Built Not Bought: The Story Behind the First Amos Design Bike

May 5, 2019 at 3:12
by Elliot Tanner  
AMOS Design A1 bike build

What do you do if your dream bike does not exist? Design and build it yourself! This is the story of the first AMOS Design bike frame. Built not bought.

The project started back in 2016 when the bike I wanted just didn't exist. I had taken a sabbatical from work to spend 3 months travelling around Europe in a camper van picking off all the best riding spots. At the time I was riding an early Orange Alpine 29er because it was simple and reliable for a season riding. It opened my eyes to big wheels and progressive geometry but the problem was it had a derailleur stuck to the back of it.

Now I have to say that I have been drawing bike frames for about as long as I can remember - I even found some drawings on my high school books from 15 years ago. I just never quite got around to doing anything about. Fast forward to 2016 and I am running a small product design and engineering consultancy based in Wales which specialises in high-end outdoor equipment. My day to day product design work is in climbing, mountaineering, load monitoring and tactical equipment; all interesting high-end UK manufactured stuff and basically, the same design ethos as cycling equipment – lots of high strength, low weight, hot metal forging and CNC machined components.

I had been chatting trash about making my own frame and complaining about the lack of progression in the bike industry for years, but now I had the resources, education and skills to actually make it happen. Put your money where your mouth is. I can’t stand dreamers who never act on their dreams.

I live in Wales, it is wet, muddy and gritty for what feels like all of the year. It is a long way from the sunny, dusty climates that it seems most bikes are designed for. The idea was to make a bike that ticked all the ‘Welsh’ specification boxes: gearbox, 29er, 150mm travel, simple 6061 T6 aluminium construction, progressive suspension system and the usual long, low and slack. A no bull**** solid workhorse that I could ride all year round and chuck back in the garage after a muddy ride with the minimum of maintenance.

I did not design a bike to manufacture and sell, but to discover what is really possible with no perceived marketing strategy and approached it as a set of engineering problems. Buying a bike is easy, building one is so much harder, but it really is the best way to learn what works, what doesn’t and why. It is a great way to dissolve through the marketing rubbish and understand the engineering fundamentals of bikes. I am not saying bike companies lie to us, but there are elements that make a difference and elements that don’t.

AMOS Design frame CAD

AMOS Design frame CAD

The long term goal of my consultancy has always been to work in the cycle industry, so it all just seemed to be a good fit. I also wanted a project I could share that had no intellectual property sensitivity, as the day to day work is generally completely secret until the product gets released, which could be 2-3 years away.

This is pure innovation where you design a solution for exactly what you want, not for what the marketing team wants. But can you really build an aluminium full suspension bike frame in a small workshop without a big R & D budget or any background in bike design?

I roped in my best mate, Edd, and we set about building a pair of bikes in my workshop from scratch. From initial kinematic development and CAD conception to riding the bikes was 4 months in spare time fitted around normal business. Many long days, early mornings and espresso shots. I look back on the time with fond memories but some late nights I did question if it was worth it… what am I doing? I could just buy a bike! But of course it was when the first bike rolled out of the workshop that made it all worth it.

AMOS Design A1 bike build

With these types of projects, it is a constant education, especially if you are bike design virgins. There was plenty of learning of suspension kinematics, designing complex welded structures, how to jig the frames and correct the alignment post welding, as well as heat treatment methods.

AMOS Design A1 bike build

AMOS Design A1 bike build

AMOS Design A1 bike build

We innovated and used our background in other industries to apply ideas to the project to get it done quickly with the resources available and only outsourcing where absolutely necessary. We made machining and welding fixtures using 3D printed components, cut parts on the CNC milling machines and built our own heat treatment racks. This was a proper in-house design and build start to finish!

AMOS Design A1 bike build

The best part of building your own bike is, of course, riding it.

AMOS Design A1 bike build

AMOS Design A1 bike build

AMOS Design A1 bike build

AMOS Design gearbox bike

The bikes have been ridden all around the world. They were tested in the deep dark Welsh winter, smashed through the rough and steep in the Alps and coaxed down the best of NZ’s enduro trails. Overall they have performed faultlessly and have been genuinely fast bikes, but nothing is ever completely right first go, is it? I always say that if you think you have designed it right first time then you just haven’t found the issues yet!





What I learned was that it isn’t easy to ‘make a frame in a shed’. Bike companies have a large team of designers, engineers and production personnel for a reason. We just didn’t quite get it 100% right the first time. So admit your mistakes, learn from them and then go at it again. And once you have ridden a bike you have designed and built and felt the gratification from it, other bikes just don’t feel right.

So why tell you all this now? I know the frame was good, but it could be better and I needed to explore this.

Watch out for our next creation soon, the Highline Project: A high pivot, gearbox driven, 160mm travel, 29” enduro monster with some interesting geometry numbers which we will share in the coming weeks.

Any comments or questions please get in touch and follow us on Instagram @amos_design_ltd


102 Comments

  • + 45
 It's a great bike and rides as good as it looks (friend of mine), the next project will defo be worth a read...... Watch this space..
  • + 3
 How come your reply is from 3 days ago, but the article went live today? Great work BTW on the bike, really love it.
  • + 14
 @zonoskar: page was live 3 days ago but made front page today.
  • + 25
 @zonoskar: Time travelling man, time travelling
  • + 1
 @havinalaff: so... if i look 3 or 4 pages I'll find out "new posts"?
Really enjoying the feature.

BTW- Good luck! Hope he can survive and grow in cycling world
  • + 12
 I absolutely love that bike. Low center of gravity. Alu frame. Pinion. Bottle in the frame. I think he could sell some of these without any problems. Even better design than the zerode.
  • + 2
 @blackforest: Absolutely correct.
  • + 2
 @blackforest: I would happily buy one of these.
  • + 2
 @griggze: Heck yeah! Another gearbox bike! keep bringing them on! You if you're able to make a 27.5", you've got a buyer!
  • + 0
 @diggerandrider: i dunno man im just not sold on e bikes yet
  • + 27
 "the problem was it had a derailleur stuck to the back of it." The exact thought I had yesterday as I stared down at another bent mech hanger.
  • - 31
flag MTBrent (May 8, 2019 at 4:16) (Below Threshold)
 The sole reason I ride a singlespeed. Derailleurs don't belong on an mtb.
  • + 8
 @MTBrent: I used to ride singlespeed with a mech to tension the chain ;-)
  • + 32
 @elliottglynn: the worst of both worlds.
  • + 8
 @elliottglynn: Some people just want to watch the world burn.
  • + 2
 @MTBrent: last singlespeed I had was a 26/24 banshee morphine with an 02 Monster on the front....
  • + 1
 Nothing kills a ride faster than a $150 stick lodged in your rear mech
  • + 1
 @Azonic2002: you know what I found in mine that bent the hanger? A thick dandelion stem. I shit you not.
  • + 26
 Thanks for all of the comments so far! Can't believe all the positive vibes coming in... makes it all worth doing.
  • + 2
 No Man, thanks to YOU!! You`ve made my day and made me dream as a child. Merci beaucoup Smile
Cheers from France
  • + 12
 Been looking for a 29er Pinion bike for ages, not many out there at the moment.
  • + 2
 Me too. Will be interesting to see the Highline Project.
  • + 1
 @runeuthaug: Zerode just released their Mulet 'Mullet' bike, and a 29er is coming soon I hear... but after riding a Deviate this last summer, their new project looks interesting
  • + 7
 Yeah, I often think people can surprise themselve's. I've done various things, even in the last while, where I'm like, "that's it? I'm the greatest? WTF? What have all these other people been doing!? I didn't even really try that hard"...................I think part of it is, make one candle, and it'll be great, but then get tasked to make 300,000 candles, and you'll be low quality spray cheesing it too.
  • + 3
 I think you're spot on with that analogy. Cost of running a business, mass manufacturing, distribution, etc. can take the shine off of a great idea very quickly. I really admire what Mr. Amos has done here in accomplishing his dream and he readily admits that it might not be everyone's cup of tea. That being said, and not trying to be too negative, I don't know how well the bike would stack up against today's top bikes. Then again, pinkbike has been worshipping crooked steel full suspension bikes coming out of the UK so what do I know?
  • + 6
 first... well done, braver than 99.9% building your own bike for sure.
second... the bike looks really nice, although totally different it reminds me of a Turner DHR, probably because mine was silver and it has a cage at the bottom.

I always wonder why we have not migrated from an internally round head tube to an oval or egg shaped one, I know machining is harder for the headset but this would allow for a simple reach or angle adjustable headset that is not going to rotate.

I will be like many who look forward to your next adventure.
  • + 1
 To final machine the head tube post welding would be a nightmare.... you’d have to cnc the headtube post weldout. You may be able to pull it off with a carbon frame however. Build chips for the headset like most adjustable wheelbase/geometry bikes...
  • + 2
 Or just mill and broach keyways. Turning circular headsets and head tubes on a lathe is cheap and fast to get a tight tolerance - even on a manual machine. A wonky egg shape would be a mofo job requiring a top-notch CNC mill.
  • + 1
 @micahaalders3: Good idea with keyways! Worked at Sapa Anodizing back in early 2000’s and learned the process. Production frame building is not a glamorous job...lol
  • + 1
 I wonder what needs, unmet needs or nice to have's the PB community could come up with as food for thought for a designer such as Elliot or anyone embarking on this kind of journey?

The MTB community has lots of people with views on various bike ideas, would be interesting to collate them and analyse what is practically possible when mass production/marketing is not a major part of the input criteria.
  • + 4
 @betsie: Happy to listen to ideas. I thought the Pinkbike ultimate geometry article was really great... would like to make some bikes based on the outcome of that!
  • + 1
 @amosdesign: commencal have a keyway on their head tubes. On their dh bike anyway.
  • + 6
 I randomly shared a few shuttles in Madiera with Elliott and was super impressed with him and his bike! It looked factory, and the attention to detail and well thought out design philosophy were clearly there. And he ripped it! I knew I'd be seeing it again on the world stage. Cheers!
  • + 5
 That rear suspension linkage though. Nothing like high quality machined aluminum. I would love to make stuff like that where I work. Bike looks really nice and love the gearbox design. So much cleaner than a derailleur hanging off the back. Throw some 27.5's on it and I'd ride it.
  • + 7
 Those are some of the biggest parts I've seen CNC machined for bicycles. Big ass 3D parts.
  • + 5
 So much more rad than plastic bikes !
  • + 4
 @Balgaroth: I've seen CNC machined parts that big for engines and aerospace stuff, but never on a bike.


Unless you count the Pole Machine
  • + 3
 @tom666: the canoe on the banshee legend is pretty close id say
  • + 4
 Thanks for the comment. Check out Instagram later today for a few more photos of the big CNC machined parts! They certainly started out as some big lumps of alloy.
  • + 2
 Can't help but laugh at "building a bike in a shed is hard!" - But Elliot chose just about the most difficult method for building a bike. I'm sure building a "normal" frame would be much easier after all that CNC design and complex welds.
  • + 7
 I'd love to know more about the DIY heat treatment setup.
  • + 5
 Welcome back single pivot bikes with no linkages! Just use a small volume shock to make up for the lack of progressivity and you're set.
  • + 2
 Sexy bike... I love to see innovation by private individuals. The process to make a frame is crazy complicated. How did you not give up? That bike would be on the top of my list for a new purchase! Looks similar to a few bikes. But once you actually see the gearbox and shock together. My mind is blown.
  • + 3
 Stunning bike!!!!!! would you ever think making them in small batches and selling them on? As I would love to own one of these.
  • + 1
 No real plans at the minute. I am a design, prototyping and testing business.... not really geared for manufacturing. But never say never.
  • + 1
 @amosdesign: I can understand that but you definitely got somthing soild here would happily buy one not a fan of cleaning my bike. Where there any current bikes that helped in the design process?
  • + 1
 Most of us stand in awe, the comment section did not turned many arguments about whatever as the all importand wheel size test that, in a surprise turned out *inconsistend and at the same time soooo highly regarded

Edit
*inconclusive
  • + 1
 Very nice indeed. Impressive.

That much CNC parts look heavy, but the rear triangle is rather compact so maybe all in all the weight is contained ?

Also, I get the idea but I think this sentence is badly formulated : « I can’t stand dreamers who never act on their dreams. »
I think many people would like to but feel stuck or that it would jeopardize their situation (kids, loan, work, confidence, whatever), but kudos to you for putting yourself (purposefully or luckily) in a situation that enables you act on yours, as you delivered (ha, I guess I’m boring already :p ).

Looking forward to the next one.
  • + 1
 @amosdesign just out of curiosity. What is the basic engineering topics you need to master in order to go through this adventure?

Amazing job you guys did there. Nothing less than fantastic!!!

Congratulations!!!
  • + 2
 Geometry.
  • + 5
 Thanks for the kind words. I have a degree and masters in Product Design and Engineering to get an understanding of the basic topics. And then just always been interested in bike design, geo and kinematics plus a fair few years experience in design of complex CNC components.
  • + 1
 @amosdesign: I've always been super interested in Product Design and Development - the combination of both "having an idea, making it work, and making it a reality." Did you leverage your educational background for this project, or was it more just being good with CAD, knowing the machining processes, and doing a lot of research into suspension kinematics?
  • + 2
 @PHeller: he's just a engineering geek who loves bikes as far as I worked out over last 15 years..... On a serious note Ell is just one of those blokes who makes things happen. A combination of his work ethic, constant quest to learn and gain knowledge, passion and love for riding was always going result in something special.
  • + 2
 Man, that is a great looking bike and even cooler project. Can't wait to hear more about the next project. Oh and if you need a tester for an honest review, I am willing!
  • + 1
 "I had taken a sabbatical from work to spend 3 months travelling around Europe in a camper van picking off all the best riding spots."

Sometimes I feel I need a sabbatical as well.
  • + 2
 SO I would buy it. Coming from my current Zerode G2.5 I would love to own one of these. Quit your day job and build these. The people will buy
  • + 5
 Brilliant! Looks ace
  • + 2
 Amazing machine, I love all bike design but when a “home” builder creates the likes of this it tops 99% of what is developed by the industry design wise...
  • + 1
 Super cool project.

I would have just moved to somewhere where the weather wasn't crap 95% of the time but I'm lazy and not that bright either.
  • + 1
 Built not Bought... Interesting title... in true 21st century style... taking it to House Atherton online where the battle for Wales will be fought.
  • + 1
 @moslow that’s an interesting one, cos the Atherton sort of bought someone (Robot) who could build stuff for them, so they kinda get the best of both worlds!
  • + 3
 major respect to the hands and minds behind this project!
  • + 1
 This is awesome!
What was it about the first bike that you didn’t get right?
Also, how does the drag compare to a traditional derailleur setup?
  • + 1
 You will have to wait and see with the new one. In truth there is a little bit more drag when the gearbox is new.... they do ease up with use nicely though.
  • + 1
 Yes, rear derailleur on MTB = bad design. Even Eagle 12 speed & Shimano has issues when the frame flexes. Nice design! Bring on the pinion!
  • + 2
 That gearbox bracket/shock cage is quite a thing...

There's a lot to like about this approach.
  • + 3
 Nice bike, nice write up. Well done, look forward to seeing the next bike.
  • + 2
 Just here to make sure the bike had a bottle cage... Check!
  • + 2
 I want one. Looks really good. Looking forward to seeing the next one
  • + 2
 You going to be famous Amos.
  • - 4
flag GeorgeFry (May 8, 2019 at 5:53) (Below Threshold)
 I can make you famous like Amos, Same as the last punk, when I stuck the gat up his anus
  • + 2
 Wow, Wharateg. Welsh for well doneWink
  • + 2
 Good effort, and not a simple construction either. Impressive.
  • + 1
 Judging from my armchair, the suspension design appears to be regressive. Can anyone confirm or deny?
  • + 1
 I'm just here to be amused by the clever way someone will say, "That's really ugly." Me? I could go either way.
  • + 2
 Brilliant, looking forward the the next one.
  • + 2
 what a wicked looking bike.
  • + 2
 Wow,nice bike.Reminds me a bit of Turner.
  • + 2
 It resembles the Turner DHR
  • + 1
 Looks great, especially the one (or two looking at the underside) piece driverchain & shock cage.
  • + 1
 awesome bike for shore. But tires mounted on wheels with the valve stems in random places makes by brain twitch.
  • + 1
 clap clap clap, keep it up Smile
  • + 1
 I'd love to own one. Looks mint!
  • + 1
 Amazing bike. I love all the details!
  • + 1
 Sweet!
Looks pretty interesting - where in wales you?
  • + 1
 I am mid-Wales. Nearest riding spots are Hopton Castle and Eastridge.
  • + 1
 @amosdesign: ahh quite far up - have you ever ridden Crychan?
  • + 2
 That I likes.
  • + 2
 you are an inspiration
  • + 1
 How do you adjust shock, and b. How does the shock come out?
  • + 1
 What kind of van is that Ford?
  • + 1
 Looks like a Transit Connect
  • + 1
 @Mattgc: Thank you
  • + 2
 NICE!
  • + 1
 Tori herself will be thrilled with this bike
  • + 1
 C. How far off is electric shift pinion?
  • + 2
 This is awesome
  • + 2
 So sexy!
  • + 1
 Amazing, time for a brazing steel version!
  • + 2
 Nice bike!
  • + 1
 Hat off to you. Great bike.
  • + 2
 This is so sick!

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