Devinci manufactures a lot of bikes in their factory in Chicoutimi Quebec and myself and Ambrose were there to learn about the whole process that happens from concept in CAD to boxed bike on its way to your local bike shop. This is part one of our tour and we'll be looking at the concept process where a bike is created on the designer's computer, then to prototyping it, testing prototypes in the test bench area as well as information on Devinci's instrumented bike that they created to gather valuable information for creating the best bikes they can. We'll also be going for a lunch time ride with a bunch of the employees as they enjoy the great XC trails just outside the factory door.
Videos, pictures and information inside:
Neither of us had much of an idea of what to expect once we pulled into Chicoutimi for our factory tour. Sure I’ve seen pictures of factories in Asia and even been to really small frame builder operations in western Canada, but this was my first factory tour where we’d see every step of the process that goes into mass producing mid range to higher end bikes. Both Ambrose and I were pretty excited to check the whole thing out.
First we met with Maxime Lamirande and David Bourque who would be our primary tour guides and at times our interpreters. We wanted to start at the very beginning of how a frame comes about so they took us to Michel Giroux.
David Regnier Bourque
Michel Giroux is the Mechanical Designer at Devinci bikes and he's been with the company for 16 years. Initially hired as a machinist, Michel eventually got into R&D as well as frame design and is now the head frame designer for all of Devinci's bikes in the line up. He's got a lot of pressure on his shoulders to create bikes that folks like you and me will want to buy and ride.
We were able to sit down and talk to him about the whole design process and how models come into existence from idea, to a CAD to prototypes. I was happy to hear that it all starts with us the consumers and our needs. Yep dealers see trends and needs in their markets and they tell their bike suppliers about these needs. This is the beginning and then it is up to Michel to interpret the wants and needs of the consumers and he sets to work on creating a new bike of making refinements to existing model to make it work better for the market as a whole.
Interview with Michel Giroux:
From basic ideas to complex thinking, it all goes into Michel's computer and then onto his screen. When creating bikes for such a variety of riders, one has to be on it in terms of covering all their bases and from what I saw he's got this process down to a fine science. Once Michel has a working CAD prototype, then the prototype gets virtually tested and that is where the test engineer comes in.
The man behind the CADs that bring you the bikes
Michel works very closely with Philip Maltais who is the test engineer on all the bikes so that the end result is the strongest, lightest and safest bike for you and me. He works with the data acquisition system on the instrumented bikes to create virtual testing results. Once the virtual tests are good it's time to test the real thing the test bench area.
Interview with Philip Maltais:
Fatigue testing a chainstay from a Wilson frame set:
Philip Maltais is the primary Test Engineer and has been with Devinci for 6 years and is in charge of the test bench area. All testing is based on the information gathered from the instrumented bike that Devinci created back in 2002 and the data that was gathered during it's 1.5 years of use. Instrumented bikes are used to gather "real world" data that a computer simply can't recreate. Electronic sensors are placed in strategic spots on the bikes and they are then all plugged into the special data acquisition system back pack.
They even had instrumented pedals to learn about stresses there:
With all the data that is gathered Philip is able to set up the fatigue test lab and recreate years worth of simulated riding in a matter of hours. The test lab can replicate 5 years of pedaling related forces in just 8-9 hours . (These rates are based on intensive mountain use: 20km/h average speed, 2500 km a year with a 180 pound rider). Philip reviews all the information that the test bench generates so that Devinci knows exactly what is going on at all times with their products.
They take everything to the point of failure when testing
Small parts test bench
Test Bench poster
Things being tested for poster
Devinci also uses the test lab to run their own testing on all the components that they run on their bikes. So you can be sure that all the bikes that they are selling have components on them that have passed their own in house testing.
It was really nice to see how extensive the R&D process is, from creating a virtual design, to testing that design in FEA (Finite Elements Analysis) some 8-10 times and then creating a real prototype which will get tested in the test bench to make sure it passes and then out to test riders for any final revisions. Once the frame has passed all these steps, then it is deemed safe and ready for you and I to ride.
Speaking of riding, a lot of the workers at Devinci like to enjoy their lunch hours out on the local trails ripping it up on their XC and AM bikes. With trails just outside the factory, I was stoked to get out for a spin with them. Alexdre Boutin, Caroline, Michel Giroux, Maxime Lamirande and David Bourque all showed Ambrose and I around the local city maintained trail network.
Lunch time group rides
Michel making a climb:
Alexandre making the climb:
David going up
David coming down
Thanks for the ride!
I was really impressed with the local XC trail network that they have in the town of Chicoutimi and the fact that they are fully maintained by the city. Ambrose and I really enjoyed the difference in terrain versus the west coast XC riding, as even out there we found sections difficult to get through. Once again it was nice to go riding with workers that make and ride the bikes they build.
Part 2 of the factory tour will cover the whole process of building a frame, from tubes, to welding, to heat treating, to painting and final assembly. Check back in a few days for that.