Robot Bike Co. surprised the mountain bike world when this machine debuted in May. The R160 features carbon tubes bonded into printed titanium lugs, made-to-measure geometry, Dave Weagle's latest suspension incarnation, and a hefty £4395 price tag - for the frame. I had an R160 built to my desired shape, size and purpose this summer and have been giving it a thrashing. Construction and Details
• Intended use: Enduro, thrashing
• Rear wheel travel: 160mm
• 3D additive manufactured titanium lugs
• Carbon fiber tubes
• Dave Weagle DW6 suspension design
• Custom geometry
• Wheel size: 27.5''
• Internal cable routing
• 73mm threaded bottom bracket
• ISCG 05 chain guide tabs
• Raw carbon and raw Ti finish
• Lifetime Guarantee
• Frame Weight: 3046 grams with RockShox Monarch Plus shock.
• Frame MSRP: £4395
We took a First Look at the Robot Bike Co R160
back in May at the stunning Renishaw Innovation Centre in Gloucestershire, UK. Head back in time to that article and to the Robot Bike Co website
to get all the devilish details about the construction of this bespoke machine.
Only want the basics? Here you go: a crazy computer program that likes to make airplane parts in its spare time calculates exactly the shapes and sizes of the lugs for your desired frame. Somebody presses the big red PRINT button (it probably says 'Commence Additive Manufacturing'
as these engineer types don't like the 'print'
word) and 48 hours later, a plate full of lugs pops out of the same machine that normally makes titanium face rebuild kits
for unlucky customers. The lugs are cleaned up then head an hour up the road to Monmouth, where the Robot guys cut the threads and finish machine the titanium bits, and then prepare the carbon tubes to make the frame. Tubes are bonded into the lugs, bearings pressed in, the linkage is bolted on and voila, your custom frame is born.
The Robot adheres to current norms, like a tapered head tube, internal cable routing, and ISCG tabs but resists some forced fashions. They have chosen a threaded, 73mm bottom bracket, as they say they are not happy with using press fit units (mainly creaking). Also, they have stuck to 142mm rear-hub spacing, as they see no real world benefit of wider, boost hubs for standard 27.5" wheels. Conveniently, as every bike is built to order, Robot are free to choose new standards and sizing, as and when they please, if a customer needs a particular change, that can be discussed. My bike featured this handy brake hose clip, but this has been replaced by a standard cable tie guide for the future.
The unidirectional fiber, aerospace-grade, Mitsubishi-Rayon carbon tubes are manufactured New Zealand and cut to length at Robot HQ. After cutting, they are bonded into 25mm deep double-lap shear joints This means the titanium contacts the tubes internally and externally, and is bonded to both surfaces. Robot believes that this makes nearly indestructible joint, and a bike that has infinite fatigue life,
backed up by a lifetime guarantee. You can read more about the carbon tubing here
.Geometry and Customization
Robot's standard geometry for this 160mm enduro/trail bike sees a 65.5º head angle, 73.5º seat angle, 430mm chainstays, and a -10mm bottom bracket drop. Frame sizes are calculated after you input your height, arm-span, and inseam into the 'geometry engine' on the web site. Robot says that their geometry from the calculator should suit 90% of riders who are interested in enduro or trail riding. The feel should be playful and its correct fit and suspension design should make a difference over an off-the-peg bike. Don't want to trust the calculator? Robot will also build one up exactly to your specifications.
Customization is a huge selling point in the mountain bike industry, so when offered the chance to shape a custom frame, of course I took it. I'm not going to lie, the numbers are very close to a Nicolai GeoMetron. Why? Partly because that is my favorite handling bike for the type of riding I do, which is usually a massive pedal up a mountain, followed by racing down techy or downhill style tracks to the bottom. Secondly, I was scared to go crazy, as the printed titanium, carbon and price tag made me extra cautious not to royally F this opportunity up. The only real differences from the GeoMetron were that I went for a slightly higher bottom bracket for better pedal clearance and I chose a longer chainstay. My R160's numbers were: a 63.5º head angle, a 77º seat angle, 450mm chainstays, a 510mm reach, and the wheelbase worked out to 1300mm using a 160mm RockShox Lyrik fork. Suspension
Robot Bike didn't want to skimp on suspension design, so they went straight to their preferred source of knowledge: Dave Weagle. Robot asked for certain characteristics and Weagle wove it into the kinematics using a six-bar linkage he coined the "DW6 Link." The shock is driven by a seat-tube mounted rocker that is driven by a Horst-Link type seat stay with a dropout pivot located in front of the rear axle. The chainstay/swingarm is connected to the frame by two small links instead of a single pivot location above the bottom bracket.
I chatted to Weagle about the linkage design, and he was coy about his real-world numbers of anti-squat and braking action. As far as I can deduce, the system gives a high anti-squat number until the sag point which drops away as the travel progresses. Anti-rise/brake squat is above neutral, meaning the bike will squat a little under braking, but not a massive amount. The linkage is very progressive and has plenty of bottom-out resistance which should work well with a large-volume air shock as well as coil-shocks.Three Questions With Dave Weagle: Suspension ManPaul Aston: Can you give us a run through of the basics of the DW6 suspension linkage? How much anti-squat, anti-rise and progression is built into the bike, and why do you think they fit the purpose of a 160mm travel bike? Dave Weagle:
It's a pure dw-link, with anti-squat, braking-squat, etc.... squarely in the levels that have made that design so popular. The main reason for the linkage design was to support the unique challenges of building a configurable suspension for a 3D printed titanium lugged bike that's designed to be tailored to each unique rider's wants/needs. The DW6 design makes it comparatively easy to tailor things like chainstay length, leverage ratio, etc... all independently of one another - while still maintaining the dw-link pedaling and braking characteristics. My favorite thing about this bike is that it will give us the opportunity to learn and adapt nearly every aspect of the suspension and geometry as we learn more about how riders interface with their bespoke machines. There are no molds to amortize, so we're free to make updates and improvements as we see fit. That's pretty unique and awesome in my book, and definitely a great challenge and opportunity as a designer.Aston: After the first couple of rides on the Robot, the suspension felt very progressive, which I loved. I was surprised to find there were no volume spacers in the Debonair shock's air can. It felt similar to other bikes with the same shock but packed with red bands. It also felt like there was a lot of anti-squat in the first portion of the travel. Is this much progression and anti-squat something that Robot asked for, or something you thought should be designed into the linkage? Weagle:
Progressivity wise, it's not exactly an outlier. For example, the Pivot Firebird is another dw-link long-travel enduro class bike that's very close in overall progression. Anti-squat-wise, the difference between the R160 and most dw-links of the last 5 years is negligible. Keep in mind that the R160 is designed to be tailor built, and your particular bike has some extremely unique geometry, forcing you to ride much farther over the front than most production bikes. So, making a direct comparison between your bike, and something else is difficult, as your frame geometry, and therefore riding position and how you are actually interfacing the bike is quite different than anyone reading this.Aston: Are there any major differences between DW links on other similar bikes like the Pivot Firebird, Ibis Mojo, or the Devinci Spartan with it's Split Pivot system? Are we likely to see the DW6 appearing on any other bikes in the future? Weagle:
I'd say that the R160 and Firebird are cut from the same cloth, and designed as coil-over adept enduro race-bikes, where the HD3 kind of splits the difference between trail and race duties, with an air spring as its primary design. But, directly comparing the particular R160 that you are riding with other bikes, primarily due to it's massively long stays and front end - is kind of a challenge. The geometry change on its own will make the bikes feel very different for a host of reasons. As for whether we'll see more DW6 bikes? I think so!
Robot doesn't offer any off-the-shelf complete bikes. Like their frames, they want to build what you like. Buy a frameset and build it yourself, or work with Robot on your dream build. They can supply nearly anything you desire.
My bike arrived heavily laden with SRAM components: a RockShox Lyrik fork and Monarch Debonair Plus shock (they also provided a Fox Float X2 shock), 125mm Stealth Reverb dropper post, XO1 11-speed drivetrain, Guide Ultimate brakes, Roam 60 carbon wheelset and finished it with a Renthal cockpit. The complete R160 weighed a smidge under 29lbs / 12.76kg when it arrived. After I added Superstar flat pedals, a pair of Huck Norris tire inserts and added more tubeless sealant, it's fighting weight was spot on 30.00lbs / 13.59 kgs. My custom R160 bike would set you back £8500, or around $10750 USD.
|Every time I have either looked at it, opened the van to see it lying there, or prepared to swing my leg over it, I thought, 'this thing is cool as f**k!'|
Before I even rode the 'Bot, and consequently, every time I have either looked at it, opened the van to see it lying there, or prepared to swing my leg over it, I thought, "this thing is cool as f**k!"
Only one other bike compares in terms of "f**k me, my bike looks rad as f**k, and I am about to go and shred the living f**k out of this f**king cool as f**k bike,"
and that was the raw finish, belt-driven Cavalerie Anakin
I tested last year. That feeling is a great way to commence any ride.Climbing
My Robot well and truly flies up the climbs and has the feeling of a bike with a smaller number on the scale. The Roam 60 carbon wheelset with 24 bladed spokes probably played a part in this, especially considering that my preferred Maxxis EXO casing tires aren't for XC racing.
There appears to be a high amount of anti-squat, which helps the bike stay high in the travel when pedaling, but that could also be put down to the steep seat angle and long chainstays, which kept my center of gravity in a more central position and prevented me from sagging back over the rear axle. Pedaling through bumps wasn't bad, but there was more hangup and pedal feedback on square edges than bikes Ive ridden with lower anti-squat figures. On the other hand, the R160's high anti-squat value helped to pull
me and the bike up and over steps and sharp crests. Descending
Surprise surprise - the R160 trucked hard down the hills. What else from such an extreme geometry? I love the feeling of a slack trail bike with a short stem (Renthal 31mm). I think this allows me to brake much harder on the front wheel, as my body weight drives down into the front axle and tire's contact patch - rather than in front and then over the top making it more likely to lock up and skid.
The same effect can be found when weighting the front wheel in corners. You can drive the contact patch into the ground to create grip, but only if you lean the bike to corner instead of handlebar turning. On the downside, if the radius of a turn is too tight to lean around, it gets tricky. Any corner too tight to turn the R160 this way will require some Euro-endoduro trickery - or a good old-fashioned foot-out skid.
This bike is the final coffin-nail in my brain that big numbers do not mean a bike will be a slouch. The carbon wheelset along with a stiff mainframe meant this bike is incredibly responsive - the first time I have ridden such geometry, combined with a light weight build.Suspension
The DW6 link appears to be on the progressive side of "very progressive." I used the both the Monarch Debonair and the Fox Float X2 shocks with 30% sag and without volume spacers, and I never felt the suspension fully bottom out. Every air-shock equipped bike I have ridden in the last 12 months has ended up with the air-can stuffed with spacers. With the progression built into the suspension, that should mean less heat build up in the shock and better mid-stroke support. Good news also, if you want to consider running a coil shock. Most most enduro frames don't have the progression necessary to support a linear coil-spring. The progressive suspension and mid-stroke support was another attribute of this sharp handling, big bike.
• Clunker: Overall, the R160 was quiet except for chain slap was loud due to the chain running very close the lower link/lug. An extra helping of rubber tape solved this.
• Roam 60 Wheels: SRAM's Roam wheel set was light, stiff, and responsive. They didn't explode (as carbon rims are rumored to), which was nice, and they inflated easily with tubeless tires. But, the bladed spokes on the rear wheel needed adjusting back into line after nearly every ride.
• Maxxis Minion DHR2 tires: Maxxis' Minion DHR2 is officially my favorite all rounder, either in EXO or DH casing - fast rolling, supportive side knobs, and superb braking. The casing is one of the best out there, it's tough, not too stiff and doesn't have the 'dead' feeling of some similar tires. The chunkier tread also lasts longer than a High Roller and still clear well in the mud. MaxxTerra 3C is the choice front and rear.
|Robot Bike Co have entered the market with their guns blazing - and with something unique and well considered. I'm really, really, not looking forward to the day the R160 gets collected by the courier. Lightweight, sturdy, progressive and personalized. The price tag is high, but you get what you pay for - and you will only be paying a small premium for a truly custom chassis, compared to many fancy mass-produced frames made in China. - Paul Aston|
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About the ReviewerStats: Age: 30 • Height: 6'1” • Ape Index: +4" • Weight: 73kg • Industry affiliations / sponsors: None • Instagram: astonatorPaul Aston is a racer and dirt-jumper at heart. Previously adding to the list of non-qualifiers at World Cup DH events, now he's attacking Enduro and has been since before it was fashionable. Based in the UK, but often found residing between mainland Europe and New Zealand allows him to experience a huge variety of terrains and trails.