talk about gripping corners. I know gripping Off Camber sections, there’s always something that comes back and yeah, you know, it just feels like it grips.
Yeah, well, I mean, I guess at the at the extreme end of that, though, I mean, like you said, steel is plenty stiff. But you know, say you’re like a cross country writer, somebody who’s more interested in like pedal efficiency is still going to gonna be maybe not as good a choice for that rider or I.
This is this, there’s lots of science in mountain biking, which is intuitively you think, right, it needs to be as stiff as possible, so that I can transmit all my pedal forces. But if you take a step back and look at what’s actually going on it, the science sort of falls apart. So this is this is an example of the stiffness. If the bike is stiff enough that as you push on the pedals, you can generate the full leg force that you want, then it’s stiff enough, making it any stiffer, doesn’t join up doesn’t put any more forces through. If if the if the pedaling forces cause the frame to distort a little bit, but you still can put full force in the frame has to spring back, it doesn’t lose energy, unless it’s losing heat energy. So unless your bike is warming up, you’re not losing any. So there was actually I think it was the bicycle Academy in the UK, like framebuilding center in the UK, somebody did a little study there, where they looked at a very, very flexible road bike, and they looked at, as you press on the pedals, it did cause the frame to distort or bend sideways. But the force coming out the rear wheel was exactly the same compared to a stiff bike. So interesting is this. Not another way of thinking about it is if, say you’re pushing on a floor on a wooden floor, you can push as hard as you want. If you push with your foot on a sponge floor, the sponge moves out of the way you can’t generate the hard force. If you push on a solid steel floor, you probably generate the same force as the wooden floor. So do you need a bike that’s made of wood or bikers made out the solid steel? You just need it to be? You just need it to be stiff enough. You don’t need to be don’t need it to be very stiff.
Yeah, interesting. Well, another thing that I’m curious about is beyond the material. How does the tube shape and even like the bracing within the structure affect the ride feel? I mean, it seems like if you add extra bracing in certain places you’re going to are you going to stiffen up the frame and lose some of those qualities that you want from steel? Or how did those sort of interact?
So I think we kind of answered that saying that in the vertical plane, so the sort of depth of the frame, that’s what gives you a vertical kind of suspension, stiffness, adding in braces and stuff there. Generally you’re doing it because for strength, because you’ve got some kind of weak point, but that won’t affect the overall stiffness of the frame. And that and that then applies to the tubes as well. So if you’ve got oval tubes, it makes no difference to the overall vertical stiffness of the bike because it’s just the distance from the neutral axis I started turning given a load of engineering examples. It doesn’t it doesn’t affect the overall frame stiffness. Okay. Generally why you’ve done things like change, yeah, tube profiles. I don’t think it matters that much. I think even even sideways bending the frame side Ways, it’s just an oval will have the same sideways bending stiffnesses around if it’s the same width, they’re making it a little bit wider. But it’s it’s small bear it’s it’s small changes to profiles for aesthetics, I think braces and any kind of strength for anything like that is for strengthening is just the stop at breaking.
Yeah, interesting. Well your current frame builds most of them, or maybe all of them rely heavily on Reynolds tubing. So why do you? Why do you choose Reynolds over tube stock from maybe other suppliers.
Initially, I actually started using true temperature tubing, which I got from America. And the reason I did that was they had BMX tube sets that were actually in quite long lens, and they had tubing that work for me. But True Temper went bust, I think or they didn’t go bust, but they stopped producing bike tubes. And when I first started off Reynolds, it was quite tricky to get small quantities out of them, and there will be some, they didn’t, I think they’re much better now they’re much better at doing that now. Other brands, Columbus to date to Hga, the Italian one, really only cater for road bikes, they just don’t do a truss. And they don’t do tubes that strong enough or thick enough walls for mountain bikes. They’re just they’re just not strong enough. So I think Reynolds were kind of similar. And as I started producing more and more bikes, they’ve started producing the custom chipsets. And they’re they’re really good at doing that. So they’re very easy to work with. They’re very happily try different things out. And they’ve been really supportive to me and really helpful and the, the quality of their material like the 853 the tree today five three is is the strongest steel sort of carbon steel cheap set out there, I think at the moment. It’s good quality. So yeah, they’ve they’re very supportive. It’s local. We know where their steel comes from the sort of got a bit traceability, which is good.
Yeah, well, you mentioned that you’re able to get some custom tube sets from Reynolds, what does that mean? Like? What are you customizing? Is it? Is it the length? Like do the tubes come kind of pre size to what you need for different parts of the bike? Or is it profiles or both? Or what
kind of thicknesses so yeah, I think my downtube I’ve got my downtube is thicker towards where the main pivot is. And it’s got a slightly slung the longer but so that it butts up nicely against where the main pivot is. So I’ve got more material there, we’ve increased the wall thickness in the center a little bit. And then I think that it’s not one of their fancy DS, Ed B, which is triple butted because we just don’t need that. The top tubes pretty standard, the ctbs are custom bent C tube for me. So it’s got the right bend and shape in it. So it really is yeah, it’s mostly it’s mostly changing the bar profile thicknesses. Yeah, they do that one bench for me.
Yeah, yeah. So I imagine I mean, hearing you say that. Imagine you’re not getting like an eight foot long steel tubing and you’re like chopping it up for the bikes. I mean, if it’s got to been in a specific place, or it’s, you know, wall thicknesses vary in the center or towards the ends, you got to have them all sort of precise. So is that how they come into the shop, they’re already like
you need. So they come in, I think the 858 50 long, something like that. And the butts are in the right position. So they’re thicker at the bottom and the top or one ends on the other and then thin in the middle and the deposition so that all my sizes are framed from small to extra large, can be used on that one bounce SIB I think top tubes, we actually use a couple of different lengths of top tube with different parts. C tubes release we use two different lengths with butts in different places and less wages in different places. So but yeah, they turn up in the workshop and we do minimal kind of chopping off of the ends. Yeah.
Not much waste.
Yeah, I’m curiously what is the cost of tubing like a top tube? How much? How much do you pay for
1000 2000s upon
1000s of dollars?
I’ve just I’ve just, I’ve just given them about 50,000 pounds for tubes. So they’re nickel eggs. They’re surprisingly expensive. Like I think my down sheeps are about 40 pounds. 30 pounds each.
Oh, wow. Yeah, so not cheap. Yeah, I’m sure it all adds up. But I don’t know. I was thinking that one too, would be a few bucks. But that’s, that’s a lot. Yeah.
It’s a very high quality material. It goes through a lot of processing. Yeah, it’s a lot of effort. It’s a lot of steps go and I think there’s quite a good video on the Reynolds website where they show all the steps that they’re going through to produce a tube and it’s like 50 steps for one tube just wow. And what Reynolds stone actually produced the tubes, they buy round stock from a from a supplier in Germany of, of the particular tubing. And they all they do is but it and profile it and he trades. So it’s not Reynolds doesn’t have a foundry in it producing tubes they are they are the factory that turns it turns standard round tubes into final heat treated bicycle tubes.
Yeah, interesting. A lot of steps there that I guess I guess I had never considered. And I’m sure some of our listeners find that interesting as well. So are there certain design considerations that are unique to steel? full suspension frames versus doing hard tails?
Yeah, I suppose yeah, I’ve only really ever made for suspension frames we have we have our hearts out coming out soon. We’ve done we’ve done a couple of commuter fancy commuter bikes, that was just a bit of a design, but they never really sold. So we’ve got a hardtail coming soon, but still, for suspension bike, I suppose your your main design consideration is how are you going to manufacture it because steel is is expensive to get machines compared to aluminium. You’ve generally got straight tubes to bench tubes is quite tricky. How are you? How are you actually going to make this thing? And what processes are you going to use to make it and trying to produce it in a way that keeps costs down? So quite regularly? I’ll get sent a CAD model by some excitable young kid who’s drawn up a bike and I say, Can you can you make me this bike and I go, I can make you that bike. But yeah, that machine is going to cost you 300 pounds. And that bit that you’ve got there, you can’t make you can’t fabricate. So I think carbon lends itself to somebody drawing it up in 3d CAD, and making lots of nice sweeping shapes and getting rid of any sharp angles. And then and then you can design the tooling around it and produce a carbon bike, aluminium, you’re much more open to machining complex shapes. And you can, you can create a whole area for your main pivot and your bottom bracket and all your linkages and stuff. And you can create those more complex shapes. Steel, because it’s hard to machine because it’s because it’s heavy as well, you don’t, you don’t want to use a lot of material, although it’s strong. You can’t machine things too thin, because they start falling over. So the sort of a minimum machining thickness, so inherently adds a little bit of weight to it. So you’ve got to keep things simple, you’ve got to keep things I suppose I tried to make it elegant would be the word I would use. So keep it simple, keep it elegant. And then that lends to a bike that’s efficient and lightweight. And you know, it’s a nice looking bike. So it’s it’s, it’s the manufacturer, and really that dictates what they look like. And I see lots of people doing trying to do complex steel bikes and their IK is one offs. But doing more than more than one or two of them is going to be trouble. It’s going to cost you money, it’s not going to be not going to be a good solution.
Yeah, interesting. Well, and I imagined to with a full suspension. Maybe one difference is, I mean, you’re essentially creating the the front and the rear triangle separately, I guess. Yeah. weld them up separately. And then I mean, you hope that they fit together in the end, right? Yeah.
Yeah, we actually get our swing arms made in Taiwan. So initially, I think at first, maybe 100 frames we were we were making all the swing arms in the UK and the swing arms and white hard. And their standard sizes. So it’s sort of it lends itself to a bigger batch project per production. So a few years ago, I did a batch of 100 frames that were fully Taiwanese made. But that added complications that I had to plan what sizes I need, I could only do one module painting was more tricky. So the fun triangle that now we do six, we do eight or nine different font triangles for the three different bikes, or the three different main bikes and all the different sizes. So it’s it’s quite a large number, but we can just make them to demand whereas the swingarms we only have we only have two swing arms, we have a sweep and a murmur and then the twist, that’s the murmur. The mallet bike uses the 27 swing arm so we can have swing arm sound sat on the shelf, and then we make all the fun triangles to water. So that sort of yeah, that helps us what was the question?
Yeah, yeah, that that answers the question. But speaking of swing arms, why is it that most steel bikes that we see why are they single pivot designs, why not something more, you know, four bar or other designs like that?
I think for this reason that if you It’s, it’s way too inefficient to start machining parts. So generally if you’ve got lots of linkages, so the steel bikes that are more multi pivots tend to have aluminium swingarms and aluminium linkages and stuff, like a linkage rocker arm if you made that up steel, and even if you made it as weight efficient as possible, it would still be much heavier than aluminium. Whereas a bike a nice simple bike front triangle you can make relatively light with with steel is when you when you start doing the machining so that it starts getting weight inefficient.
So yeah, it’s mainly a weight consideration, although
although I should caveat all of that that weight doesn’t matter. Where do I ever bike just doesn’t matter like it does, it does to a certain degree, if you if you bought a 10 kilograms to your bike, it would matter. But whether you’re riding with a full water bottle or an empty water bottle, you don’t notice and that’s, that’s the sort of weight difference between a carbon bike and a steel bike. So people get a bit upset with it, and they get obsessed with it. But it doesn’t matter. It’s your size your legs, and it’s your wheels, how well you will spin and how well how fast your tires roll. And how about your wheels?
Yeah, yeah, interesting. Well, one of the questions that drew was interested to learn about was about some of the design considerations that go into the head to junction on bikes. And specifically, how do you make that stiff enough when, especially when you’re looking at bikes with a really slick fork? And you know, that head tube angle seems like there’s a lot of forces that are involved there. And how do you how do you keep that strong enough, while also keeping the weight of the bike low?
I think it’s less of an issue then you imagine, like we’ve never had any hedge headship failures. So there’s anything BMX is BMX is take all kinds of abuse, and they’re all steel, and they just have two tubes welded onto a thing. So there’s just just just generally no two ways to solve solve the problem. You either put a little doubler, which is a little small gusset, which essentially doubles the thickness of the tube where you think it’s going to fail. And there’s different arguments about where you put it somewhere, I think, I think some of our bikes have gotten them and you’ve got a doubler under the top tube. And after the township, which takes what are the forces after after diagram and work out which force it’s probably the other school of thinking is on on my bikes, I’ve got a gusset between the top tube and the down tube. And what you’ve done essentially is you’ve imagined in IBM and IBM has a top flange and a bottom flange, and then a web that joins it. And the purpose of that web is to wire transfer shear between top and bottom. So instead of having the top tube in both tension and compression, and the bottom tube in both tension and compression, the web between them beans, you put the top tube intention, the bottom cream in compression, you reduce the stresses. So the plate gusset that I’ve got on both sides, almost increases the section locally so that you reduce the stresses, it increases gardening section. So we did I actually did quite a bit of CAD work or sort of Fe work looking at this because people don’t like those gussets because occasionally people design those gussets really badly where they just put a big triangle on. And if you just put a big triangle on, quite often it creates stress raises that then cause the tubes to fail at the end of the gusset. So if you look at my gussets, if you look at my gussets, they’ve got a nice long leg, which means the loads gradually track into the gusset, and then they can be transferred for and then they gradually track their way out. So you’ve you’ve got to have intelligent designer that gusset they do, it’s quite a good solution. It’s quite a good way of reducing the stress.
Yeah, yeah, I was gonna ask about that. And you answered it, you know, using finite element analysis on the designs and figuring out like, where are those stresses going to be concentrated? I mean, I imagine too, though, you know, you could maybe in the old days when people just kind of look at where a bike fails, and then say, oh, yeah, reinforce that. But now it sounds like you’re able to do that.
F Fe is it like my background is now I was an aerospace stress engineer, I’ve done loads of Fe spent years doing it. To me, it’s a marketing tool. It’s what you you, you produce a nice, fancy picture that you can show to the managers and say, Oh, look, we know what we’ve done. Everything needs to be backed up with good engineering knowledge and patent calculations. And an FE model is only as good as the information you put into it. And there’s a lot of people who are taking their CAD models and applying nonsense loads to it and then saying, Oh, look at my bike. It’s great, isn’t it? We’ve done we’ve optimized it. It’s done. A good engineer can tell you when something will break. And that is much more important than then fe. Yes, the same mistakes of getting it wrong. So yeah, the, if it doesn’t look, right, that’s almost more important. If it doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t right. And ethics isn’t going to tell you anything different. Really. Right? Right. Where we used it was in a specific location where we had a problem that we could idealize very simply and understand the behavior. So we took it out as a very simple case. But if we just run the whole bike into fe, you would you would gain nothing from it, it would be right for marketing, good for you. Good for you, your press release. But that’s it. Yeah.
Yeah, well, you bring up a really good point about sort of the data that you load in, and how you’re actually looking at the bike. You know, I studied structural engineering in school. And, you know, this was this was, though, looking at things like bridges or buildings, and it’s like, that’s a static thing. Whereas a bike, I imagine is really complicated, because of just all the different positions, that bike could be a different ways that you’re loading it. And I’m wondering, with your experience in the aircraft industry, I mean, which is harder like to, to analyze, is it? Is it an aircraft wing? Or is it a bike, I mean, which one of those is like more complicated in terms of the forces at play? Yeah,
the big issue is with the forces, it’s on an aeroplane, we were given a load set, you had a whole department dedicated to determining the loads on the aircraft. And that’s based on years and years of experience and refinement and testing. And then those top level aircraft loads, you kind of follow down through the various components and processes and various levels of Fe to understand load transfer and all this stuff. So it’s very, very well understood. And then once you know, the forces acting on something, it’s very easy to analyze it and you can, you can do lots of different levels of analyzing, but loading on a bike is is massively complicated, because all the cases that are causing that loading tend to be strange, dynamic cases, so crashes or big heavy landings or, you know, things that you don’t even predict, you know, and they go around a corner and hitting a rock and then standing on the pedal or, you know, all these weird cases that you can’t predict. And that that data doesn’t really exist, I’m sure the, I’m sure that big companies have got pretty good loading data. But you because there’s so many unknowns, and because it’s so dominated by so an aircraft, you’ve got the air, you’ve got the engines, and you’ve got the the air pressures, and it’s all pretty well understood. The bike loading is dominated by the rider who is moving all over the place, and he’s changing position all the time. So and people ride in different ways. So how do you how do you determine so I, every company, you can do C and testing which sort of sets the bike is the C and testing basically writes it into a wall and does a sort of a better job. And there’s a few other companies now who have developed some better testings company in Germany called afba, you have developed higher level tests, higher level testing that they understand that they’ve sort of proved with more sort of empirical data. But yeah, even then, you’re still relying on proper rider input and riders session. Yeah, I’m quite lucky. I’ve got when I riders, risk is boosted Brady’s called. And not only is he an amazing rider, and he just parks off massive things, but he’s also an absolutely useless mechanic. So he’s the perfect, it’s the perfect bike test. It doesn’t really look after his bike. And he rides it really hard. So we know that survived him. Pretty good. So yes, is that that loading thing is so difficult to understand. And even when they start loading up bicycles with lots of sensors and stuff, you only you’re only understanding sort of basic, the basic accelerations on the bike, you probably don’t understand how the geometry is changing. So it’s a it’s a much more complex loading situation than there is on an aeroplane.
Yeah, interesting. I always find it fascinating to like the connection between the aerospace industry and bikes. And, you know, I mean, I think even from the early days, right, the Wright brothers, they, they owned a bike shop. Okay, yeah.
Okay. What you find is, I don’t know I most mountain bikers seem to come from some kind of engineering backgrounds are they sort of their tinkerers? They like the whole having a bike that need to fill in with it’s something they enjoy, whereas road bikers tend to be, I don’t know many mountain bikers who are doctors or lawyers, lots and lots and lots of mountain bikers who are engineers or carpenters or join us or Well, you know, there you go.
It’s such an interesting sort of technical challenge. I mean, if we think about bikes, you know, I mean, they have to be light, but they also have to perform. And you know, same with airplanes, right? I mean, you got to make them as light as possible, but you need them to be as strong as possible. Yeah. And you don’t even see that with cars necessarily, right. Like, there’s not always a big push. I mean, maybe with electrics now, but you know, there hasn’t traditionally been a big push to like, we really have to get this thing right and use the right materials and all that to really optimize it. So
yeah, I think I think cars are fundamentally designed for manufacture, everything is about manufacturing. And you could save a few grams, but nobody cares. The has to be able to produce 10,000 of them in an hour, which is crazy. But bikes do get either. And I think I think I’d be a bit cynical here about carbon bikes that my I think the reason why there’s so many carbon bikes is there’s a perceived they are, you know, the material in itself is, if used properly is a lighter weight is for a given strength or stronger for a given weight. So it’s going to hide specific strength. But when it’s used in bicycles, I think everything’s massively over built. And if you actually have a look at a lot of carbon frames, they’re not that much lighter, until you get to the very, very top end rode bikes, but then they cost you huge amounts of money. What’s what’s good about what I think is good for manufacturers of carbon fiber is that it’s unskilled manufacturing in assembling once you’ve spent all the money on tooling and a process, you can get anybody to you can get anybody just to shove the carbon fiber into a tool, follow a process, press go at the end cook it it comes out. Whereas so what you see is lots of the carbon bikes are manufactured in China, where labor rates are cheaper and labor is less skilled, more of the welded bikes are made in Taiwan, where they’re made by skilled skilled welders who have got lots of experience. And so for big Mr. bike manufacturer, it’s almost the McDonald’s of bikes carbon fiber, once you’ve got the process, right, and you’ve got it, you’ve got the process under control. And that is a difficult thing. I’m not I’m not taking anything away from that. It’s a very easy way to produce lots of bikes are perceived high value compared to aluminium or steel, where it’s a high skilled job, you’ve got to pay high wages producing across country. Anyway, bit a bit of controversy there.
Well, no, yeah, the way you describe it to its sounds like it is maybe more akin to the auto manufacturing model, where you can sort of standardize it and, and use different labor inputs to get it done and kind of a different, different way to go. Well, let’s get back to sort of talking about how you design steal bikes. So why do some bikes like the murmur? The murmur trail, specifically need a brace between the top tube and the C tube.
So that that actually isn’t the murmur trail that is just the XL bike. So it’s nothing Oh, just
the extra large.
Okay, yeah, it’s just, it’s just that the image on the website of that moment trail is of an XL. So what was on the XL bike, if you have the top tube, moving up proportionally, as it would with the other sizes, the bike looks like a bit of a game. So the the XL actually has the top tube at the same position as the large bike, but then a longer seat tube. And because the seat tube sticking out a bit further, you need a little brace to support it. So it’s kind of driven by aesthetics, it just big frames just don’t look that good. They look a bit better if you get the angles looking nicer if you drop that
looks a bit interesting. Yeah, so is that stand over height, then that’s kind of dictating that. Keep the top tube at the same position,
nice metrics, it just doesn’t look as nice people, people with long legs don’t need top two clearance, they’d be they’d be fine with the touch up in the high position, but it just, it just looks bad.
So another question I have is how you’re able to dial in bottom bracket stiffness when building with steel. Again, this is a spot I guess where? I don’t know I would imagine you could feel that more when you’re pedaling because pedaling is kind of side to side right like you’re gonna maybe potentially feel some of that twist in the frame. So what can you do to dial in the bottom bracket stiffness there or does it even matter?
I think even matters it goes back to what we were saying before. You still get all those forces out so I don’t think it matters I’ve never I’ve never even thought about it. It’s never comment I’ve had back is that my bikes feel flexible wealth whilst pedaling it. Yeah, I get it with I supplied middleware and cranks with my bikes, which are UK manufactured. And they’re, they’re these the most beautiful kind of aesthetic, tactile things in the world. But people always look at them and go, Oh, they’re too skinny, they bend and they just don’t, they just don’t, it’s, it’s this, it’s back to this whole pseudo science thing, oh, it has to be as stiff as possible, we want everything as big as possible. And in reality, it doesn’t matter really doesn’t matter. So it’s just, it’s just that we we intuitively think of stiffness, we need it to be stiff, so pedals better, we don’t really step back and think about does it actually matter?
Yeah. Well, I mean, you mentioned too, though, how aesthetics does drive some of the decisions. And it’s not always about, you know, making it strong or strong enough. Sometimes it just has to look right to people. And I think with carbon to mean, you, like you said, a lot of those bikes are overbuilt. And, you know, in that case, it’s not like a look or anything that people are going for. It’s really riders, you know, for years, just didn’t trust it. I mean, they were afraid that like this, it looks like it’s gonna break is too late. It feels plasticky. But yeah, I mean, I guess in a lot of ways, we’re not not really rational, when it comes to our bikes are we like, we just kind of look at them, and we form a judgment.
But that’s I think that’s I think that’s actually really important, I think aesthetics is, is really important, because it kind of goes back to, with our bikes were way more capable than we are, unless you’re very, very top level, our bikes are massively capable, what what makes what is your what’s the best run you’ve ever had, it’s when it’s when you focus, isn’t it, it’s when you’re absolutely in the zone, you get to the bottom, and you’re like, you almost don’t know how it’s happened. But you know, you’ve, you’ve seen down. So a lot of that is confidence in your bike. So if your bike looks good, and you’re standing there looking at it, that is really important. Now, it’s really important to how well you ride. And whereas if you look at it, and it’s, you know, the angles look funny, and you don’t like the look of it, you’re not going to have any confidence. So you’re not going to be willing to, you know, push into the corners and really, really drive it in. So it’s really important aesthetics, it’s yeah, it’s key, I think.
Yeah, well, and I think part of the takeaway for me is to trust the bike designers, right? I mean, you’ve done the analysis, and whether I think it looks like it’s going to be strong or not. That’s, you know, maybe not that important. I mean, bikes do fail, but it’s pretty rare. So I think, yeah, maybe we could all do better to just trust that the bike has been designed and to give it a ride. Let’s see how it actually does feel.
It’s not in the interest of bike companies to have bikes that break it would be the company, the failures are so highlighted these days, it’s you know, it’s just, you wouldn’t have a company. If your bikes didn’t last the word gets around. So quick and quiet. People do have quite a lot of warranty issues, but they tend to be non catastrophic stuff, then they tend to be little persnickety things. And I think customers are quite accepting of that. But you think yeah, there. Yeah. And we have certification testing to ensure there aren’t going to be big failures. Yeah, I think yeah, they’re pretty good things.
Yeah. Well, with all the recent supply chain disruptions, I’m curious to know how that’s affected your frame business. You know, on the one hand, it seems like maybe you’re in a good position because you kind of build frames, you know, as the orders come in sizing and that kind of thing. But on the other hand, I imagine it’s hard to get supplies so so what what’s it like right now,
in terms of building frames, we’re pretty good. We can get all the materials we need to build frames, so we can do that. And in the past, we’ve sold typically a frame maybe a shark maybe the odd for you know, a few odds build components and we’ve had good supplier parts. As as times gone on, because people can’t buy components elsewhere. People are kept requesting more and more for belts and you’re really struggling so we’re pretty good. We’ve got shocks, we’ve got dropper posts, we’ve got wheels, we’ve got handlebars, and stems and all the build kit parts. Breaks we’ve got good supply of forks is really tricky. We’re struggling to get hold of forks, drive trains is really hard. So So those two parts we’ve reef and what its meaning is I’m having to spend more money stocking up and building up my stock, then I’ve got them whereas in the past I could order much later you know, I could be more profitable but now I’m having to put in big orders for less range of parts just so I get them and I’ve gotten so it’s really hard. It’s it’s The big peak we saw last year when everybody was buying bikes. And I think every bike company went through it is now turning into a lot of pain. And there’s this other issues with. So I say my swing arms come from Taiwan, there’s been a bit of delay and slip there because of I think, because COVID and just demand, but the shipping costs is absolutely, man. So now so the cost of getting a shipping container is it’s gone up five or six times. And I know, I know, some brands that I’ve been speaking to selling lower cost frames or lower cost bikes where the increase in the shipping is all of their profit. So they’re they’re basically just filling warehouses in China and Taiwan with bikes that they can’t afford to ship because they would make their money on them. Right. So it’s really tricky.
Yeah, interesting. Well, I’m surprised to see that a lot of companies in that specific position aren’t raising their prices. Yeah. I mean, do you feel that from consumers that they there would be a lot of pushback? If you did have to raise your prices?
I think I it’s difficult, you don’t want to do it. So people don’t want to do it. And I suppose there was, I think about six months ago, everybody went through a price rate a price increase there, sort of a few companies did it and then everybody followed suit. I think there was another one do. But nobody’s been brave enough to do it yet. But as soon as as soon as one, as soon as one company puts their prices up, I think everyone will, because the costs of everything are going up. For everything is going up. So yeah, well,
I think it seems like bikes perhaps are more effective than other things, you know, that we’re used to buying in that, like you’re saying it, there’s so many components that go into a bike build, and you could have every part except for one. And it’s not a bike. And so to get all of those lined up and to have all of them delivered and available. It seems like it’s a nightmare, and hopefully something that’s going to be resolved soon.
Yeah, I think he’s getting resolved. I don’t think it’s getting resolved. So I think it is affecting, I think it’s affecting everything. I know you’re talking about golf, somebody I was speaking to, we certainly can’t buy golf clubs, golf clubs and golf clubs at the moment, because of supply issues. It’s affecting everything at the moment. It’s just we know about bikes. So we’re just we’re just paying attention to bikes. Right. Right. But in terms of in terms of when it’s going to get resolved. But you know, I think so, Shimano, I’ve got a new factory on that they’re building, haven’t they? But that’s a couple of years away. So yeah. Demand has gone up, supply has gone down, people are stockpiling people are hanging on to bits, you know, like 12 Speed chains. There’s no 12 Speed chains in the country. So Oh, wow. If if trust me chains turn off. Everyone’s just gonna buy loads of them. Because they’d be worried about it. So everyone’s just stockpiling stuff. Which conch? which just adds to everything even more. So speed bikes.
Cheese. Yeah, that’s, that’s hard to get your head around how Yeah, interwoven. All of this is and how many different things need to get fixed to get things moving again? Well, one interesting component to a lot of people alternative to the traditional drive train is the gearbox. And Starling has a gearbox driven model, the spur that we wrote about several weeks ago, and it was super popular with our readers. So I’m curious to know what you’re hearing about from people who maybe bought the bike and then other people who saw it, and they’re just like, wow, this thing thing looks really interesting.
I suppose to begin with, nobody’s bought it yet, because we’re just making the first batch. So that was that was okay. We’ll be we’ll be setting you as the press release for the production batch. So we’ve got we’ve got a couple of prototypes riding around one that’s been written around by someone in South Wales for a couple of years, and I’ve had one for 18 months. Okay, so they ride gradient, we’ve, you know, we’ve had no issues with them. So it’s, it’s, it’s a great product, but yeah, it’ll be interesting to see how they’re received by by customers. So hopefully, they’ll go out towards the end of the year, and that’ll be really interesting. Yes, sir. Yes. It’s a gearbox is a great thing. A derailleur is a terrible thing on a bike, but they do work pretty well. And they have they have gotten better as time has gone on like they were 10 years ago. They barely lasted five seconds and they were constantly getting knocked off and they’d never worked quite properly. They are pretty good. Now I’ve got to say, but the benefits of the gearbox in that everything’s a bit more robust, its maintenance is zero. Pretty much Do you change the oil once every six months? With bike design, I think it helps quite a lot. So with my with the FAA system, you can have a sort of highest pivot, you can have a single speed chain with the same with the same chain line, which means that one’s a lot better. You’ve got rid of a whole load of master the rear wheel. So the suspension is absolutely amazing. It’s so subtle is the rear wheel is so light. So there’s lots of other knock on benefits on top of just having a gearbox. But there is a little bit of a negative that at the moment, there is a little bit of drag in the system. So it it’s great. And it’s a sort of up and down bike or slowly winching up the hills and plummeting down or actually going up technical climbs, it’s absolutely amazing. Because the rear wheel is so light, it just grips. But you wouldn’t want it as a cross country bike, you wouldn’t want it as a sort of bike to ride loads and loads of miles on. But maybe that’ll come maybe maybe they will develop but I don’t think there’s any incentive for the big players to to develop a gearbox really?
Yeah. Interesting. Yeah. So yeah, you think this is this is never going to be something that gets like really wide adoption is just an alternative for people who maybe have value, kind of what the gearbox offers over derailleur.
So I just think, Mister Mister Shimano building his new factory, unless he’s building his new factory to build gearboxes, which I doubt because he would have approached, you know, there’s no, there’s a massive amount of investment to change over your production. And I know they’ve done it with the bikes and stuff. But that’s a bit more of a certain market, they’ve probably got more confidence. So the gearboxes will probably only be adopted by mountain bikers, and commuters and commuters. They’ve got hub gears, they’re not too fussed about it. So you could argue in row. It’s a relatively small market compared to I don’t know, I’m not Mr. Sramana. I’m not Mr. CERAM. I don’t know what’s going through their heads. But to me, it’s it’s a high risk. No unlikely, unlikely to accept that risk until they noticed definite benefits. And
yeah, yeah, I mean, it seems like there’s always a lot of interest from writers. And like I said, our readers especially were like, wow, gearbox, but then at the end of the day, now, it doesn’t seem like people actually end up putting one on their bikes. And yeah, just trying to figure out what the disconnect is, is it? Is it just the novelty of it that people are interested in? Or is it something that they’re like waiting for some big improvement, to see where like, it finally makes sense, or they’re able to get over that hump?
It’d be it’d be interesting to see when these when these bikes go out, because I love mine, but I ride it. I know, 30% of the time. And 50% of the way I’ll probably I’ll probably ride my single speed tapes and the time, that’s brilliant, I ride my murmur, which is my sort of trail bike a third of the time, and I ride the gearbox bike a third of the time, it’s, but if I know I’m going out for four hour ride, three hour ride, I wouldn’t take the gearbox bike, but I’m going for a couple of hours to ride some downhills and, you know, write some technical stuff, I’d say the gearbox bike. So it’s not everyone seems to have one bike that does it. Oh, well, it’s not. It’s not that it’s just an extra to add to your arsenal, I suppose. But it’ll be interesting to see what the feedback from customers is. And some people will love it. Some people will will not get on with it. Yeah, yeah. It’s tricky. It’s tricky. Interesting. But yeah, it’s uh,
yeah. Well, speaking of another interesting development, what are your thoughts on the rising popularity of mixed wheel bikes?
Yeah, yeah, Malik Malik is, you know, I’ve, I’ve kind of, I’ve kind of convinced myself that the science of wheel size that there’s, there’s no difference in people talk about bigger wheels have a better rollover. And if you actually look at 29 compared to a 27, and you imagine like a 50 mil bump 50 mil height bump, two inch I bump. where it hits the wheel, there’s there’s negligible change in the angular, here’s the wheel up. So when you start getting to bigger we have lumps that are close to the axle, it does matter. But that’s not rollover. That’s, that’s something else you’ve got a pull up. So I don’t think it affects rollover, acceleration, it actually doesn’t affect acceleration because although the bigger wheel is, is bigger, it’s actually rotates slower because it’s bigger and it rotates proportionally slower. So the amount of it spinning energy, it’s actually the same between different size wheels. So there’s no acceleration. The only difference is the wheel is bigger. So overall, it weighs more but that in terms of bike plus ride away is timing. So that doesn’t matter. People say they should stick your thing are bigger tires, I’ve got a bigger contact patch. And this this is the one that winds me up the most contact patch is only a function of the pressure In the tire, so the pressure times the area is the force that supports the riders weight. So a three and a three inch tire with 20 psi has got exactly the same contact patch as a one inch tire with 20 psi. And it’s got nothing to do and a 29 inch or 27, it makes no difference to the contact patch. So yeah, that one’s right, that one drives me mad because it’s really simple science. But everyone goes or fat fat, I’ve got bigger contact patch, they haven’t, it’s just that a flat tire, you can run a lower pressure, because it’s got more volume to it. So that’s, that’s what it’s a bit more suspension. So you don’t work the rims, but the, the thing I’ve kind of concluded about the wheels is the bigger wheels have got more gyroscopic stability, as the wheel is spinning is its tendency to stay in plane to stay rotating in that same plane, that property is a function of the radius squared. So a bigger weigh over 29 will be proportionally greater than 27 and a half. So what it means is, as you ride along, the wheel is sort of less likely to get knocked off line and you can you can feel it when you ride a 29 inch bike, you have to put more effort into leaning the bike over feel like it needs more effort. But then once it’s leant over, it’s more stable, and it sits there. So 29 So the first thing I felt when I read it 2019 Was I could do a two wheel drift absolutely amazing because it was just so stable in that that two wheel drift position and just sorrow, but then it’s harder to move around. So if you were the sort of person able to do a big whip off a jumper 29 is gonna be hard, because you’ve got to, it’s more of that gyroscopic stability. So if you’re the thing I tried to say to people, if you’re somebody who likes to hop and jump off, you know, just continually changing line always hopping over routes, always moving their bike around, always flicking it left or right. You don’t want a 29 inch bike, you want a smaller wheeled bike, and I suppose like a bit of x, which gets really maneuverable, the big wheel bikes aren’t maneuverable, but they track and they carry speed and their imagine riding the bigger wheels into a rock garden, the wheel isn’t going to get kicked off line. So it’s carrying more forward momentum. So that’s the, that’s the perceived rollover is that it doesn’t get kicked off line, it just keeps going straight. So if you sort of follow that logic through a mallet bike sort of makes sense that you’ve got the front wheel, which is the one that steers and the one that tracks through, which is the big stable one. And then the rear one, which can be moved around, it doesn’t matter. It just follows so and the smaller rear wheel allows shorter stays, which people seem to like for a bit of pop a bit of maneuverability. But to me it’s it’s not, it’s not a golden ticket. A mallet bike is just the halfway point between a 29 and a 27. So yeah, you know, it doesn’t it’s not that this is a 20 or 29 is eight out of 10 and 29 is six out of 10 and 27 is five out of 10 and a mullet is 10 out of 10 it’s just went through the two you know anyone’s saying it’s it’s you know, it’s it’s magic or anything I just don’t believe it. It’s just it’s just a little bit different. Some people know the biggest benefit is probably people with short legs who robbed their tire on a 29 inch bike on their bum on a 29 inch bike. That’s a that’s a definite positive to it. Yeah.
Again, if you’re somebody Yeah, I It’s halfway house. We we’re doing a we’ve got hardtail coming soon. And that’s going to be a month at Hearthstone for for hardtail. It kind of makes sense that it allows us to have slightly shorter stays. And to me the point of a hard time is for fun. It’s not for racing and for go fast. It’s for having fun on. So the money kind of makes sense on that bike that you’ve you’ve got the shorter back end, but you’ve got the bigger way that fun for a little bit of stability. But
yeah, yeah, interesting. What is the is designing a bike like that more difficult like in terms of the geometry and stuff because it is using different wheel sizes and you have sort of different axle positions from set.
So for all my bikes are actually designed so that the bottom bracket main pivot shockmount seat tube, that whole central area is identical on all my bikes. So the 29 inch bike so the head tube is really the only thing that moves on the fork the front so for a bigger biped tube moves forward for a longer fork or 29 versus 27 He moves up so you just move in their head to position relative to everything else. The same happens at the back if you want to run a 27 inch wheel you just need to drop the the axle a little bit and move it in and make it a little bit shorter. So The only difference between my two swing arms is the axial position. So the the 27th one is 19 mil lower than the 29 inch one, and it’s 10 mil shorter. So it really should be it’s very, very simple but what’s what’s happened is a load of brands have to have decided mullets, the thing to be about is the golden ticket and they tried to bond your money into their, into their existing bikes. And because they don’t want to change their swing arm design or their swing arms aren’t interchangeable. They’ve started fiddling with linkages and because that’s the cheap bit to change. And what what made me Deborah Rankin what made me very angry was when mullets first appeared, and everyone said, are Melissa Gray, because you’ve dropped your bottom bracket and you’ve made it you’ve made it lower and you’ve made it or slacker? I was like, no, no, that’s, that’s a bad mallet. That’s where you’ve basically cut the geometry up to put the wrong size where the bike? Where’s all my bikes are the geometry isn’t compromised by different wheel sizes. Yeah. And then, one other point, I’ll keep keep, keep going. Did you say Did you see the video we did about the Telem. I did not watch set up. I think it’s on YouTube. Or it’s on the side of Starling talent te ll un. So that was a an April Fool’s we did where we essentially build a reverse mother. So that’s very simple for us to do. We took a we took a sweep front triangle and a murmur, rear triangle, and they all go together. So we had 29 inch rear 27 front. And my whole story was my logic I explained for was totally wrong. I was just following. I was just following the trends. What’s better is that your your front wheel is really maneuverable. And you could move it around and put it in different places. And then the rear wheel just tracks through doesn’t have the rear wheel, you don’t put the input it just follows through. And this reverse mode, which was an April Fool’s Day, an April Fool’s joke actually ended right. A writer wrote rode really well, it was really nice to ride. So yeah, I think I think, yeah, you can apply you can submit it online, apply some kind of logic to make anything seem.
Right. Yeah. Yeah. It sounds like a believable story for sure. Well, you mentioned the hard tail that’s coming. And then you’re working to get the new sperm models out the door. What else is next for Starling cycles? Are there any steel e bikes in your future? Perhaps?
Yeah, so we have a prototype steel ebike. So there was a there’s a video on EMB n at the moment where Steve Jones as reviewing the bike working with a new motor company, UK based motor company called freefly. So we’ve got one prototype. It’s got quite a small battery in it. But that was just to do with the steel cubes. We’ve got. So we’re working on a second prototype at the moment, a bigger battery in there. But it’s yes, lovely. It’s Jack drive. So if you like my stern, it’s in a downhill bike with a jack shaft to the light, the left hand drive cranks up to a up to a shaft it so it’s the same as that pipe ever shaft? One certainly travel. So that hopefully will be coming coming for your sales second prototype, and then we shouldn’t know that far from production really? So yeah, still.
Yeah, it seems like that would be really challenging. I mean, I guess that’s why I’m surprised is, is that you don’t have the tube shapes, maybe that kind of limits, where you can put batteries and things and the motor and all of that. I mean, I guess you can design around the motor. But yes, is the battery sort of more of a challenge
the motor. So this free flow, this free flow of motor just sits in essentially in a large bottom bracket. So it’s it’s 120 mil bottom bracket, so it’s just a big cylinder. But they’ve now got a sort of clamshell type of arrangement. But it’s very simple to integrate that into bikes. The battery, the first prototype, we were putting the battery inside the balance sheet, but once you start getting to large diameter, steel tubes, the wall thickness goes up. So while our steel downtube weighed about three pounds, it won’t say we’d now go into a solution with an external battery. And then some kind of we’re trying to sign a structure around that to look nicer, potentially sort of maybe a motorbike type chassis or we’re looking at kind of a carbon guard to protect it. And then the removable battery is quite good because it means you can either just put a spare in your pack or you just where we ride you just park at the bottom of the hill and go up and down to just go to the bottom and slap a new battery in. So it’s yeah, it’s looking quite good. It’s quite it’s quite exciting. When nothing go to an ebike ebikes are the bikes are out selling other bikes. That’s if I didn’t have an E bike. It’s a risk risk to the company right?
Yeah, yeah. Well, that’s cool. Yeah, surprising, but yeah, fast. stating that you’re able to take steel and to do all these different things that yeah, you know, maybe it seems like the bike industry moved past that a long time ago, right? Like they kind of decided that’s old technology with steel. But you and with Starling are able to show that it’s super applicable and adaptable, and works for all kinds of bikes. And that’s, that’s really exciting.
I think, I think the, I suppose I’ve been quite lucky that when I’ve started making bikes, you know, steel used to be the bike the material to make bikes from and then aluminium came along, and then and then carbon and steel have sort of dropped off the back. But then people have started not liking carbon for various reasons. You know, it’s it’s not as tough if you get any bits bonded in fall out, if it gets takes a big dent, and you lose any confidence in it. Environmentally, it’s pretty disastrous as well. And so I think steel is sort of making a bit of a comeback. And I’d be lucky that I’ve appeared at the right time. But people are starting to feel negatively about carbon and steel, it’s then had the opportunity to rise again, really, you know, I think if I tried to start styling 10 years ago, nothing would have failed terribly, but you’re just typing down
quite good. Yeah. Fascinating. Well, Joe, thanks so much for taking the time to chat. I learned a ton about steel bikes, and I’m really excited to see what else you guys have in store. So thank you.
Yeah, thank you. So hope I haven’t ran into much.
Well, you can find out more see pictures of some of the bikes we’re talking about, and connect with the Joe at Starling. cycles.com. So we’ve got this week. We’ll talk to you again next week.
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Jeff, I saulte your journalistic incentive and subject choices. Please, however, don’t fall deeper into the trap of letting voice-to-text devices or computers edit your work. I am certain you are a much better writer than the seriously flawed prceding interview would suggest. Not crtical of you, just the direction media has been heading in since technology took over our world.
Thanks for the feedback. Considering how long it takes to manually transcribe podcast interviews (hours) we’re really left with just two choices: automatic transcription or no transcript at all. Given those choices, I’d love to know which one folks prefer. Personally I find the automatic ones really helpful for grabbing useful info quickly but yeah, reading it word for word can be painful.
Automatic transcripts will only be used for podcast interviews, and never for feature stories. By their nature podcast interviews are more casual and offer a very different format than an article, and one is not meant to be a substitute for the other.
Clearly Automatic Transcript is better than no transcript at all . . . Thank you for responding.