The Tech Behind the New Atherton Bikes

Apr 7, 2019
by Ed Spratt  
Photo: Moonhead

The new Atherton DH bike with its mix of carbon and titanium is definitely divisive among those who see it. Whether you think it looks wrong or right, the technology behind it is pushing brand new techniques and processes into the industry. The Atherton's are definitely trying to produce something that is very different, so to get a better understanding of how and why these bikes are made, we chatted to three of the engineers: Ben Farmer, Rob Gow, and Ed Haythornthwaite.



What is the process from design to complete bike?


Ben: First you go onto our website and enter your height, arm span, and inside leg length. Our program then shows a suggested ideal geometry. If this fits what the rider wants, then the data from the website feeds directly into the CAD system.

Rob: Basically, all the different lugs are controlled by a formula, so when you put in height, inside leg and arm span, that automatically alters all the angles. If we were to be manually changing this all the time, it would take weeks to design each bike. So, that sort of intelligence is built into the model. Once we have the riders' unique data and their desired designs, we send those to Renishaw. (Renishaw is a manufacturing company based in Gloucestershire, United Kingdom. They produce the machinery that can print the titanium lugs for Atherton bikes.)

Rob: It then takes about 16 hours to produce one bike's worth of custom lugs, based on their unique requirements.

Ben: The Renishaw machine builds the lugs using titanium powder. There is a four laser setup up in there, they all shine down onto a metal plate that sits inside and is spread with a six-micrometer thick layer of titanium powder. The lug is then built layer by layer until the design is complete. This is usually made from 3,500 layers. They are all checked dimensionally - they are real experts in dimensional checking at Renishaw. The lugs arrive to us attached to a one-foot-square plate and they all sit there until they are then cut off. There is then some final machining to be done, like bearing faces for the headset and the bottom bracket.

Custom orders will automatically generate a CAD rendering for their Atherton bike.

We then bring in carbon tubes which have been designed to our specifications. Each tube is different, with a separate layup. We then cut the tubes to length and they go into a set of jigs to ensure accurate construction. Next, we inject adhesive into the cavity in the lugs, called a double-lap shear joint. There are three reasons why this style of joint is particularly strong. Firstly, with a single-lap shear joint, when you load that and pull it to tension, it can twist, With a double-lap shear joint, when you pull it to tension, it doesn't twist, It produces what is called "shear forces."

If you ever put a bit of tape on a table and try and pull it off, how would you do it? You would peel it off. What you wouldn't do is try and pull it off, because it would be really hard to get off. That is basically how these work. So, it is very strong. The second thing is when you inject the adhesive, you can witness the adhesive being injected around the circumference of the joints, so you have complete confidence that the adhesive is in the joint. If you haven’t got adhesive in the joint, then you won't have a strong joint. The third reason is that, essentially, these things assemble themselves. You have the jig there to ensure precise positioning, but once the adhesive is in the joint the lugs and the carbon tubes slide together, it's just a case of making sure it is accurate and fully in the joint. It's very easy to assemble.

We then cure the bike at room temperature. This means we are not heating or cooling, so there is no expansion and contraction during the process. If we have it at room temperature, it is basically at the temperature where the bike will be used. In total, it takes at most two weeks to have a fully complete bike, from changing something in the computer to having it being ridden by one of our riders.

Photo: Moonhead

What was the idea behind choosing the combination of titanium and carbon for the frame?


Ben: What we are doing is combining the incredibly high specific strength of titanium with the high specific stiffness carbon tubing. All that comes together in a way that is unlike a carbon fiber frame. We design the lugs with a technique called "topology optimization," Which means we define the design space on the computer and then apply the boundary conditions that exist around it like: I need to have a bearing pickup here or; I need to keep the mud out of here, so it needs to be closed. Whatever it is, the computer figures out the best way to accurately use the material so it is not even 1% overused in that area. Actually, a lot of that subtlety gets missed because it is a mountain bike. Also, within the lugs is a variable wall thickness, basically it makes the use of material perfect and all of the parts.

bigquotesWe can do in a month what another company might take six months to achieveRob

The chainstay yoke offers the best example of this practice, the way this has been designed is to ensure mud falls off of it and to fully optimise the structural integrity of the component. So what we end up with it something with a very high specific strength. All that means is strength per specific weight. Titanium is the highest specific strength metal, for a given strength you have the lightest output. We have very high specific strength metal where the shapes are complex and the loads are complex. Loads come from all sorts of different directions and you have a vehicle with a really weird setup. You have a rider, with not much power, and the rider's main center of mass and gravity is all over the place.

Loads can come from all different directions, so you have a complicated set of things going on. With metals, they are suited to situations where both the shapes and loads are complex because their properties are the same in all directions. Once you move away from those areas of complexities where the loads get resolved, and more simple we use carbon fibre tubing.

Rachel's new prototype trail bike during the curing process.

Each lug has an incredible level of detail and design work

Carbon fiber does not work well in applications where shapes are complex, because you can't get all the fibers moving in the right directions. They don't work well when the loads are complex, because it is only extremely strong in one direction. So, with our design of using two different materials, what we end up with is something where we have the right strength in areas where we need it and we have some degree of compliance in areas where we want it, and we have stiffness in the other areas we want it.

You end up with a bike that has a very stiff suspension platform but offers some level of compliance. It works really well with the DW6 suspension platform to give impressive levels of grip. So working with Rach, Gee and Dan, they have been providing us feedback on that combination of stiffness versus compliance. We have then been playing around with the layups of the carbon tubing to build a platform which, for many riders, is more than proficient in terms of stiffness. But for the Athertons, because of what they do, they can benefit from the added stiffness. That's been the whole winter's work, really.

Rob: Because we don’t use molds, we can quickly throw in new parts and play about with thicknesses and stiffness on CAD, change parameters, test it the next week, and you have the feedback. That development cycle means we can do in a month what another company might take six months to achieve.

Why did you go with Dave Weagle's DW6 suspension platform?


Ed: The main thing with that is, with feedback, it enables us to get the characteristics they want. The DW6 is one of the few options where you can isolate each of the key characteristics like pedaling, braking, leverage ratios and progression without them compromising each other. Normally, when you adjust one, it has a knock on effect on the other. Literally, they can isolate each aspect - say if they want it to give a little bit more in the mid-stroke or something like that. You don't then mess up the pedaling or the braking,

DW6 just offers huge flexibility, which has already been demonstrated by the tweaks we have done so far. We can do that without a knock-on effect elsewhere. Just works bloody well basically. They can't believe the grip it gives in particularity. When we were originally developing it, they were certainly looking for an advantage on flat corners and off camber, and it really offers that by having that extra confidence in grip. Gee has never ridden anything like it. We are also currently the only ones using it.

Ben: Another reason we use it is because it is very well suited to how we make these frames. Basically, it concentrates a lot of mechanics around the bottom bracket, which means it works well in terms of not having lots of breaks and joints in the carbon tubing. It also just so happens that when we set this up, the rocker pivot is where we need to kink the seat tube, it was all designed in unison. We needed to put a split in the seat tube and that is where we put the suspension. It was conceived as a whole platform that was tunable for the future. We needed it to work with how we were building the bike,

Dave Weagle was driving our developments. He came back with a bunch of different concepts and DW6 was the standout, as it fitted with our construction methods and designs - and it played well with our idea of customization and fine tuning things.

bigquotesThe DW6 is one of the few options where you can isolate each of the key characteristics like pedaling, braking, leverage ratios and progression without them compromising each other.Ed

Could you change the riders' frames between races to adjust to tracks?


Ed: That's more of a question for Gee and Rach. It's more about getting the bike spot on for them and not the track. Once they have something spot on, they don’t like changing too much throughout the season. Should you actually change a bike for different tracks? The majority of the time, no. Once they have that bike setup dialed, you don't want to change anything major. Most of the development work we are doing now is to get the bike dialed. They may tweak very slightly, but nothing major.

Atherton Bikes co-founder and engineer Ed Haythornthwaite inspects a prototype. Photo: Moonhead

What have you changed on the bike so far?


Rob: All the bikes so far have had slight tweaks, as they have tried to cram in as much testing as they can. We give feedback to Dave Weagle on DW6 that we have got from the riders and he will do some subtle tweaks. We also take feedback from Pete, the Atherton's race mechanic, like this bolt is hard to get to or it would be easier if this was here. The next prototype will then have all these features. You can really accelerate the development process and be really active with the constant stream of feedback.

How many prototypes have you made?


Ben: Nine so far, including the trail bike. We started the process in the first weeks of January and we should be up to 20 machines by the first race. At this point, it is been all tiny changes and most people couldn't tell the difference between each bike. The main thing is delivering each rider a custom bike, that they can push it, and be happy about them. Most of the work now is getting the sizing dialed for each rider's custom bike.



Previously:
Interview: Rachel, Gee & Dan Atherton Chat Business, Bikes & the Upcoming Season
Bike Check: Dan Atherton's Prototype 29er DH Bike


MENTION: @athertonracing



196 Comments

  • + 205
 This is by far the coolest manufacturing process out there for bikes. As an engineering student this makes me drool uncontrollably. @athertonbikes pls hire me
  • + 35
 I was going to say the same thing. Whether you like the looks of the bike or not, it seems like they are doing some pretty cool stuff here.
  • + 56
 @athertonbikes Please hire me too because I'll use the Solidworks snapshot feature instead of that ghetto CAD pic Wink
  • + 12
 @Kern1 how much do you know about the Guerilla Gravity frames? Give those a study.
  • + 2
 Exactly! Love the detailed discussion @pinkbike !!
  • + 21
 @kona-jon: Guerilla is pretty cool with the new resin and carbon-fiber tape robot, but it's not laser-sintered titanium lugs kinda cool
  • + 10
 @Kern1: Spot on. This mfg process by far trumps any current production process for bikes. Cladding and printing is where it's at, and it's in infancy right now. Moe and more materials are being added to the list and the tech is changing. We have a few custom printers made specifically for us where I work. As well, we've started laser welding in a vacuum. Flawless welds.

This article got me 3/4-torqued for sure...
  • + 2
 @micahaalders3: but that ghetto pic IS from Solidworks program
  • + 6
 @trumbullhucker55: Good point. In the program, there's a convenient feature that takes a snapshot of the current view of the model, and exports the photo as a legit image. It's more convenient than Windows snipping tool, and it beats the crap out of holding a camera to the computer screen. Or you can take like 2 minutes and do a basic rendering.
  • + 1
 @micahaalders3: Agree, plus the results of this render are amazing. Makes crappy model looks professional. I know what I'm talking about Wink
  • + 3
 @micahaalders3: assuming of course that the photographer for this article knew all the fun inner workings of solidworks...

The generative/iterative design tech wasn’t something I was expecting to read about in the mtb world for a very long time...
  • + 2
 @kona-jon: guerilla have just copied and modified what's been used in aerospace for ages.
  • + 1
 Those who say it is not possible should not bother the ones doing it
  • + 1
 @krashDH85: Check out Arevo, we have been working on 3d printed carbon platforms. Far and away from a tech perspective the peek of bike engineering. We helped produce some one piece carbon printed rears and fronts along with linkage out of carbon. The same 2 mil robot used for the printing has a head change to a 5 axis mill and then resurfaces the carbon print dry and its ready to go. Everything is done in solidworks and can custom size a frame and print by the touch of a keystroke.
  • + 0
 @bfree: Pretty cool stuff you got going on there, especially with that robot! The printing/machining combo is really slick. Such a time reduction in manufacturing. We're doing it a lot with our metallic printed parts.

Seems like you guys are a relatively new company, will it be bike industry focused or where the max demand for the tech lands?
  • + 0
 Its a great process but I see some BS in it too. Yes, CF may be strong in one directiion, but isnt that why we have a "layup" and different amounts of material in different areas? I reckon other bike manufacturers rolled their eyes at that statement.
  • + 1
 @headshot: with printing and a robot, you can "layup" whichever way you want... it's all in the programming...
  • + 1
 @headshot: You can only buy carbon sheets with so many layup directions. if you go with uni-directional CF it weighs more then having the fibers laid for a specific load in a specific direction. CF has non-isotropic characteristics, while metal is much more uniform (you can push on a CF cube and it buckles under certain direction, but you can push/pull anyway you want on a metal cube and it behaves the same)
  • + 1
 This is actually how the first carbon fiber bikes were made in the late 90's: www.bikeradar.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=12928802
  • + 1
 My machine design prof is going to love this when I show him tomorrow!
  • + 1
 What material are you laser welding if you don’t mind me asking? Titanium? @krashDH85:
  • + 1
 @core-macneil-rider: ti, inconel, copper are a few of them!
  • + 1
 Heard a bit about laser welding titanium potentially offering some reduced costs long run in bikes. Got any opinions on that?@krashDH85:
  • + 1
 @core-macneil-rider: There is potential there, but whether the ROI works out on a laser welder is ???. Especially for bike frames. The robots that have the weld heads don't come cheap. They usually need custom tooling, heads, purging, etc. Then it's a question if you can get the head in to be able to weld all around the joints.

Benefits though, very consistent weld, small HAZ, fast. I do believe they may find a spot in the bike industry eventually.
  • + 1
 Yeah wasn’t sure how feasible it would actually be. That said seems like in the future it could cut costs at least a bit.

I’d assume it’d have to be a ti frame manufacturer vs a company like a factory making frames for
Multiple brands
@krashDH85:
  • + 1
 @core-macneil-rider: on a related note there’s been developments in using fiber laser welders to weld Al and steel. Still super developmental but imagine the possibilities once that becomes more readily available
  • + 1
 That could be pretty interesting I wonder if powered metallurgy will ever come to bikes. There are some crazy ass possibilities with that.@surfhard987:
  • + 1
 @surfhard987: Fiber lasers are already welding those materials. That's the easy stuff
  • + 1
 @krashDH85: shoulda clarified, welding aluminum to steel
  • + 27
 So goddamned cool. Up there with Guerrilla Gravity for innovation IMO. I'm not sure most PB readers will look past the looks to see what this really means for riders. Bespoke bikes every time. May affect resale....but you'll be getting exactly what you want. The assembly procedure is amazingly low-investment for Atherton too, fancy glue guns jigs to hold the parts together as the glue dries...everything else is outsourced. Bravo Athertons. Smart business model, smart bikes.
  • + 1
 Why would you even sell a custom made bike (If you know what geo you want)?
  • + 21
 @NotNamed: I think that the geo a lot of people want is not actual the geo that is always the best for them
  • + 2
 @Grmasterd: I think that the geo provided by an industry which responds to trends and makes a few sizes and expects you to choose (many people are between sizes ) is a far worse way to get a bike which fits you , than being able to choose exactly the geo you think your body needs.
  • + 20
 @Grmasterd: I work at a custom metal fab shop. Our retired shop foreman (30 yrs) said “ do you want me to make what you ordered or want me to make what you need?”
  • + 2
 @NotNamed: Because it will be out of fashion by next season. "The geo you want" for lots of riders changes every few months.
  • + 1
 @Ttimer: If I could get a custom bike that fit me exactly and suited my riding style, I would keep it for a very long time and ride the crap out of it. I don’t care about what’s hip and cool, I just want a bike that I like to ride. I’ve had my current bike (2018 Transition Scout) for 1.5 years after a period of bicycle ADD where I was buying a new bike every six months because nothing felt right.
  • + 4
 @DGWW: how do you find the geo you want without demoing any bikes for reference? I think being able to to ride demos is far more affective then guessing what you think you want on paper having it made only to find out its the wrong fit after you've paid for it and are now stuck with it.
  • + 5
 The only problem is, NOBODY knows what geo is best. Don't you think if that was the case, the pro racers would have kept the same geos on their bikes since they have the opportunity to get custom bikes?
  • + 1
 @mhoshal: I'm not sure I understand your question. My comment didn't have anything to do with HOW you arrive at your magic numbers, you can do that however you like. Once you do, you can now have exactly what you want.
  • + 1
 @DGWW: well you said selling bikes in only certain size is a horrible way to do it and my question is without these bikes how would you ever find the custom numbers you need to build a custom bike you cant just magically pull numbers out of the air and expect them to work. You say you don't care how the numbers are gotten but you literally need a reference point to start from aka a premade bike.
  • + 1
 @mhoshal: I don't think anyone looking to buy a bike like this doesn't have any other goe for reference. Likewise I don't think anyone is going to " pull numbers out of the air " your stance on this is puzzling. No one is saying there should be no other bikes and you have to buy a custom bike first.
  • + 3
 This is actually how the first carbon fiber bikes were made in the late 90's: www.bikeradar.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=12928802
  • + 17
 So this the the technology and people from Robot Bike Co, the liquidation documents for Robot Bike Co are available publicly online. Can we get some confirmation that when Robot Bike Co liquidated and became Atherton Bike Co they paid all their suppliers and didn't leave any customers who had paid deposits out?
  • + 7
 From what I remember is they didn’t have any outstanding bills. The company had future cost ( probably rent) making the business un-economic. The company was put into liquidation by the owners vs by recievers.
  • + 2
 @gcrider: good to hear it!
  • + 11
 Really cool, but it is still as cool as when I first learned about Robotbike. So I'm still curious, what are the tubes like. Are they filament wound, pulltruded, hand lay-up or even first hand lay up (with UD) and then filament wound (so you get kind of a weave) for armour? The latter makes most sense to me as the designs lends themselves really well for UD in longitudinal direction but you'll still want some protection. But I've never heard of this combination and I'm curious whether the lay'd up layer would stay put once you start winding the armour.
  • + 3
 If they are still using the same tubing supplier, filament wound.
  • + 3
 Yes, it reads too much like a recycled Robotbike story. I'm not hating that bike, rest assured. Just don't have a taste for rebranding.
  • + 13
 The Tech Behind the New Atherton Bikes: Plumbing.
  • + 9
 Imagine this, but with steel tubing instead. Heck trickle down the process with aluminum and have one hell of a custom geo yet budget bike build.
  • + 31
 No, The 3D printed things are super expensive. The difference between carbon and metal for tubes isn't much.
  • + 5
 @faul: that’s what I meant by “trickle down”. Material aside the process can be pared down and overtime will become cheaper and more efficient. Sure it’s expensive but factor in the time a custom frame builder charges for- I don’t think it’s all that much more expensive. You plug in numbers and push a button- much quicker than what a frame builder can do, and remember it’s mostly time your paying for with custom.

I think robot was too ahead of their time and happy that Atherton picked up where they left off. Excited to see the potential in the coming years.
  • + 4
 @faul: Yes expensive with SLM.... but you can use DED too !

But why not use hydroformed tube... I asked more than one time to the Atherton's instagram but get any answers back.
  • + 3
 I saw someone who would 3d print pieces to hold steel tubes at the desired angles and he would wrap carbon where the welds would be. Very easy cheap process I’ve wanted to try myself (I have access to 3d printer) but I’m lazy/short on time. Oh it was a hardtail though.
  • + 1
 Because you need tooling for every lug for every bike size. Would be silly expensive vs quite expensive @rismo68:
  • + 3
 @generationfourth: The issue here is the raw materials and machines. Powders in this similar printing type that I have used run about a dollar a gram. So 5kg = $5000. and youre definitely producing a significant amount of waste. Plus the machines are millions of dollars on the higher end ones. Also the build size is only about 2 or three cubic feet so its not possible to do a ton at once. I think it can get cheaper, but I dont think it will ever be a budget possibility.
  • + 1
 @rismo68: DED resolution and surface finish quality isn't good enough for this application... yet
  • + 11
 What it we used lugs instead of 3d printed pieces and instead of glue we brazed the steel?

Crazy though I know - but it could possibly work.
  • + 1
 @HookDesigns: you can polish and paint it. =)

@gcrider you can cut the hydroformed tubes to the lenght needed.
  • + 1
 Probably wouldn't be a ton cheaper, but brazed steel joints would be super sexy!
  • + 9
 "Topology optimization"

So this is like the same tech as botox and breast implants?
  • + 5
 Those nicely shaped but rough surfaced, raw titanium lugs with straight carbon fiber pipes - reminds me of 19th century design but made with hypermodern production methods and materials. Add the quirky DW linkage... A genuine piece of Steampunk it is! N+1 if I could afford it.
  • + 8
 Anodized color lugs......hmmmmmm!
  • + 5
 I think the answer to the how strong is printed titanium question is - strong enough. They'll haver FEA'd the $hit out of those lug designs. Renishaw wouldn't put their name to it any other way.
  • + 3
 As one who has worked with multiple CAD systems and configurations... having the ability to input data and the system output a model is incredible. It seems simple in theory, but I practice it is no easy feat. It’s a level of complexity and development that many high level companies seek to attain, never mind a startup. The future is now!
  • + 1
 My buddy does this in his SW models. It’s super impressive.
  • + 1
 these days it is not that difficult, I work in the motorcycle industry and have been using SW for going on 10 years, the measurement input system in SW is set up in such a way that all links automatically update based in any individual input, my experience is that this is common practice just like "topology optimization' it is widely used and is available as an add on for all good CAD software. it is still awesome to see it being used for custom options.
  • + 4
 Yes - it’s plastic.
Yes - it’s like setting up a kids tent.

But wow - this is pretty awesome and almost too simple! The future (?). Have not checked out the site but wonder what pricing will be like.
  • + 6
 Sign me up for some polished lugs! Bastion style.
  • + 2
 I understand the process and its benefits of custom production. What I don’t believe is the argument for strength: you’re going to have a whole bunch of round connections glued together by a human. This is a huge margin for error and I wouldn’t trust that over a weld that you can see and inspect. I think there will be lots of creaking involved but happy to be proven wrong.
  • + 1
 Anyone doubting the strength of bonding really don’t, just look at a Lotus Elise.
  • + 1
 Most carbon bikes are glued together by humans
  • + 1
 Adhesives technology is quietly one of the biggest advances in materials science in recent years, to the point where it is genuinely putting economic pressure on welding.

Fly on a modern commercial airplane? Both the aluminum and composite ones are actually glued together. The riveting you see on modern metallic fuselages is a secondary load path, the primary thing keeping it together is glue (really fancy aerospace glue, but glue nonetheless).
  • + 1
 @tsheep: I have a background in Naval Aviation and I'm involved in car restoration as well. I am familiar with bonding structural elements. That's why I made my comment, it is improving and has evolved substantially since those early bikes. Things happen on occasion and once it let's go for whatever reason it's not much fun. Smile

Here is an excerpt from a whitepaper I found on the matter and why it concerns me a little bit:

Bond Degradation A primary cause of bond degradation in aluminum joints is hydration2,4-6 ((I'm not sure what happens with Ti - vs - Aluminum, I wonder if they bond this in a vacuum as Ti is reactive with oxygen from what I've read))
.
As explained by Davis and McGregor2, aluminum, when exposed to oxygen, forms an aluminum oxide surface layer. Hydration occurs when this oxide layer is exposed to water. This type of bond degradation typically results in a transition from a reliable cohesive failure to significantly weaker and less predictable
mixed-mode failure. This transition results in a weakening of the bond that is not predictable, quantifiable, or easily detectable. Bond degradation can be prevented or at least mitigated by proper surface reparation2,4,6,7. Prebond preparation of the surface is, therefore, crucial to long term environmental
durability4.

A good amount of us ride in extended wet weather climates (I live in NW Oregon). (Why yes, yes I'm a nerd)
  • + 2
 It will be interesting how they bring this to retail. As has been pointed out what people say they want and what they actually like when they ride do not always match up, as the disconnect between marketing terms and what is actually happening in an engineering sense gets wider and wider.

Getting appropriate measurements from consumers is quite a challenge. Most people can't describe their own heigh accurately let alone inseam, wingspan and so forth. Mountainbike fit studio?

It is good to be starting on DH stuff with a custom bike just because it can be one-dimensional in comparison to a "trail" or "enduro" bike, as there is no agreement on what those things are or should do.

I am looking forward to as much coverage of their bikes as possible.
  • + 4
 This is really impressive!! Not everyday you see boundaries pushed this much on a technology level in the bike industry. Well done to the Athertons!
  • + 4
 Stronger than machined 6Al 4V titanium?
What is the tensile strength of printed titanium?
That said these are being tested by the Athertons?
Probably bomb proof bikes.
  • + 2
 The footage on vitalmtb of gee and Rach hitting really tech tracks emphasises how well that rear end tracks the ground. I’ve always been curious how gee and Rach would do on a multi link bike. Gee looks incredibly quick on it as does Rach.
  • + 1
 As many people have said carbon works great as a tube but not so good at junctions, where as metal is strong in all directions. No swagging needed in the tubes as the lugs have the necessary swag in the design. 5 star design!
  • + 1
 The main thing with that is, with feedback, it enables us to get the characteristics they want. The DW6 is one of the few options where you can isolate each of the key characteristics like pedaling, braking, leverage ratios and progression without them compromising each other.

This is 100% false. Because of physics and that whole all actions have an equal and opposite reaction, you can never isolate suspension characteristics, because all of them are tied together.
  • + 1
 Definitely possible. What you have is formula's drive the suspension design. So when you update one quantity, it calculates the correct geo to retain its prior characteristics in other areas of the design. You're thinking this tweaks one thing and leaves the others alone, it would need to recompute the other geo, but it can be done, we do it all day for things like excavator arms.
  • + 1
 @slcengineer: You're talking about changing the geo and not affecting suspension characteristics. Which you're right is perfectly doable. The article is saying that "you can isolate characteristics like pedaling, braking, leverage ratios and progression without them compromising each other." You absolutely can't vary individual suspension parameters independently, for example you can't change anti-squat without affecting pedal kickback.
  • + 1
 Back in the 80’s there were lots of road bikes using “screwed and glued” technology to assemble aluminum lugs to aluminum and carbon tubes. There were titanium lugged carbon tubes bikes like fro Raleigh and Specialized. The real difference here seems to be 3D printed lugs and the ability to customize angles and dimensions. Back in the day composite engineers referred to this method as black aluminum. Monocoque was always touted as the best method. I’m sure that today’s bonding technology is far better though and I would think that printing lugs is less costly than custom monocoque frames.
  • + 4
 This is a perfect opportunity to get JB WELD as a team sponsor, and use it to glue the frames together.
  • + 1
 I've seen this technique in the road bike world with Bastion Cylces (albeit almost 10k a frame...). The lattice work Bastion uses inside each lug is really mind blowing. Glad to see this is starting to come to the mountain bike world!
  • + 1
 The bikes are beautiful, the tech and geo possibilities are rad.

The market seems just so saturated with absolute radness these days. Just 3-4 years ago shopping for a bike was easy cause 95% had such obvious flaws. Now it seems like an amazing bike is released weekly.
  • + 5
 I'd be interested to see your list of obviously flawed bikes from 3-4 years ago. Cheers.
  • + 3
 @ColquhounerHooner: Nearly all of them had too steep of a head angle, way to short of reach, to long of a stem, to slack of a seat tube, no water bottle storage, many with poor rear suspension behavior, the list goes on and on... All the bikes were pretty bad compromises until very recently.
The difference between my top of the line '17 Yeti 5.5 and my '19 Foxy is an order of magnitude difference in the ride feel, and as a result my overall speed. The Foxy is SO MUCH better. The difference to my '13 Bronson, there just are no words.
If we were talking motocross bikes, you would have to go back 25 years to lose performance equivalent to how much bikes have changed in 5-6 years.
  • + 1
 @SunsPSD: I see you stretched it now to 5-6 years, that makes a difference. And l think most mtbers 3 or 4 years ago thought their bikes were pretty rad, and not abundant in obvious flaws. But l do take your point that there has been progress, l think especially in the last couple of years.
  • + 1
 As much coverage as the Athertons have gotten for their venture, I think they are going to sell a lot of them.

It's intimidating however to build a $4K frame (just a guess) based on what you think you know about ideal bike geo. You also have the issue of selling a one off unit.

Sure I have ideas about what I want but I'd be concerned about doing anymore than just altering a few numbers based on my current 'pretty close' mountain bike.
  • + 1
 The DH bike may only be a bike for pictures on their website. Wait for the trailbike they will actually sell, like more than 2 frame a year.
  • + 1
 Very cool production processes and in general a nice approach to the entire thing of designing custom bikes and becoming "race ready" in such a short time due to the fast lead time of new tweaked prototypes!

One question, do you do any testing for dry spots in your joints? Perhaps you've seen some consequences of this in early testing. With that in mind I'd reckon the glued joints are extremely robust and smaller dry spots will most likely not even be noticed. Just curious though.
  • + 1
 I hope the bonding process is bulletproof (evolved significantly). I have ridden the old school bonded bikes quite a bit and it's an interesting experience when the downtube pulls out of the head tube on a wicked steep downhill Smile
  • + 1
 My 1990 Raleigh Technium is still going strong as my daily commuter. Hasn't seen much off-road in the last decade, but still gets out there once every couple of years, rigid forks and all.

I don't think it's so much about 'evolution' of the bonding process, more QC. These guys have "complete confidence" Smile

"The second thing is when you inject the adhesive, you can witness the adhesive being injected around the circumference of the joints, so you have complete confidence that the adhesive is in the joint. If you haven’t got adhesive in the joint, then you won't have a strong joint. The third reason is that, essentially, these things assemble themselves. You have the jig there to ensure precise positioning, but once the adhesive is in the joint the lugs and the carbon tubes slide together, it's just a case of making sure it is accurate and fully in the joint. It's very easy to assemble"
  • + 1
 @dsut4392: *Grin* that's what I had fail, they warrantied the frame with no issue. It was pretty unnerving when I got to the bottom of the run and realized I was bouncing around held up by the top tube alone. Ah the good old days of having the crap beat out of you on every ride Smile
  • + 1
 think its awesome and very cool love the bikes but and its a big buttttt its going to come at a heavty cost to the consumer i can not see these bikes being competivily priced i hope im proven wrong
  • + 3
 There are other companies out there using this production process. Check : bastion-cycles.com/process
  • + 1
 lookin nice, but that mesh its not so optimized in shape of every micro link, thats the question, if solid wall is better then his mesh... nobody can say it out loud, its a piece of theirs know-how, but interesting idea.... There was also tubes from lattices in similar patern... I have in my company also metal printer and i thoght i will make some stainless pieces for Cro-Mo frame, which my friend welding, but he using whole tube to grind down to every detail like around axles of hubs etc, so its way more easy for him to do this like this, also its not so much heavier... i can save like 100gr which is marginal...
  • + 3
 Feel like they would do better if they made an alloy budget friendly iron horse Sunday rebranded
  • + 1
 Love what these guys are doing. I love that they have 20 prototypes in a few months, and they're consulting mechanics about ease of maintenance as well. I think it's a fantastic approach and a super cool technology.
  • + 4
 Maybe they could pump out some bikes for turner?
  • + 1
 They were going out of business for a reason! Any smart business person can see those red flags! Drop this crap and start your own design from the ground up from your racing experience!
  • + 4
 Super glue team, build your dreams)))))
  • + 2
 I think using other shapes for the joint other than “round” would eliminate any possibillity of twisting and breaking a bond.
  • + 1
 You can also watch this interesting video about "Failure Causes in Metal Additive Manufacturing":

www.youtube.com/watch?v=bq_6DYyZPBQ
  • + 2
 Anybody else gone on the website and entered their data to see how close their current ride is to “ideal”?
  • + 2
 Nope cause my bike is perfect for me
  • + 1
 brb
  • + 1
 the 1990's called and said been there done that...First dentistry and now this when will they stop stealing new ideas from the past ?
  • + 2
 went to website, looking to enter personal data. website does not have this functionality.
  • + 3
 It was available on the old company’s website: robotbike.

What I wonder is how customizable will it be: can I pick up my own chainstay length, seat angle, reach, BB height, laverage ratio and even anti-squat? I could make my dream bike.
The marketing clain about DW6 let believe it should be easy, although I know this is marketing bs... Actually my dream bike would have a less complex kinematic but you can’t have everything right?
  • + 2
 I did it back when it was robot bikes. The 160 travel bike was very similar to a 2017 Giant Reign, within a few mm and 1/2 degree on the big numbers.
  • + 2
 IIRC they plan on starting selling bikes in 2020, now they are still in prototype phase developing bikes only for them
  • + 2
 @winko: they were sold as Robot Bikes before. Only the DH is an absolute proto as they didn’t have one in their line up before.
  • + 2
 Can someone explain to me how the pivot by the BB works?...
  • + 1
 Dooood.... making some epic advancements into the bicycle industry. Atherton you're becoming a legend.
  • + 1
 Pinkbike I love you but this is essentially a rebranded frame from 2016. It's a name licensing hook up.
  • + 1
 This is 100% custom yet still mass produced bike and that's what I like most about that brand. Good luck Smile
  • + 1
 "9 prototypes including the trail bike." Can't wait to see what that trail bike looks like!
  • + 1
 I wonder how many of you will be so eager once you see the pricing?
I’m guessing cheap not part of the purchase process?
  • + 2
 Dude where’s the gearbox everyone’s raving about?
  • + 1
 This whole thing is fascinating. Reminds of a song off of Roll the Bones album by Rush. “You bet your life”
  • - 2
 It's very cool, but once you get the frame geo figured out wouldn't it make more sense to cast the lugs and save everyone money... er make a carbon mold for the whole frame and save everyone money, wait; I mean create a frame jig weld up the whole frame and save everyone money... and the planet cause ya know #carbon_bad! Smile

I really am curious how this will play out. The customization is amazing. I think the idea/look of these bikes has been awesome since Robot first came out. (also I drooled over those thermoplastic GT LTS's back in the day!) There does seem to be a stable market for custom high end mountain bikes. But, there's only so many of those "PRIVATEERS" that could really benefit from being able to get a custom bike, test ride, figure out how you would tweak the design and then get a replacement a couple weeks later? (Most of the pro riders who could really benefit and have the financial backing to make that possible are most often also sponsored by a competing bike company. And even if they don't have fancy metal "sinter-printers"; they are still often getting one off welded aluminum test rigs to ride, give feedback, modify and test again till they are happy anyway.)

In one of the recent Atherton bike articles on PB. (there's been quite a few!) Rach talked about how their prototypes/ "cast off bikes" become the "team bikes" for other riders because even they can't really afford to print a bike and then just replace it next week. (and it seems the whole benefit of this is to customize to the rider, so if your team riders are riding bikes that were customized to different riders it does call the whole concept into question...?)

It seems like RobotBike didn't make much of a dent in the market because this tech is still so expensive? For sure droves of people have bought various brands and styles of mountain bikes over the years because they happened to be ridden to victory by the Athertons. So it will be interesting to see if that continues. But it also seems like there was a cost/mass market availability to that success?

It sounds like Dan is setting up a "Bike resort training camp"? Maybe someday a person will be able to fill out a form, get a virtual fitting, and in two weeks show up for "training camp" on your custom Atherton...?
  • + 1
 Good point on the finished products - I think one of the pure concepts or ROBOT is that it was expensive simply because every bike was a custom bike for each client, and catered for their size, geometry tastes and desires,so there was never a need for mass production, or even small run production - as far as I know, I didn't follow beyond some marketing articles. But on the other hand, I work for a company that has also gone over to 3D printing products simply because the far east supply chain and process is so costly and the markets so flooded now, From setting up original moulds and production runs to have to order so far in advance, and actually order enough, or too many - in this market space its hard, so, if they can get the print costs down, which they will be, than it may actually work for the amount they are looking to sell
  • + 1
 I think the customization from an individual standpoint is overrated, within the confined of DH. The ability to rapidly go from an idea to sellable product is more important. Customization is more about always have the most up to date concept than 1cm different in shoulder width or inseam length in 5 riders who are 180cm tall. Continuously optimized cable routing? Best dropper post integrations? All things that sometimes have to wait for a model cycle to get introduced.
  • + 1
 Titanium casting would be more expensive it’s a bitch to cast
  • + 1
 @core-macneil-rider: However they do it there have been titanium lugs connecting carbon tubes for much longer than there have been additive RP technology. Cast in Aluminum then? My point was the whole thing where this tech is really expensive and not that many people will benefit from being able to get a custom bike, ride it, then decide to tweak the geo and print/glue another bike next week. SO, if you take away the quick customize turnaround then why build the bikes this way? "Because it's cool" is DEFINITELY a good answer to that question. Just that if they are not able to reduce the cost than I fear they might end up sidelined the way Robot bike "seemed" to be?? (at least Atherton Bikes seems to be adding to the lineup, a nice hardtail should go along way in getting their brand in the hands of more riders.

Anyway, best of luck to them. Just thinking out loud here... what forums are for! Smile
  • + 1
 Cast titanium is done but it’s generally much less standard quality wise across a production run and isn’t as strong

Yeah other things that could work but realistically titanium isn’t a bad choice

If you look at most titanium frames that have been made very few are designed around the material itself but rather just swapping materials for something designed in aluminum or steel@stiingya:
  • + 2
 I really like the industrial look....
  • + 2
 I'm waiting to see an enduro 29er!
  • - 1
 Bombarding us with this day after day is not going to change anything. Either people trust the athertons and like the design or people don't. They'll know that from the very first article.
  • + 2
 Get that trail bike to market already
  • - 1
 What i want to know is what they do to the 3D printed parts after printing them. The microstructure would be terrible. So i assume they need to go through a decent heat treatment process. But they don’t say....
  • + 1
 They mention heat treating in their London Bike Show stand walkaround
  • + 1
 Thermal cycle is my guess many many thermal cycles.
  • + 1
 They definitely look better with black lugs compared to the raw ones the Robot bikes originally had
  • + 0
 Ti should always be raw!
  • + 2
 Worlds fastest scaffold! Yeah boi
  • + 2
 29er rfx? And king Kahn please!
  • + 1
 Few AM part for bikes!
www.pinkbike.com/u/Chnoux/album
  • + 1
 I'd like one please. But with the Robot Bike Co decals.
  • + 1
 Raleigh Dyna-Tech for the modern day!!
  • + 0
 So I’m confused is this how the bike will look? Or will there be a finished gloss carbon bike or something like that.
  • + 0
 Nobody knows as of yet.
They said their goal is to offer a broad range of options, most likely a top end custom printed one and a cheaper all aluminium one. The bike you see here should be very very close to what´ll be offered to consumers though.
  • + 1
 mine's got to be painted oilslick!
  • + 1
 Those who say it is not possible shouldn't bother the people doing it.
  • + 1
 The future of bikes and bike manufacturing is here.
  • + 9
 Or the future of manufacturing, period Smile

A friend of mine, during a drunk discussion years ago, were talking about 3D printing. I said once the printers are more affordable, a lot of people will start making very ugly things. My friend, business guru that he is, said "and that's why the money is in templates." Printing can be done from home, but the best designs will come from actual smart people who know what they're doing (respective of the field).

10 years from now there'll be a forum here on Pinkbike where users trade designs on everything from frames to handlebars to helmets. They will be very ugly frames, handlebars, and helmets.
  • + 1
 @uphill-blues: I could tell you something I know about... you will get your feet scanned and out pops a pair of sneakers , very very very big company plowing the cash in and it's at proof stage
  • + 1
 @uphill-blues: this comment needs to be turned into a pop-up so everyone has to read it.
Forums are the current ‘social’ interaction and Buy/Sell is currently for second-hand products, but this will change fast. Buy/Sell and socialise around other users’ designs, mods and upgrades that you can print and hack yourself.
Self-printed spares? Shim stacks? Levers? Bottle mounts lol?
  • + 1
 those fixtures are pretty shocking
  • + 2
 cool
  • + 0
 How is this any different to way robot bikes worked?
  • + 2
 No and that's why this article is simply lying. It is not Atherton's invention in any way, this is a rebranded Robot Bikes.. And btw, they choose titatnium not because it is so great, but because it is the simplest metal for 3D printing (it does reflect much less light that e.g. aluminium).
  • + 13
 Same company
  • + 14
 Its no different. Its the same people and company rebranded and the athertons
  • + 7
 From a past article:

"We’re working with some amazing guys formerly of Robot Bike Co., and they’ll be an essential part of our start up, they are as passionate about the technology and its potential to disrupt the industry and shake-up the large corporates as we are.—Gee Atherton

The Athertons met Ed Haythornthwaite, one of Robot’s founders, when he was Dan’s World Cup mechanic in 2006 and their ongoing friendship was the catalyst for this venture. Ed’s understanding of what works on a bike and his passion for improving a rider’s experience underpins the development of the entire range. Ed’s co-founders, Ben Farmer and Andy Hawkins both come from an aerospace and Formula 1 background. They are experts in composites and additive manufacturing (metal 3D printing) which allows for full customisation of every bike frame."
  • - 8
flag poah (Apr 6, 2019 at 12:58) (Below Threshold)
 you failed to understand the point of my post.
  • + 0
 @lkubica: better fatigue life possibly.
  • + 23
 Robot bikes didn't take off. Get a load of superstars on board, have a rebranding exercise, cross fingers, hope money rolls in?
  • + 5
 @veero: shhh... the kids are listening.
  • + 2
 Basically is Robot bikes, just changed the name
  • + 3
 The technology is the same but useless if the execution isn’t right.

They also didn’t have a DH bike in the previous line up. Bringing the Athertons on board practically guarantees a WC winning bike.
  • + 2
 @Elliotmarston: that's exactly what I thought
  • + 0
 @MrNug: well gee didn't win Lousã race, pieron did, but then again r&d...
  • + 3
 @FCX250: I was mostly referring to Rach! Still podium in the first race to is a great start and wouldn’t count Gee out for a win this year.
  • + 0
 Surprised to see 9466 over 9394
  • + 0
 If only they weren't ugly as hell.
  • + 0
 I want one with a Pinion!
  • + 0
 this just makes so much sense...
  • - 2
 I wish they'd hire a surface modeler. Their lug designs are just too crude.
  • - 1
 Robot bike
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