I met a company representative at Eurobike this year that couldn't tell me the most basic features of their new bike and had the technical understanding of a walnut. Sad, really, and not the first time I found myself in this kind of situation. Stefan Laile is definitely not one of those people. When he starts talking, your mind has to shift into overdrive just to follow his most basic thoughts on suspension and really, all things bike. And just like that, ideas turn into a real-world bike - the UHP-FR V2.
UHP stands for Ultra High Pivot, FR for Freeride because of the extra travel and V2, because a quick & dirty first concept already exists, but a second attempt at it saw quite a few things changed in the end.
The work on the concept bike started about a year ago and for a month now Stefan has been riding his titanium prototype, trying to get answers in the real world that no other bike out there was able to give him. It's only natural that many of the features are custom-tailored to his size and the way he thinks it should handle.
Stefan does not work in the bike industry professionally but he considers himself a tinkerer who runs a blog as a hobby without profit. He didn't go to university, rather attending a Realschule (a type of intermediate secondary school) and getting a degree as a metal cutting mechanic with an additional education as a technician and a specialty in engineering. With a perfect grade average, the now 32-year-old could have gone on to study more but decided against it due to various reasons at the time.
Today, he works as a Tool & Fixtures Designer at a small business in Friedrichshafen for a living. Having access to a large tool shop with turning lathe, milling machine and testing bench at home helps with his endeavors and he does kinematics construction in Linkage X3, CAD construction with Fusion 360, readouts of air shocks in IOG_calc (his own calculation software) and force-travel measurements of rear shocks.
In his blog insanityofgravity.blogspot.com
- which unfortunately is only written in German (although you can use Google translator to turn it into English and get an idea) - he looks at various bike companies' kinematics, helps to tune shocks, questions design decisions (and offers suggestions) and even takes apart some answers by Pinkbike staff regarding suspension, that we might have to reevaluate.
Most noticeably, his bike uses a really high pivot design, which in itself isn't really new. However, compared to some large-scale manufacturers, who have to abide by derailleur manufacturers' maximum cage movement, he does have other options. For others, only 27 mm maximum of rear center lengthening during travel is possible but his number sits at 77 mm - this feature alone should answer the question of whether this project bike was something that could be turned into a mass-produced bike easily. So, we're looking at a massive rear wheel axle path movement, which has been achieved by placing the main pivot ahead of the bottom bracket and in quite a high spot. The bike's high anti-rise value sits between 170 to 180 percent within the SAG area.
The reason why he chose to go for a giant-size pulley is more out of practicality than anything else. It was easier to just buy a 28-tooth chainring with SRAM direct mount, rather than having to machine an expensive prototype, but the large-size pulley can also distribute loads well. The bike's anti-squat comes to about 190 percent, depending on the gear used. In his opinion, this is the best-calculated compromise to keep the rear end stable when you need to accelerate hard in some trail sections or transfers.
In another study, Stefan wants to test the effects of a floating disc brake system with his design. The mounts already sit on the side of his seat tube and it's just a matter of time when he gets to it.
Travel measures 183 mm vertically at the rear, combined with a 190 mm travel RockShox Zeb out front and the shock length measures 240 x 75 mm. After taking apart, looking at and tuning different manufacturer's shocks, he picked Intend's Hover for his own bike since it allows him to set up the negative chamber the way he thinks it should be done generally, which is a whole other topic of discussion in itself.
An effective seat angle of 80 degrees ended up feeling a tad too steep for him in the end. That's why he pushed back his saddle slightly and feels that 78.5 degrees could be the sweet spot, if ever there should be another concept bike.
Since Stefan is rather tall at 192 cm, he picked a reach of 510 mm. A standout design trait is the extra-long steer tube length (160 mm), ending in a stack height of 688 mm. He wanted to experiment with a higher front and feels more comfortable and secure with this setup. The titanium frame without shock weighs 4.1 kg and the total weight of the bike comes to about 17 kg.
Mounts for testing a floating brake system with the design in the future.
Manufactured in China, the titanium frame in combination with a pragmatically chosen parts spec (including a few lucky sale opportunities) came to a bit over €6,000 in cost. Considering the amount of money you could invest in a bike out there, that's not the worst way to spend your cash on a unique ride.
It'll be interesting to see what we will see from Stefan Laile in the future, or if his one-off is going to remain a one-off. He tells us that his head is full of other ideas that he'd like to turn into reality, suggests that this won't be the last time we'll get to cover some insanityofgravity.