Steel Tubing Work

December 1st, 2009 by Rob Vandermark

In this evening’s Collaborative meeting we dug into, among other items, steel tubing.  Tubing is a big topic so we couldn’t cover all aspects in one meeting—it’ll probably take about 100 meetings.

Tubing is an important aspect because, among other reasons, it is the primary influencer of the bike’s ride characteristics.  So, we’ll probably end up spending more time and energy working on the Collaborative’s tube set than most other aspects of the bike.

Seven Cycles’ Mike Salvatore is managing the tubing aspect of the Collaborative.  So, during the meeting he helped run us through some of the facets of steel tubing, including:

  • Selection options for luggable steel bicycle tubing:  I’ll post details of this in the next journal entry.  The options are a surprising.
  • Tube butting process:  We’re going to run some tests in-house, on Thursday, to butt the tubing ourselves.  No easy task.
  • Material strength overview:  We spent a good portion of the meeting discussing steel tubing options and how material strength plays a factor in the options available.  More on this later.
  • Engineering aspects of tube diameter and tube wall thickness:  And even some ways in which tube butting influences durability and ride characteristics.
  • Steel tube alloy options:  We discussed the properties of everything from the popular “cromoly” to the most exotic micro alloys to the more recent efforts of stainless steel.

Lots to cover later.

Why A Lugged Frame? #23

December 1st, 2009 by Rob Vandermark

Working on this lugged frame project has reminded me of one of the valuable lessons I learned in school:  I don’t learn well if a topic is theoretical—with no real world application in the immediate term.  But, I learn pretty well when I see how a topic connects to the world around me.  I’ve also learned that many people have this same learning challenge as me.

So, on this project, for the first time, I’m really understanding the attraction of lugged construction in a way that I couldn’t when I was just a spectator of the build method.  I’m hearing this from a lot of my Collaborative teammates, too.

Deconstructing each element of the frame through lugged eyes has been enlightening.  This artificially forced lens provides a view that we would not have if we didn’t choose lugged construction and one of the project directives.  For example, if we chose a TIG welded frame as a directive, I’m fairly certain that our embedded assumptions caused by 20+ years for building more than 40,000 frames would preclude us from seeing frame building with new eyes.

So, while a lugged frame project may seem off kilter for Seven Cycles, it’s perfect for the Collaborative’s learning directive.

Step: Basic Research

November 27th, 2009 by Rob Vandermark

Research BooksIn my experience, research is not a particularly fun job for most people.  Oddly, I really enjoy research of all kinds.

For most, the product design stage is a lot more fun, even the testing phase can be a lot of fun—particularly if the test involves test riding.  But, basic research is often a bit of snooze for “kids these days”—this MTV generation loves to get to the end point as fast as possible:  destination is all; the journey is a bit like bad wrapping paper.

It’s true that research takes a lot of time and can be frustrating; there’s no simple, clear, and universally correct way to do fundamental research. Often the way forward is a series of dead-ends and mistakes; and, more often than not, the results of research do not lead to a new product or process.

Fortunately, a lot of learning goes on during the mistakes and missteps.  In fact, isn’t that how most learning occurs? At least, that’s what I tell myself when I’m making my moment by moment mistakes.

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Happy Thanksgiving

November 26th, 2009 by Rob Vandermark
Giving of thanks with donuts

Giving of thanks with donuts

From then Seven Cycles Collaborative:  Happy Thanksgiving—or happiness during whatever you do on this likely day off.

Not much happening on the Collaborative today, other than eating.

The customary thank-you-giving in the Seven Cycles universe often includes donuts—and an occasional beer.  These donuts are from yesterday—some employees brought in multiple boxes of donuts.  Lots for which to be thankful.

Fork Design: Step One

November 25th, 2009 by Rob Vandermark

As this project progresses, the bike’s fork has been coming up more and more.  It’s become clear that we can’t work on the frame design without the fork getting in the way.  Here is a super brief summary of how we ended up talking fork design.

First, we discussed, “What is a frame?” Many people, including the team at Seven Cycles, consider a frame to include a fork—often referred to as a “frameset”.  Seven feels strongly enough about this idea that we have been building our own carbon fiber forks for many years.  We tailor the fork for the frame.  So, on this Collaborative project, it was an easy conclusion to reach—we’ll make a fork to match the lugged steel frame.  Easy conclusions can be dangerous because easy and right are so often at opposite ends of the decision scale.

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Why Fatigue Testing?

November 25th, 2009 by Rob Vandermark
Seven's fatigue testing machine

Seven's fatigue testing machine

What’s the deal with all this talk about fatigue testing?  Why has Seven Cycles brought this topic up a few times already in the Collaborative journal?  Who cares?

I’ll provide a few quick reasons why testing for Seven is so important:

  • Barely any bike companies or suppliers do fatigue testing
  • Proof?  Try a Google search
  • It takes a lot of time and tenacity
  • Everything is subordinate to safety

First Up:  Barely Any Bike Companies Do Fatigue Testing

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Brazing Clinic

November 24th, 2009 by Rob Vandermark
Brazing the first lug at the clinic

Brazing the first lug at the clinic

This evening we had our brazing clinic at Seven Cycles.  I have video that I’m trying to get posted but it’s being a drag.  So, just a couple photos for now.

During the meeting we reviewed some of the elements on which we’re focusing—see the previous post—and then we watched Yoshi Nishikawa braze a frame joint.  Yoshi’s done a lot of lugged steel brazing over the years so he was a good person to watch.  And Tim Delaney was the commentator—with 30 years of brazing under his belt—so he was perfect for explaining what was going on.  There was a lot going on during brazing so it was impossible to cover all the bases in one clinic.

Throughout the Collaborative it’s been fun to have this large group of people with very different backgrounds.  A great example of this diversity was in the brazing clinic.  We had lots of questions, ranging from, “Why would we use one brazing alloy over another alloy?” to, “What’s flux?” We’ll try to answer those questions at some point.

Explaining how the process works is possible in a few short words.  At a very high level, here are the steps:

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Elements of a Lugged Frame Joint

November 23rd, 2009 by Rob Vandermark

A brazing station

A brazing station

Just as we deconstructed a typical lugged steel frame last week, we’ve started deconstructing each element of a lugged joint. The primary aspects on which we’re studying include:

  • The Lug: including type, shape, material, finish, tolerances, etc.
  • The Tube: material alloy, surface finish, diameter, wall, etc.
  • The Brazing Material: including alloy, base metal, and material preparation
  • The Surface: including preparation, treatment, surface grain, etc.
  • The Flux: what type, environmental factors, application, timing, etc.
  • The Process: including elements of time, temperature, mixture, fixture, etc.
  • Environmental Elements: including temperature, humidity, circulation, etc.
  • Component’s Interfaces: tolerances, cleanliness, etc.
  • Artisan Variables: inherent variability of the individual one-at-a-time process we do

Tonight we’re going to do an overview clinic and then tomorrow we’re onto diving into each element of the above. Bringing a snorkel. I’ll post the testing matrix soon.

Tonight we’re going to do an overview clinic and then tomorrow we’re onto diving into each element of the above. Bringing a snorkel. I’ll post the testing matrix soon.as we deconstructed a typical lugged steel frame last week, we’ve started deconstructing each element of a lugged joint.  The primary aspects on which we’re studying include:
The Lug:  including type, shape, material, finish, tolerances, etc.
The Tube:  material alloy, surface finish, diameter, wall, etc.
The Brazing Material:  including alloy, base metal, and material preparation
The Surface:  including preparation, treatment, surface grain, etc.
The Flux:  what type, environmental factors, application, timing, etc.
The Process:  including elements of time, temperature, mixture, fixture, etc.
Environmental Elements:  including temperature, humidity, circulation, etc.
Components Interfaces:  tolerances, cleanliness, etc.
Artisan Variables:  inherent variability of the individual one-at-a-time process we do
Tonight we’re going to do an overview clinic and then tomorrow we’re onto diving into each element of the above.  Bringing a snorkel.  I’ll post the testing matrix soonJust as we deconstructed a typical lugged steel frame last week, we’ve started deconstructing each element of a lugged joint.  The primary aspects on which we’re studying include:
The Lug:  including type, shape, material, finish, tolerances, etc.
The Tube:  material alloy, surface finish, diameter, wall, etc.
The Brazing Material:  including alloy, base metal, and material preparation
The Surface:  including preparation, treatment, surface grain, etc.
The Flux:  what type, environmental factors, application, timing, etc.
The Process:  including elements of time, temperature, mixture, fixture, etc.
Environmental Elements:  including temperature, humidity, circulation, etc.
Components Interfaces:  tolerances, cleanliness, etc.
Artisan Variables:  inherent variability of the individual one-at-a-time process we do
Tonight we’re going to do an overview clinic and then tomorrow we’re onto diving into each element of the above.  Bringing a snorkel.  I’ll post the testing matrix soon.

Lug Testing Research

November 22nd, 2009 by Rob Vandermark
Lots of interesting lugged construction articles--from the 80s.

Lots of interesting lugged construction articles--from the 80s.

I’ve been digging through all my old articles and periodicals for anything that relates to lugged frame construction.   It’s been a while since I read through it all.   Some of the best data I’ve been able to find is from the late 1980s.   Some of the other Colabbers are digging up old articles, too.

In the 100+ pages of reading I haven’t found any good fatigue testing data for lugged steel frame construction.  We’re not done searching but I’m starting to have doubts.  If you’ve seen any, let me know.

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From Open Book Management to Open Workbook

November 20th, 2009 by Rob Vandermark
Now, if someone could just explain all this to me, that'd be great.

Now, if someone could just explain all this to me, that'd be great.

Over the years we’ve done a lot of open book management with the Seven Cycles team.  Even to this day we have an average of six meetings each month where we discuss the business—in all aspects—with every employee at Seven.

When we started this project, having an open book system was so ingrained in our thinking that it was a basic assumption or the CoLab.  We’ve already discussed topics ranging from the cost of labor and materials for a steel frame, the cost of all our meetings, and even the cost of tooling—whether repurposed or not.

Following the “open” state of mind, we also discussed two other “Open” concepts, one of which was an idea we’re calling an open workbook.

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