Had a great visit from the folks at The Path Less Pedaled yesterday. They did up a nice little interview/shop tour video with yours truly. If you've ever wondered what the inside of Bantam Bicycle Works World Headquarters looks like, or what Bob's favorite tool is, give it a looksee:
So, I normally do not like to criticize other bicycle maker's (designer's, fabricator's, framebuilder's) work. But every once in a while I run into something so appalling that I feel it's part of my civic duty to the bicycling community to speak up about it.
I took in a Kinn bike the other day for a repair. Kinn was a small production brand out of Portland, OR (now out of business). They designed a bike meant as a 'midtail' cargo bike/family transportation. Not a terrible idea for a bike. Somewhere between a regular bike and a long tail cargo bike (hence the midtail monicker).
The bike originally came in because the kickstand plate had had experienced a lot of rust and eventually torn off. The owner thought the problem originated from the fact that there wasn't any drain holes in the BB shell and the seat tube had filled with water. While this is a huge problem on it's own (I'll do a write up on drain hole theory later...), the seat tube didn't even have a hole into the BB shell. The corrosion problems around the kickstand plate were all external, due to water pooling up on top of the plate and getting in under the powder coat where the joint wasn't welded all the way around. Not a particularly great design feature in itself, but also by far not the most concerning thing going on with the bike.
As I was stripping the bike down to do the work on it, I noticed something going on with the fork. There was a 1/8" deep groove worn into the back of the steerer tube about an inch above the crown race. This is pretty much exactly at the most stressed point of the entire bike frame (the top of the fork crown where it meets the steering column). Any damage to the fork there can easily cause catastrophic failure. As in you hit a pothole, the fork separates into two pieces, and the rider hitting the ground face first. If you're really into seeing pictures of people's faces that had their noses ground off by the pavement, do a Google search for what happens when your fork breaks on you... And this is even more concerning because the Kinn bikes were meant to also carry children as well. I don't even want to think about what happens to the kid in this situation.
So it immediately occurred to me to figure out what had caused the fork damage. Had to have been something inside the headtube rubbing on the steerer. CORRECTION: According to Todd from Clever Cycles (the shop that sold the bike) the pointy thing inside the headtube was meant to be part of a fork locking system, see Todd's comment down below. (The good folks at Clever are in the process of contacting all owners of the Kinn bikes they sold, to have their bikes checked out. Thanks for your effort in keeping people safe!). [MY ORIGINAL TEXT: A quick inspection revealed that there was an attempt at using a carbon brush as an electrical grounding contact for a taillight between the frame and fork up in the HT at just the spot where the groove is. This ill conceived design feature is similar to something they used to do on high end French rando bikes back in the day. However on the old French bikes they would braze a contact plate to the steerer for the carbon brush to rub onto, and they would use a wide, flat brush to spread the contact point out. This was all to prevent damage to the fork. On the Kinn frame the brush is small and pointy and rubs directly onto the steerer.] Over the two years the owner of the bike has had it (it was bought new), there developed significant damage to the steering column. Enough to where I would say without a doubt that it could cause the fork to fail and the rider(s) to be injured, possibly fatally. I was so concerned that I filed a Consumer Product Safety Commission report about it. Hopefully that will have some traction and word will get out to bike shops and Kinn owners, and they will have their bikes checked out. This definitely deserves a recall IMO.
Now what does this have to do with bike design and why people who aren't bicycle designers shouldn't design bicycles?
I would say that the guy who designed the KInn bikes had a decent idea. Mid-sized cargo bike. Smaller and lighter than a typical cargo bike. You could even throw it on the front rack of a bus to expand your biking range with public transit. Pretty good idea. Now, the part where it all fails IHMO is that he didn't have anything resembling adequate experience to safely design the bike himself. Would you trust someone without any experience in designing buildings to safely design you an apartment complex? Would you trust someone without experience to design you a car? A bridge? I wouldn't think so. You would want someone with years of experience. Someone who knows intricately everything that goes into the design process.
What makes bicycles different? (Especially bicycles meant to have children as passengers). There are plenty of fly-by-night bike makers out there that throw their name up on a website and BOOM! people assume that they are knowledgable and capable to design and build them a good and safe bicycle. Definitely not true, see case in point. In the current age, ideas and marketing seem to speak more to people than experience and knowhow. In the bicycle world it's hard to not be swayed by a smart idea, a sexy website, and fancy paint schemes.
But really, what people should be looking at is how many years experience does the framebuilder or designer have? What is their track record of failed products? Can they actually do what they say they can do? Should you place your trust in them or not? At least in the case of Kinn Bikes, I would think not.
*Please note that the fabrication of the Kinn Bikes frame was done by Zen Fabrications in Portland, OR. The fork is a Surly Disc Trucker fork that has been repainted to match the frame. To all appearances the actual fabrication of the frame and fork was done well. The failure here is in the design of the bike.
The first of five Adventurebikes that are getting a full build from Bantam Bicycle Works World Headquarters (BBWWHQ?) is ready to roll out the door. With a bunch of high quality and reliable parts from Paul Comp, White Ind, Cane Creek, DT Swiss, and more. Amazing paint by Colorworks in a sandy yellow and black decals with a matte finish. Topped off with a custom stem and custom front rack built here at BBWWHQ. It's not hard to imagine the adventures that will be had with this bike...
A recent Bantam Adventurebike customer sent me this the other day. Always great to know that the bikes I make are actually out there getting used to do the things they were designed to do. (Great video too, totally worth a looksee) :
I'm not trying to brag about my video production skills, and don't expect you to spend 10 minutes of your life watching this. I just wanted you to understand a little more completely, how much I am enjoying this bike. You don't make bicycle frames, you make joy.
Adventurebikes are rolling out the door just as soon as they come back from the painter's. Already one down in TX. One headed up to SEA next week. This guy however is destined to not leave it's hometown (except on adventures, of course...). It's all done up in lemon meringue, with a semi-custom front adventurerack and a handcut headbadge inspired by the iconic Knorr chicken bouillon packaging. 650b plus (or 27.5+ if you will) tires to roll over just about anything that'll get in the way of searching out that perfect backcountry campsite. Super stoked to see these things headed off to their homes. Can't wait to see where they will go...
(insert sad emoji face here)
Yup, it's about that time of the year again. Reassessing our expenditures and income. And, as per usual, things have gotten more expensive than they were a year ago. Shipping costs, rent on the workshop space, utilities, materials, tooling, etc... So we will be increasing our prices in a couple of weeks. A bit more than we did last year. But we are confident that what we will be charging is well worth it. You're looking at better paint options and better material selection, with the same great customer service and attention to detail that people have come to expect from Bantam Bicycle Works.
But, we'd like to give y'all fair warning. If anyone out there is on the fence about buying a new frameset and would like to get in before things get more expensive, you have until the end of February to put down a deposit. Give us a call. Shoot us an email. We'd be happy to talk with you.
The second Bantam tandem to roll out of the shop is nearly ready to go. While I may have built quite a number of bicycles built for two at a previous job I had, most of the work that's come out of the Bantam shop since we opened have been single rider bikes. I am glad to have the opportunity to make another tandem.
They are a bit more of a design challenge than a single bike. The geometry doesn't transfer very well from singles to tandems. There are changes that needs to happen to account for the longer wheelbase and increased weight on the wheels. And there are more than twice as many joints on a tandem than on a single. So much more mitering and fitting and welding.
But the end effect is really nice, and well worth the effort IMO. Especially if it means that there is one more happy tendeming couple out there in the world enjoying their bike.
This one comes equipped for disc brakes, room for 26x2.25" tires, a mite rear end, S&S couplers for ease of travel, front and rear derailleurs, racks, fenders, a custom made segmented fork, and more water bottle mounts than you can shake stick at. We'll posting pics of it all paintered up soon.
Okay folks. Been kicking this one around for awhile now. We've built quite a number of bikes in this style over the last year or so. There seems to be a lot of interest. So let's make the official announcement:
Bantam Bicycle Works will be doing it's inaugural run of Allroad bike frames for delivery in 2017.
Think of it as a chubby tired sport touring bike. Or a rando bike that been bred to ride on both nicely paved and subpar road surfaces. Or perhaps roads that are well above par. Especially if the roads that you like to ride on take you far off the beaten track. Maybe a little less well maintained, maybe gravel, maybe a road that hasn't seen the likes of a motor vehicle in years. This is the bike that will open up so many possibilities of where you can go.
Or, maybe you'll want it for your daily commute to work, because it will make your everyday that much awesomer. Light, nimble and fast, this bike will add joy to any ride.
While this is not a new concept as a type of bicycle. Think of the old Bridgestone XO-1's from back in the day. And more recently touted by some folks up in Seattle (who may be producing some of the nicest tires for Allroad bikes out there). But we here at Bantam Bicycle Works feel like we have it nailed down. We think that you will feel the same.
Rando-gravel geometry, optimized for wide supple tires. Low trail front end, with the idea that if you are going to be carrying stuff with you, you'll most likely be loading up the front before the rear. Spry and nimble with or without a load.
Each frameset will be custom sized, and the tubing specially select for the customer.
TIG welded construction.
Clearance for 26x2.3" or 650x48b tires. They're real close to being the same diameter. So switching between won't affect your geometry and handling significantly. (You certainly could run a different tire size than these, but we're not making any promises of how well it might work).
Disc brakes, ISO mounts, front and rear. Lowmount disc dropouts in the back. Cable stops and guides for mechanical disc brakes as standard (see options, down below).
Spacing for a 100mm front hub and 135mm rear hub, standard quick releases.
Head tube and fork for a 1.125" threadless headset (straight steerer).
68mm threaded bottom bracket shell.
Uni-crown, straight blade fork.
Bosses for three water bottle cages on the frame (two inside the main triangle, one under the down tube).
Eyelets for racks (front and rear) and fenders (at the dropouts and at the bridges).
Will take a 30mm seat post clamp, and a 27.2mm seat post.
Single color powder coat (any color you'd like), with sprayed on decals and clear coat.
Housing guides for hydraulic brake lines (no extra charge).
Additional rack mounts, front and/or rear (+$50/pr).
Reinforced wire ports for running taillight wires internally (+$25).
Metal head badge (+$50).
We can also do custom racks and stems (additional charge, cost depending on design).
Parts for your new bike. We are happy to provide you with a partial or full build kit for your bike at a reasonable cost (definitely an additional charge).
The how to buy one:
So, one of these framesets will put you back $1500. If you want to get on board, we'll be taking non-refundable deposits of $750 to get you into the queue. We'll be taking deposits until the end of January 2017 for this run of frames. We are currently looking at delivery in early 2018. Space is limited, due to our production capacity, so there are only going to be eight available spots in this batch.
Thanks, and we are looking forward to hearing from you.
Very tall (biggest one yet, 70cm!!!) and done up in a great shade of blue with a little sparkle to it and gold decals. Full sized porteur rack powder coated to match. Fenders striped with gold as well. And a rooster's head headbadge to top things off. I really love the little touches that bring everything together. Can't wait to see this as a built up bike, it's going to be nice.
On a recent project, the customer charged me with making a bike that I would be excited about riding when I was his age. Admittedly he does have a couple of years on me. But we are very very close to riding the same size frame. He had even bought an old bike that I had made for myself back in my Bilenky days, then subsequently sold, which was then sold again. It's now on it's third paint job, and still gets ridden regularly.
What we came up with was an Allroad type bike. Disc brakes and clearances for both 650x47b and 26x2.3" tires (as pictured), with fenders. Thinner gauge, small diameter tubing to keep the ride nice and supple. A PCD MTB crown (RIP) for a little sex appeal. Sunburst yellow powder with matching stem and sparkly purple decals. Throw on mounting points for some Nitto mini-racks and you've got yourself a fun little bike that's ready to go just about anywhere.
So yeah, If 60 year old me just got this bike, I'd be stoked.
A good portion of the custom bikes that we've been making lately have been some variation or another on the Allroad type of bike. Geometry based on a rando or touring or road bike, but with more voluminous tires (chubby 650b or 26" sizes). For folks looking for a spirited, performance oriented ride that's capable of going places your typical road bike would shiver at thought of.
Currently working on the first of four of this kind of bike in the queue. It's a smaller sized frame with disc brakes, which will allow the use of either 26x2.3" (Rat Trap Pass) or 650x48b (Switchback Hill) tires (with the corresponding wheels of course). No big deal, the wheels have the same outside diameter, just have to make sure we've got enough clearance at the chainstays and fork crown.
Wondering what the interest would be for doing up a small run of these sometime next year. A half dozen or so bikes, all with more limited options in terms of wheel size/steerer/fork/brake type choice. But offered at a lower price point and with a quicker turn around time. (Although still with custom sizing and tube sets tailored to each individual, of course). If any of you out there in internetland have any interest in such a thing, let me know. And if enough folks think they might go for it, we'll make an official announcement sometime soon.
Contact us here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Back from powder and ready to go. This guy got done up in Prismatic Powders Troll Blue (Didn't know trolls where blue, always thought they were green...) with sprayed on decals in plum (trolls' favorite food). We had another special request for a headbadge, this one going with a cat theme.
With capacity for 29x2.00 tires with full fenders, disc brakes, wire ports for generator lights, a cat's head headbadge, and all the braze-ons you'd ever need, this will be one super awesome adventuring machine.
Just wrapped up possibly the largest frameset I've ever worked on. A 70cm porteur bike, with a custom made front rack. (I've built a couple of 69's but this, I believe is the first time that we've breached that mark to 70). The bike looks proportionate to a lot of the other bikes I've made using 650b or 26" wheels, but this little guy is running 700x38c tires and full fenders.
As always, I'm excited to get somebody out there riding on a bike that will fit them properly. I realize how few options there are out there for folks on the outsides of the bell curve of people sizes. But, we here at Bantam Bicycle World Headquarters are happy to help get you on a bike that will fit you well.
More pics coming soon of this one with some color on...
Finally got this one all ready to roll. It's a lugged travel ready 650b touring bike that will pack down into a non-oversized case for easy airline travel. (No excessive baggage fees here!). A nice build kit of tried and true components: Velocity Dyad rims, Schmidt dyno hub, B&M lights, Compass centerpull brakes, racks from Tubus and Compass, SKS fenders (sometimes metal fenders just aren't the right choice, plastic fenders are far easier to pack in the case), Sugino cranks, and a Shimano drivetrain.
A bike like this is designed to take you places in style and comfort. Honestly, I get a little jealous when bikes like this go out the door. It makes me dream of those perfect days on the road, when things are a lot simpler. When all there is to do is camp, eat, ride, and watch the beautiful scenery roll by at 12 miles an hour...
Wrapped up another project. This one's an off-road capable touring rig. TIG welded and designed to fit 700x50c tires, with disc brakes and a full compliment of braze-ons for all the necessary racks and fenders and bolt on bits. The standout here, though, is the custom made stem. It's a bullmoose style threadless stem matched up to a set of moto handlebars. Just gives everything the right amount of panache to make this bike super awesome.
Chocolatey brown with gold decals. The finish on the fillets came out looking spectacular, if I do say so myself. Custom cut goat headbadge, as requested by the customer. Clearances for 27.5x2.25" tires. Thru axles front and rear. Slider dropouts for versatility. And to top it all off, some custom fabricated accessories: stem, decaleur, and front rack with removable lowriders. One sexy sexy looking bike.
But in my humble opinion, none of that is the important part. The important things are that the frameset is well fabricated, it'll fit the customer like a custom tailored suit, and that it is designed to do the things that he wants it to do.
Even with all the different kinds of production bicycles out there these days, there is still a niche for custom built bikes. Bikes that do something a little bit different, fit a little bit better, please the eye just a little more. Bikes that appease the need to stand out from the crowd a little. Bikes that will take you just that much further off the beaten path than anything else out there...
Keeping at it. Nearly done at this point. Only have to double check the alignment on the forks. And then we can put them to bed. (Or send them off to the powder coater as it may be).
Funny to think that my production this month has been more than what I did in my first year open for business. Not that I wasn't putting in the same number of hours, but I've become so much more efficient in my process. Better tooling and less figuring shit out will do that for you.
Be posting some pics of the completed frames soon.