In my experience, adding more people to the creative process simply adds more problems. The Cal Poly Bike Builders club may have proven me wrong. Their steel framed downhill bike is so far, my favorite from the North American Handmade Bicycle Show.
My first compliment is that the team designed the bike with relatively slender tube diameters. Steel's density is too great to allow for excess in the name of fashion. Modern builders who have grown up with fat-aluminum or carbon pipes typically overbuild their frames because they "look right." I also liked the box section swingarm reinforcements. I would have gone even lighter, but the concept is well executed. The design is intelligent and the team didn't fall prey to the steel-is-real idealism. They used aluminum in places, like the rocker arms, where steel simply isn't the right choice.
Chris Fedor, the team's manufacturing point man, credited project leader Shaw Hughes for the DH bike concept. Fedor said they took on the hardest project that they believed the team could complete over the school year. The design was decided upon, and then ferreted out using CAD
programs that you or I could only dream to afford.
The build was then divided among the club, who acted as subcontractors on the job. They split up, programmed CNC machines, fabricated the bits and, ultimately, everything fell together when the time came for welding and assembly. No doubt there were a few glitches along the way, but you'd never know it by looking at the completed bike. Well done, Cal Poly Bike Builders.